Equatorial Guinea

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Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea (gĭnˈē), officially Republic of Equatorial Guinea, republic (2021 est. pop. 1,468,777), 10,830 sq mi (28,051 sq km), W central Africa. It includes the islands of Bioko (formerly Fernando Po), Annobón, Corisco, Elobey Grande, and Elobey Chico in the Gulf of Guinea, and Río Muni on the African mainland. Río Muni, which includes about 93% of the nation's land area and 75% to 80% of its population, is bordered by Cameroon in the north, by Gabon in the east and south, and by the Gulf of Guinea in the west. Malabo, situated on Bioko, is the capital and largest city, but a new capital, Oyala, is under construction on the mainland. In addition to Malabo, other important cities include Luba (also on Bioko) and Bata and Ebebiyín (in Río Muni).

Land and People

Río Muni, located just north of the equator, is made up of lowland along the coast, which gradually rises in the interior to c.3,600 ft (1,100 m). Río Muni includes three major rivers—the Campo, which forms part of the northern boundary; the Benito, located in the center; and the Muni, which forms part of the southern boundary. There are forests of okume, mahogany, and walnut along the coast and the rivers. Bioko is made up of three extinct volcanoes, the loftiest of which is c.9,870 ft (3,010 m) high. The island has abundant fertile volcanic soil. Corisco and the Elobey islands are located near the the Muni estuary.

Most of the people in Equatorial Guinea belong to the Bantu ethnolinguistic group. The main ethnic group in Río Muni, where most of the population lives, is the Fang. The population of Bioko is primarily made up of the Bubi (the oldest of the modern-day inhabitants), descendants of slaves from W Africa liberated by the British in the 19th cent., and Nigerians and Fangs who migrated there in the 20th cent. Spanish and French are the official languages, but Fang, Bubi, and other indigenous languages are widely spoken. The population is nominally Christian and predominantly Roman Catholic; some indigenous religions are practiced.


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. Malabo is the main port.

The value of Equatorial Guinea's exports is considerably higher than the cost of its imports. The United States is the country's largest trading partner, followed by China, Spain, Italy, and France. The main exports are petroleum, methanol, timber, and cocoa; the chief imports are petroleum equpment and other machinery, foodstuffs, and beverages. Equatorial Guinea continues to depend heavily on foreign investment.


Equatorial Guinea is governed under the constitution of 1991 as amended. The president, who is head of state, is popularly elected for a seven-year term; a two-term limit was adopted in 2011. The government is headed by a prime minister, who is appointed by the president. The bicameral legislature consists of the 100-seat House of People's Representatives, whose members are elected to serve five-year terms. The Senate (first elected in 2013) has 70 members, 55 of whom are elected; the rest are appointed by the president. Members of the legislature are elected from multimember constituencies on a proportional basis. The legislature has little power, as the constitution vests most authority in the president. Administratively, the country is divided into seven provinces.


Before Independence

Bioko was claimed by (and until 1972 named after) Fernão do Po, a Portuguese navigator, in 1472, and Annobón was also claimed. During the 17th cent. the mainland's indigenous pygmy peoples were displaced by other groups, principally the Fang, who now inhabit the area. In 1778, Portugal ceded the islands, and also the commercial rights to a part of the African coast that included present-day Río Muni, to the Spanish. Hoping to export Africans as slaves to their American possessions, the Spanish sent settlers to the islands, but they died of yellow fever, and by 1781 the region was abandoned by the Europeans.

From 1827 to 1843 the British leased bases at Malabo (then called Port Clarence) and San Carlos from Spain for use by their antislavery patrols, and some freed slaves were settled on Bioko (then called Fernando Po). In 1844 the Spanish reacquired Bioko and began to occupy it. In 1879, a Cuban penal settlement was established there, and some of the convicts remained on the island after being released from prison. The general region of Río Muni was awarded to Spain at the Conference of Berlin in 1885, and its boundaries were defined precisely in a treaty with France in 1900. The islands and Río Muni were grouped together as the colony of Spanish Guinea.

Under the Spanish, economic development was largely confined to Bioko, although some measures were taken in Río Muni beginning in the 1940s. By 1960, about 6,000 Europeans (mostly Spanish) were living in the colony, and they controlled the production of cocoa and timber. In 1959 the colony was reorganized into two overseas provinces of Spain, each under a governor. In a further move to assimilate the region to Spain, three Hispano-Guineans were elected to the Spanish Cortes in 1960. However, nationalists were not satisfied with assimilation and demanded independence.

