Officially known as the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, Equatorial Guinea is a country that is located on the west coast of the central region of Africa. The country, which was colonized by the Spanish, has an area of around 11,000 square miles and a population of around 1.2 million people. The capital city of Equatorial Guinea is Malabo while the largest city is Bata. From an economic standpoint, the country has a gross domestic product (GDP) of around $10.41 billion and a GDP per capita of about $15,401. As is the case with most countries around the world, the country has a number of natural resources that drive the economy. Some of the major natural resources include petroleum and natural gas, land for agriculture, and forest cover.
Petroleum and Natural Gas
Petroleum has been one of the country’s major export commodities since the reserves were discovered back in 1995. The country has two main oil fields at Alba and Zafiro. Exxon Mobile discovered the Zafiro field in 1995 and the exploitation began a year later in 1996. Both of these oil fields are situated off the shore of Bioko Island. As of 1999, three companies, namely Ocean Energy, CMS Nomeco, and Exxon Mobile, were exploiting the Zafiro oil fields. In total, the three companies extracted a combined total of about 106,700 barrels of oil per day. According to official sources, the field’s potential is around 300,000 oil barrels per day.
In 1999, the government had plans of expanding oil exploitation to unexploited fields by allowing companies to bid for production rights. However, that period represented a downturn in the prices of oil all over the world. In addition, Equatorial Guinea’s issues with Nigeria over the maritime border and reshuffles within the oil sector hindered the bidding. In the same year, a United States firm, Triton Energy, discovered a new oil field at La Ceiba. The new field’s potential in 2001 was around 100,000 oil barrels per day. The oil prices also managed to improve at around the same time La Ceiba was discovered, which renewed the exploration and exploitation of oil.
In 2001, the government also came up with plans of establishing a new oil company that would be owned and operated by the government. The company, which began operation in May 2007, is soon going to be joined by another one. In May 2017, Equatorial Guinea finally joined the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
According to World Oil, Equatorial Guinea’s proven oil reserves stood at about 1.28 billion barrels in 2005. In the same year, total oil production stood at around 420,000 oil barrels per day with crude oil accounting for more than 90% of the production. The oil expenditure of the country around that time was estimated at only 2,000 barrels per day while the exports were about 69,700 barrels every day.
As of 2005, according to data from the Oil and Gas Journal, the proven natural gas deposits of Equatorial Guinea stood at about 1.3 trillion cubic feet. Most of the natural gas fields are situated at places like off the shore of Bioko Island, Zafiro, and Alba. As of 2002, the national consumption of natural gas was around 45 billion cubic feet while some natural gas was exported in the form of liquefied natural gas.
After enjoying a good spell economically due to the revenue generated from the petroleum and natural gas deposits, the country’s economy hit a snag in 2014. The snag affected oil producing countries all over the world after the collapse of oil prices. Since then, the country’s economy, which was mostly boosted by the oil, has been on a free fall.
During colonial times, Equatorial Guinea was a major exporter of products like cocoa, timber, and coffee. With assistance from the African Development Bank, the country is slowly getting to levels where it will be soon self-sufficient just like in colonial times. Today, about half of the nation’s GDP is accounted for by agriculture while 60% of the exports come from agriculture. Some of the major food crops are cassava, sweet potatoes, and bananas. About 71% of the population is involved in the agricultural sector while 8% of the country’s area is used for agriculture. One of the most suitable places for agriculture is Bioko Island, which receives rainfall throughout the year. Most of the farming on the island is centered on the production of cocoa. In Rio Muni, which is home to about 80% of the country’s population, most of the agriculture is focused on food crops with a few cash crops.
Animal husbandry and fishing are also classified as agricultural practices in Equatorial Guinea.
As of 2005, the country had a total of about 37,600 sheep, 5,000 herds of cattle, 6,100 hogs, and 9,000 goats. Unfortunately, growth is curtailed mainly by animal diseases in the tropics such as trypanosomiasis.
Fish farming and fishing gained popularity and strength back in the 1980s and has been steadily improving ever since. Today, the entire sector is almost fully modernized as evidenced by things like a tuna processing plant that started operations back in 1990. Each region is known for a certain aspect of fishing. For example, Annobón is known for gathering turtles and offshore whaling. Bioko is a market place that is known for selling a wide variety of fish such as perch, shark, crayfish, cod, mackerel, and others. In 2003, the total fish caught amounted to around 3,500 tons.
Estimates place the country’s forest cover at a whopping 62% of its total area. Consequently, timber production and export is crucial to the economy. Most of the nation’s timber for export is grown and produced at Río Muni. In that region, the two main tree species produced are akoga and okoumé. Unfortunately, exploitation has had several challenges mainly due to poor infrastructure, which makes it difficult even for foreign companies with considerable resources. As of 2004, the production of redwood stood at about 811,000 cubic meters while exports from forest products amounted to around $97 million.