Opinion

Equatorial Guinea: A New Economic Frontier in Africa

There’s a revolution happening in Africa, but it is not a military revolution that requires the commitment of American troops or global peacekeeping forces.

Like the shale gas discoveries made in the United States a few years ago, similar discoveries happened in Equatorial Guinea nearly two decades ago. Soon after, our country began to realize the dramatic benefits resulting from the development of these resources. Equatorial Guinea is a country roughly the size of the state of Maryland. In 2013, we produced approximately 270,000 barrels of oil per day.

The global energy market is changing, and companies are looking outside of traditional western markets to identify new and emerging economies. The transformations happening in Equatorial Guinea provide a snapshot of what is happening across the African continent and throughout most of Asia.

In the last several years, the world’s largest resource exploration companies, Marathon, Exxon Mobil, Noble Energy, and many more have laid the foundation for development and economic growth in many other aspects of the Equatorial Guinean economy. The growth of the Equatorial Guinean economy benefits more than just the business community in the country. It trickles down and is having a positive impact on the entire population in the form of improved infrastructure, healthcare, and education systems. With the essential infrastructure in place, President Obiang is working to transform more than just the economy of Equatorial Guinea.

Together with international partners, he has created a long-term development plan called Horizon 2020. This plan calls for targeted investments to: strengthen economic growth and the development of structured investments; promote critical social initiatives to ensure a transparent social climate; and develop tools for better monitoring and evaluation of household poverty and living conditions.

To achieve these goals, Equatorial Guinea is partnering with international development experts and committing more than $1 billion to this aggressive plan to improve education, healthcare, gender equality, and sewage and water delivery systems.

Right now we are making progress towards these goals and working with our corporate partners to promote corporate social responsibly programs. One example of this type of program is the Bioko Island Malaria Control Project (BIMCP), developed by Marathon Oil Company. Working with local institutions, this project has decreased the malaria caseload on the island by 74 percent and the mortality rate of children under 5 years old by 64 percent. They also run the Books for Bioko program that raises funds and provided much-needed school supplies for students in Bioko Island. Since 2004, Marathon employees have raised more than $550,000 in support of this program.

We want to build a robust and vibrant economy in Equatorial Guinea, not one that is dependant on one single resource or revenue stream. That is why we are taking steps to leverage the economic growth these resources have brought to our country, and using them to bring our people out of poverty.

In order to capitalize on this momentum, the Ministry of Mines, Industry, and Energy of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea is hosting the first Equatorial Guinea Economic Forum in Washington, DC on August 8 (www.egindc.com). This forum is an opportunity for American businesses to learn about the various opportunities in Equatorial Guinea and hear first hand from distinguished government Ministers about doing business in our booming emerging economy.

Equatorial Guinea and the United States share many ties, government-to-government, people to people, and business ties. Many Equatorial Guinean’s travel to the United States for educational opportunities and then bring their knowledge and skills back to our country to apply them to the many new and exciting opportunities here.

While much progress has been made there is much still to be done. We need more American businesses to invest in many different sectors. We have promising agricultural, financial and touristic sectors that will definitely benefit from American business acumen and ingenuity. We are in the process of creating a one stop shop for business incorporation. We have made it a priority to comply with the EITI initiative and we welcome any technical support from American firms and government institutions. Our infrastructure has improved drastically but we will not stop there.

We welcome the large multinational corporations as well as the small and medium size enterprises. We still need individuals and companies that are interested in investing in our health care, education, manufacturing, and natural resource exploration. Building out these various sectors will not only create profits for the companies that invest, but it will create jobs and foster economic opportunities for the citizens of Equatorial Guinea.

All of these opportunities and more are on the agenda for discussion at the forum in Washington this week. Equatorial Guinea is open for business. We hope you will take advantage of the many opportunities we have to offer.

Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima is the Minister of Mines for Industry and Energy of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea

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