Resource Curse and African Despot, By Osmund Agbo

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The vast majority of Equatorial Guinea’s oil revenues have been siphoned off under the pretext of financing large infrastructure projects carried out by entrepreneurs linked to President Obiang’s entourage. Education and health receive on average 2-3% of the budget, while extraction has already been declining since 2012 and oil reserves are expected to dry up by 2035.

A first-time visitor to the University of Calabar will learn some interesting facts. Students refer to themselves as Malabites and Malabresses. The men’s hostel is affectionately referred to as the Republic of Malabo. You must be wondering what unical has to do with Malabo, the capital of the small Central African nation of Equatorial Guinea, located on the island of Bioko and about 100 kilometers off the coast of southern Nigeria. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Located on the west coast of central Africa, near the equator and the Gulf of Guinea, the Republic of Equatorial Guinea consists of the Rio Muni, the continent sandwiched between Cameroon and Gabon, as well as the Island of Bioko (formerly Fernando Po). There are also smaller islands of Annobon and Corisco to the southwest. About 80 percent of the population is Catholic, and with just over 33,000 inhabitants, the Igbos, whose ancestors are found in southeastern Nigeria, are the third largest ethnic group in that country, after the Fang and the indigenous people. Bubis.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to land on the island of Bioko in 1471 and they named it after their main explorer, Fernando Po. The Igbos arrived in the 18th century and are said to have migrated from Arochukwu, in the current State of Abia.

After approximately 300 years of Portuguese possession, the colony was ceded to Spain, as the former could not find a way to make it profitable, thus giving Madrid access to African slaves to service its plantations in the Americas. But with much of the indigenous Bubi population wiped out by disease and others resisting forced labor, Spain’s initial effort to gain control encountered great difficulties and they struggled to find people. to work in cocoa plantations. The island’s economy came to depend on workers imported from all over the world, including freed slaves from Cuba and Liberia.

In 1942, the Spanish and British authorities signed an agreement on labor migration. By the mid-1950s, nearly 16,000 Nigerian workers, mostly Ibos, were working at Fernando Po as contract laborers. Throughout the 1940s, their labor force enabled Spain to grow cocoa, coffee, and agriculture, in general, in this colony then called Spanish Guinea. It took sustained efforts on the part of the Claretian Catholic missionaries based in Barcelona for Spain to enter the colony.

As expected, the petro-dollars led to a boom and the country experienced rapid economic growth. According to UNESCO, the country has the highest adult literacy rate in sub-Saharan Africa, with an average of 95%. It also has the highest per capita income in Africa, but that’s where the good story ends. More than three quarters of the population live below the poverty line, according to World Bank data.

Equatorial Guinea was not left out in the wave of liberation struggles that swept across the African continent after World War II. October 12, 1968 marks the day of its independence from Spain and Francisco Macias Nguema is elected president. Shortly thereafter and following the loss of privileged access to Spanish markets, the export economy collapsed and the country plunged into a decade of unprecedented pro-Communist dictatorship.

The reign of terror that unfolded under President Francisco Macias resulted in a massive crackdown on religious groups like the Catholic Church and the brutal treatment of any dissenting voices, including the Igbo contract workers who worked on the cocoa plantations of Bioko. As a result, there was a mass exodus and nearly a third of the population fled the country. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo overthrew his uncle Macias in a palace coup in 1979 and has been ruling from Equatorial Guinea.

The economy of this small nation continued to struggle under President Obiang, with the country relying mainly on foreign aid to pay its bills. But that would all change in 1995 when Exxon-Mobil, the American oil giant, discovered oil in the country. Massive discoveries at sea over the past decade have brought oil to around 380,000 barrels per day, placing Equatorial Guinea behind Nigeria and Angola among producers in sub-Saharan Africa.

As expected, the petro-dollars led to a boom and the country experienced rapid economic growth. According to UNESCO, the country has the highest adult literacy rate in sub-Saharan Africa, with an average of 95%. It also has the highest per capita income in Africa, but that’s where the good story ends. More than three quarters of the population live below the poverty line, according to World Bank data. Wealth is distributed extremely unevenly and most of it is concentrated in the hands of the ruling family. This is why, despite the oil wealth, Equatorial Guinea still occupies the 144th place in the 2019 Human Development Index, which measures access to basic necessities, such as health care and access to electricity. drinking water around the world.

President Obiang is the oldest president in the world and has been in power for more than four decades. With a net worth of $ 600 million, according to Forbes, he is easily one of the richest heads of state in the world.

When British economist Richard Auty coined the term ‘resource curse’, also known as the abundance or poverty paradox, you know he had the African nations of Nigeria, Angola in mind. and Equatorial Guinea. It is the phenomenon where countries rich in natural resources have less economic growth, less democracy and poorer development results than countries with less natural resources.

His son, Teodoro Nguema Mangue is the vice-president and is expected to succeed his 78-year-old father. But the young Teddy is best known as an Instagram sensation, who often posts using the hashtag, luxury life, through which he flaunts his exaggerated lifestyle, with a private jet, a stately mansion in Malibu, Calif., and keep a fleet of vintage cars. He was also the world’s largest collector of Michael Jackson memorabilia, including the pop star’s iconic white glove covered in clear Swarovski crystals, for which he paid $ 275,000.

Another son, Gabriel Obiang Lima, is Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons.

The vast majority of Equatorial Guinea’s oil revenues have been siphoned off under the pretext of financing large infrastructure projects carried out by entrepreneurs linked to President Obiang’s entourage. Education and health receive on average 2-3% of the budget, while extraction has already been declining since 2012 and oil reserves are expected to dry up by 2035.

Back to Unical history.

The University of Calabar was a satellite campus of the University of Nigeria until 1975 when it was modernized to become one of the second generation federal universities in Nigeria. The founders set out to build a first-rate learning citadel, which is why they commissioned John Elliot, the famous British architect known for designing luxury brands like the seven-star Emirati Palace in Abu Dhabi to design the ‘institution. But like most things in Nigeria, the dream is often grandiose but the reality is appalling.

Typical of most public institutions in Nigeria, new students faced mountainous challenges during this time. Coincidentally, this was also the time when the Nigerian government decided to evacuate around 45,000 Nigerians working in Malabo, at the height of President Macias Nguema’s reign of terror in Equatorial Guinea. In fact, some of the returnees camped around the area which later became part of the student hostels. The students of the Unique compared their situation to the fate of these Nigerian returnees from Malabo.

When British economist Richard Auty coined the term ‘resource curse’, also known as the abundance or poverty paradox, you know he had the African nations of Nigeria, Angola in mind. and Equatorial Guinea. It is the phenomenon where countries rich in natural resources have less economic growth, less democracy and poorer development results than countries with less natural resources.

How can Africa rise with Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo?

Osmond Agbo, a public affairs analyst is the coordinator of the African Center for Transparency and the organizer of the Save Nigeria project. E-mail: [email protected]

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