Independence and Beyond

In 1963, Spain granted the country (renamed Equatorial Guinea) a limited amount of autonomy, and on Oct. 12, 1968, it received complete independence. The first president was Francisco Macías Nguema, a Fang from Río Muni. In 1969, there were violent anti-European demonstrations in Río Muni and most Europeans left the country, thus for a time severely dislocating the economy. In 1970 all political parties were merged into the United National party (PUN), headed by Macías Nguema, who in 1972 was appointed president for life. In 1973 a new constitution was adopted that abolished the nation's two semiautonomous provinces and created a unitary state.

Macías Nguema led a dictatorship characterized by campaigns against intellectuals and all those alleged to be plotting the overthrow of the regime; many were imprisoned, killed, or driven into exile. Nigerian migrant workers demanding higher wages were brutally suppressed, straining relations between Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea. Relations with Cameroon and Gabon were also strained as refugees fled to those countries. Equatorial Guinea severed its diplomatic ties with Spain in 1977. Spanish plantation owners shut down their operations, foreign investment declined, and the nation suffered a severe drop in population, with some 25,000 to 80,000 of the country's inhabitants estimated to have been killed by the government.

In 1979 the military staged a coup, executing Macías Nguema and installing his nephew, Lt. Col. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, as head of the military and head of state. Obiang Nguema Mbasogo lifted restrictions on the Roman Catholic Church, freed political prisoners, encouraged refugees to return, and restored diplomatic ties with Western nations. Spain and France began to reinvest, and the European Community helped rehabilitate the road system. These efforts met with limited success.

In 1982 a new constitution was approved that called for a more democratic political structure, and a decade later legislation was passed providing for a multiparty democracy. However, by 1993, when legislative elections were held, only one party, Obiang Nguema Mbasogo's Democratic Party for Equatorial Guinea (PDGE), held significant power, and the regime was widely denounced for its continued repression of opposition groups. In the 1996 multiparty presidential elections, which were boycotted by major opposition parties, the president won a landslide victory. In the late 1990s, over 100,000 citizens lived in exile abroad, and there was wide dissatisfaction with the slow pace of reform.

Obiang Nguema Mbasogo was reelected unopposed in 2002 after opposition candidates, expecting fraud, withdrew. In Mar., 2004, the government foiled an apparent coup attempt involving mainly South African mercenaries. British and South African mercenaries convicted (2004, 2008) of involvement in the attempt were pardoned in 2009. The national legislative elections two months later occurred in a climate of intimidation that assured a near total victory for the PDGE and its allies; a similar outcome resulted in the 2008, 2013, and 2017 elections. After the 2017 elections, the main opposition party was accused of involvement in pre-election violence and ordered (2018) dissolved.

When police blamed Cameroonians for armed robberies in late 2007, hundreds of Cameroonians faced harassment in Equatorial Guinea; Equatoguineans in Cameroon were similarly harassed in revenge. There have been attacks against banks and other targets in Equatorial Guinea by gangs operating out of Nigeria's Niger delta region, most notably a Feb., 2009, assault against the presidential palace in Malabo. Obiang Nguema Mbasogo was overwhelmingly reelected again in Nov., 2009, and Apr., 2016; the results were criticized by the opposition and international human-rights organizations, who called the elections unfair and not credible. An attempted coup against the government by mercenaries was reportedly foiled in Dec., 2017. Corruption involving the president, his family (most notably his son, Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue, a vice president of the country, who was convicted in absentia in France in 2017 of embezzling), and government officials is a significant problem.


See M. Liniger-Goumaz, Historical Dictionary of Equatorial Guinea (1988); I. K. Sundiata, Equatorial Guinea: Colonialism, State Terror, and the Search for Stability (1990); R. Fegley, Equatorial Guinea (1991).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Equatorial Guinea


(Republic of Equatorial Guinea [República de Guinea Ecuatorial]), a country in Central Africa, on the Gulf of Guinea. It comprises the mainland territory of Río Muni and the islands of Bioko (formerly Fernando Póo), Coriseo, and Palagu (formerly Annobón). Area, 28,000 sq km. Population, 320,000 (1976). Río Muni borders on Cameroon in the north and Gabon in the east and south. The capital is the city of Malabo. Equatorial Guinea is divided into two provinces.

Constitution and government. Equatorial Guinea is a republic. As a result of the military coup of Aug. 3,1979, all legislative and executive power rests with the Supreme Military Council. The chairman of the council is also the chief of state.

Natural features. Equatorial Guinea is situated near the equator in the natural region of Lower Guinea. Río Muni is a highland, with elevations of 600–900 m; the maximum elevation is 1,500 m. A low-lying strip of land extends along the coast. The climate is equatorial and is humid throughout the year. The average monthly temperature is 24°–28°C, and annual precipitation exceeds 2,000 mm, reaching 2,500 mm on the islands. The country has a dense network of broad rivers, which have many rapids and can be navigated only in their lower courses. The principal river is the Mbini.

