Equatorial Guinea: History, Culture & Economy

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Equatorial Guinea, officially the Republic of Equatorial Guinea is a country located in Central Africa. With an area of 28,000 square kilometres (11,000 sq mi) it is one of the smallest countries in continental Africa. It is also the most prosperous, however the wealth is concentrated in government and elite hands, with 70% of the population living under the United Nations Poverty Threshold of $2/day. It has a population of 1,014,999. It comprises two parts: a Continental Region (Río Muni), including several small offshore islands like Corisco, Elobey Grande and Elobey Chico; and an insular regioncontaining Annobón island and Bioko island (formerly Fernando Po) where the capital Malabo is situated.

Annobón is the southernmost island of Equatorial Guinea and is situated just south of the equator. Bioko island is the northernmost point of Equatorial Guinea. Between the two islands and to the east is the mainland region. Equatorial Guinea is bordered by Cameroon on the north, Gabon on the south and east, and the Gulf of Guineaon the west, where the island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe is located between Bioko and Annobón. Formerly the colony of Spanish Guinea, its post-independence name is suggestive of its location near both the equator and the Gulf of Guinea. It is one of the few territories in mainland Africa where Spanish is an official language, besides the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla.

Equatorial Guinea is the third smallest country in continental Africa in terms of population. It is also the second smallest United Nations (UN) member from continental Africa. The discovery of sizeable petroleum reserves in recent years is altering the economic and political status of the country. Equatorial Guinea has been cited as an example of the natural resource curse[citation needed]; its gross domestic product (GDP) per capita ranks 31st in the world; however, most of the country’s considerable oil wealth actually lies in the hands of only a few people.

Out of 44 sub-Saharan countries, Equatorial Guinea ranks 9th in terms of the Human Development Index (HDI) and 115th overall, which is among the “medium” HDI countries.

Equatorial Guinea is in the process of becoming validated as an Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Compliant country, working toward transparency in reporting of oil revenues and the prudent use of natural resource wealth. The country is one of 30 Candidate countries and obtained Candidate status February 22, 2008. They met all required obligations to do so, including committing to working with civil society and companies on EITI implementation, appointing a senior individual to lead on EITI implementation, and publishing a fully costed Work Plan with measurable targets, a timetable for implementation and an assessment of capacity constraints. Equatorial Guinea held its 7th meeting of the EITI National Commission on January 30, 2010, during which steps were taken for the advancement of the implementation process.

Equatorial Guinea’s culture on the mainland is heavily entrenched in ancient rituals and songs. This is especially true for the Fang while on the capital island of Bioko has largely been influenced by Spanish customs and traditions during the colonial period. During the colonial period education and health services were developed in the country.

Despite a veneer of Spanish culture and of Roman Catholic religion that is thicker in Bioko than on the mainland, Equatorial Guineans live largely according to ancient customs, which have undergone a revival since independence. Among the Fang of the mainland, witchcraft, traditional music (in which the Fang harp, the xylophone, the great drums, and the wooden trumpet are used), and storytelling survive. Spanish aid is much oriented to educational and health services. Among the Bubi farmers of Bioko, some ancient customs are still followed.

Subsistence farming is the predominant occupation in Equatorial Guinea, although only 5% of the land is arable. Prior to independence, the money economy was based on the production of cocoa (mostly on Bioko) and coffee and timber (in Río Muni). Following severe deterioration of the rural economy, the government has made efforts to increase production of these products to preindependence levels. Other agricultural products include rice, yams, cassava, bananas, and palm oil. Livestock are raised and there is a fishing industry. There is food processing, sawmilling, and the manufacture of basic consumer items.

The discovery and exploitation of large offshore oil and natural gas deposits increased economic growth beginning in the late 1990s, but the oil and gas revenue, largely lost to government corruption, has not significantly improved the standard of living in the generally improverished nation. The country also has unexploited deposits of titanium, iron ore, manganese, uranium, and gold. Both Río Muni and Bioko have substantial road networks; there are no railroads.

Notes from Wikipedia and Answers.com

A'Keiba Burrell
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