The government of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea said this week that it will allocate 500-billion FCFA (about US$1-billion) through a Co-Investment Fund (CIF) to support foreign investments in a view of diversifying the country’s economy.
The announcement was made at the two-day Emerging Equatorial Guinea summit held recently to discuss the country’s economic diversification.
The government is primarily targeting the sectors of agriculture and ranching, fishing, tourism, financial services, and petrochemicals and mining.
Equatorial Guinea, ruled with iron-fist by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema for 35 years, is Africa’s third-largest oil producer behind Nigeria and Angola.
Minister of finance and budgets Marcelino Owono Edu told delegates attending the event in Malabo that the Fund aims at diversifying the economy beyond oil and gas, on which its recent growth has been relying upon, in order to ensure a more balanced economic system, less vulnerable to global shifts in oil supply and demand.
‘Xenophobic’ and ‘corrupt’ Equatorial Guinea boasts one of the continent’s highest GDP per capita (close to US$20 000), but in reality most of its people – especially in rural areas – are poor, struggling to make ends meet without safe drinking water, electricity, adequate housing and sanitation, and basic healthcare.
Freedom of expression is non-existent, foreign media is also banned and any criticism of the government is punished by lengthy jail terms and sometimes death. Torture, kidnappings and extra-judicial killings are rife, and the country’s jails are also full of political prisoners.
This climate of fear has scared foreign investors away, and given the country a bad-boy image.
Now, the government of Nguema is charming foreign investors by enhancing their efforts through the CIF.
“This Co-Investment Fund allocation testifies of the country’s commitment to lay the bases for economic diversification to ensure sustainable growth and to create more jobs in our country,” Edu told the audience.
Delegates included entrepreneurs, investors, analysts, scholars and development agencies representatives.
“We have been blessed by an incredible oil wealth, which we aim to use to build the foundations of an emerging country, via a strong plan for economic diversification and industrialisation plan,” Edu said.
But many critics remain sceptic, saying that due to the lack of government’s transparency and accountability, the Fund will only boost the political and business elite’s fortunes.
Photo: A typical house in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea. Credit: BBC