Flora is represented by evergreen equatorial rain forests on red-yellow lateritic soils. More than 150 valuable wood species grow in the forests, including oil and coconut palms, Persian parrotia, and okume. The fauna of Equatorial Guinea is abundant and varied.

Population. More than 90 percent of the population of Equatorial Guinea is made up of members of the Fang and Bube (Bubi) peoples, who belong to the northwestern Bantu. The Fang inhabit primarily continental Guinea (Río Muni); the Bube constitute the indigenous population of Bioko. The coast of Río Muni is inhabited by a group of tribes known collectively as the playeros, who include the Benga, Balenge, Bujeba, Kombe (Combe), and Indowe. Although the dominant religion is Roman Catholicism, there are some Protestants, and part of the population still adheres to traditional forms of worship. The official language is Spanish. Equatorial Guinea uses the Gregorian calendar.

The average annual population increase between 1970 and 1974 was 1.7 percent. The economically active population numbers 103,000, of whom 78.7 percent are employed in agriculture (1970). The average population density exceeds 11 persons per sq km. The most populous regions are Bioko and the coastal area of Río Muni. The main cities are Malabo, with 45,000 inhabitants (1975), and Bata.

Historical survey. The island of Bioko was discovered by the Portuguese in the early 1470’s and named after its discoverer, the navigator Fernão do Po. In 1778 it passed to the Spanish, who did not permanently establish themselves on the island until 1843. At the same time, the Spanish fought with the local population for control over continental Guinea—Río Muni. In 1900, borders between the Spanish and French possessions on the mainland were drawn.

The Spanish colonialists cruelly exploited the local population, drove it from the most fertile lands, and introduced a system of forced labor. To deal with the labor shortage, the Spanish plantation owners recruited African workers from other African countries, chiefly Nigeria. For many years the people of Equatorial Guinea fought to liberate themselves, a struggle that intensified in the late 1930’s; in 1937, 1947, and 1959 mass demonstrations demanding independence took place. The first political parties, formed in 1959, devoted their energies to achieving national independence. In December 1960 Nigerian workers on Fernando Póo struck in protest against the tyrannical rule of the Spanish plantation owners.

In an attempt to disguise the colonial regime, Spain announced in 1960 the abolition of colonial status and the transformation of Fernando Póo and Río Muni into an overseas province. In January 1964 the regions were granted “internal autonomy,” and an autonomous government council and an autonomous general assembly were created in the colony. Four years later, the growth of the national liberation movement forced Spain to grant political independence to Spanish Equatorial Guinea. The independent Republic of Equatorial Guinea (REG) was proclaimed on Oct. 12,1968.

The United National Party was founded in 1970 and renamed the United National Workers’ Party in July 1972. AH previously existing political parties and mass organizations were dissolved. According to the new constitution of the Republic of Guinea, adopted in July 1973, the party “develops general policy for the nation” and sets the task of “abolishing once and for all the exploitation of man by man.” The role of the state in the economy is increasing. As a result of a military coup in August 1979, all power passed to the Supreme Military Council, which banned all political activity in the country.

In foreign policy, the REG has declared itself a nonaligned nation. It is a member of the UN and the Organization of African Unity. Diplomatic relations between the USSR and the REG were established on Dec. 7, 1968, and the two countries have signed agreements on economic and technological cooperation, cooperation in ocean fishing, and trade.

Political parties. The United National Workers’ Party (Partido Unico Nacional de los Trabajadores, or PUNT) was founded in 1970 and called the United National Party until July 1972. It is the only party in the country, and, in accordance with its charter, it unites the entire adult population of the REG. A youth and a women’s organization function under the auspices of PUNT.

Economic geography. Equatorial Guinea is an agricultural country, with two main economic sectors: the state sector and the private capitalist sector. In addition to encouraging private enterprise and attracting foreign capital, the government is committed to establishing state intervention in the national economy. A decree adopted in 1974 gave the state control over plantations abandoned by the Spanish. According to a law on foreign investments passed in 1975 the state must control more than 50 percent of the capital in any company. The 1973 constitution introduced a state monopoly over foreign trade; domestic trade is also in the hands of the state. A national monetary system and a central national bank have been created.

AGRICULTURE. The economy of Equatorial Guinea is based on agriculture. The main branches are land cultivation, which produces chiefly for export, and timber felling. Shifting hoe farming predominates in Río Muni, and a plantation economy predominates on the island of Bioko. The cultivated land takes up more than 150,000 hectares (ha), including 90,000 ha in Río Muni (approximately 4 percent of the mainland area) and more than 60,000 ha on Bioko (25 percent of the island’s area).

The principal export crops are cocoa and coffee. Cocoa is grown primarily on Bioko, which produces 90 percent of the harvest; cocoa plantings occupy 52,000 ha, including 42,000 ha on Bioko, which produced a harvest of 12,000 tons in 1976. Coffee, (of which 6,000 tons were harvested in 1977, is grown mainly in, Río Muni, which accounts for more than 80 percent of the total harvest. Oil palms produced 2,000 tons of seed kernels in 1976. The country’s 3,000 ha of banana trees yield a harvest of 12,000 tons. In addition to yams and other vegetables, crops grown for local consumption include rice, peanuts, sugarcane, and citrus fruits.

Animal husbandry is poorly developed. In 1975 there were 4,000 head of cattle, 32,000 sheep, and 8,000 goats. Commercial fishing, with a catch of 2,000 tons in 1976, and shrimping are of local importance. Río Muni is the principal timber region; 100,000 cu m were cut in 1975, primarily valuable wood species. Also of some economic importance are the fruit of wild oil palms and the sap of rubber trees.

INDUSTRY. Industry, which is little developed, is represented mainly by small cottage enterprises. Small plants for the production of palm oil produced 2,400 liters in 1976; there are also sawmills and wood-products enterprises. The output of electric power was 15.8 million kilowatt-hours in 1970.

TRANSPORTATION. Equatorial Guinea has 1,200 km of roads, including 400 km of tarred roads. There is maritime navigation. The country’s chief ports are Malabo, Bata, and Luba.

FOREIGN TRADE. In addition to cocoa, which accounts, on the average, for 40 percent of all exports, Equatorial Guinea exports coffee (20 percent of all exports), lumber, bananas, and oil-palm products. The country imports petroleum products, cement, textiles, food products, and other necessary commodities. The monetary unit is the ekuele.


Education. Education is compulsory for children from six to 14, and all educational institutions are state-run. There is little preschool education; elementary education continues for six years. In the 1973–74 school year more than 35,900 pupils were enrolled in elementary schools. Secondary education lasts four years at the partial secondary school and six years at the full secondary school. In the 1972–73 academic year more than 4,700 students were enrolled in the secondary schools. In that same year, 586 students attended vocational-technical schools, which have a course of instruction lasting three and one-half years. Elementary school teachers are trained at two three-year pedagogical schools, which had more than 200 students in the 1972–73 academic year. Citizens of Equatorial Guinea must go abroad for higher education. There is a library in Malabo.


Press and radio. Until mid-1975, Equatorial Guinea had two newspapers which were state owned and published in Spanish: Unidad de la Guinea Ecuatorial (founded 1937), a daily newspaper with a circulation of 1,000, and Libertad (founded 1970), a weekly newspaper with a circulation of 800. In mid-1975 publication of both papers was suspended because of national economic difficulties. At the end of 1975 the state-owned daily Diario de la Guinea Ecuatorial and Guinea Ecuatorial Revolucionaria al Dia, issued irregularly, first appeared; publication of Libertad was resumed.

The country’s two state-owned radio stations are Radio Malabo, located in the city of Malabo, and Radio Ecuatorial, located in the city of Bata. Broadcasts are in Spanish and Fang. There is a television station in Malabo.


Mel’nikov, I., and V. Korochantsev. Ekvatorial’naia Gvinea. Moscow, 1971.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Equatorial Guinea

Official name: Republic of Equatorial Guinea

Capital city: Malabo

Internet country code: .gq

Flag description: Three equal horizontal bands of green (top), white, and red with a blue isosceles triangle based on the hoist side and the coat of arms centered in the white band; the coat of arms has six yellow six-pointed stars (representing the mainland and five offshore islands) above a gray shield bearing a silk-cotton tree and below which is a scroll with the motto Unidad, Paz, Justicia (Unity, Peace, Justice)

Geographical description: Western Africa, bordering the Bight of Biafra, between Cameroon and Gabon

Total area: 10,827 sq. mi. (28,050 sq. km.)

Climate: Tropical; always hot, humid

Nationality: noun: Equatorial Guinean(s) or Equatogu­inean(s); adjective: Equatorial Guinean or Equatoguinean

Population: 551,201 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Fang 85.7%, Bubi 6.5%, Mdowe 3.6%, Annobon 1.6%, Bujeba1.1%, other 1.4%

Languages spoken: Spanish (official) 67.6%, French (offi­cial) and others, including Fang and Bubi 32.4%

Religions: Christian 93%, indigenous religions 5%, other (including Muslim and Baha’i) 2%

Legal Holidays:

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Immaculate ConceptionDec 8
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President's DayJun 5
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.

Equatorial Guinea

a republic of W Africa, consisting of R?o Muni on the mainland and the island of Bioko in the Gulf of Guinea, with four smaller islands: ceded by Portugal to Spain in 1778; gained independence in 1968. Official languages: Spanish and French. Religion: Roman Catholic majority. Currency: franc. Capital: Malabo. Pop.: 507 000 (2004 est.). Area: 28 049 sq. km (10 830 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005