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5 surprising facts about Equatorial Guinea

March 8, 2021

The deadly blasts that rocked Equatorial Guinea on Sunday have shone a spotlight on a country that rarely makes the news. Here are five things you might not have known about the Central African nation.

Equatoguinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and bhis son, Vice President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue
Equatoguinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema (left) is the world's longest-serving president. His son, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, is vice president.

Family dynasty

Since August 3, 1979, Equatorial Guinea has been ruled by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema. The 78-year-old leader, who is constitutionally allowed to rule by decree, became the country's second president after overthrowing his uncle, Macias Nguema. Despite more than a dozen attempts to topple him, President Obiang has clung to power for more than 40 years and earned the title of Africa's and the world's longest-serving president.

Equatoguinean high school children in class
Equatorial Guinea boasts the highest adult literacy rate in sub-Saharan AfricaImage: Samuel Obiang/AFP/Getty Images

President Obiang's son, Teodoro Nguema, is the country's vice president. Another son, Gabriel Obiang Lima, is the minister for mines and hydrocarbons.

While the country allowed a multi-party system in 1992, Obiang's Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea has won over 90% of votes at every election.

The opposition has boycotted some of the polls. In the last election in 2016, he scored 93.7% of the vote, according to the electoral commission, his worst result so far.

High literacy rate

Equatorial Guinea boasts the highest adult literacy rate in sub-Saharan Africa. According to UNESCO, the nation of approximately 1.4 million has an average literacy rate of 95%.

Map showing where Equatorial Guinea is located

Crude wealth

Considered one of Africa's richest countries, Equatorial Guinea is home to huge minerals and oil reserves. In the mid-1990s, US oil companies discovered massive deposits off the coast of Equatorial Guinea. Since then, billions of dollars have been generated from the production and sale of crude oil.

However, the money has not benefited the ordinary Equatoguinean, as the country's elites pocket most of the profits. According to Forbes Magazine, President Obiang has a net worth of $600 million (€506 million), making him one of the world's wealthiest heads of state.

Aerial view of oil company facilities at Malabo, Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea
Oil wealth has benefited the country's elite. President Obiang is one of the world's wealthiest heads of stateImage: Tim Laman/Bluegreen Pictures/imago images

The 2020 UN Human Development Index (HDI) — which measures average achievement in key dimensions of human development, such as long and healthy life, being knowledgeable, and having a decent living standard — ranks Equatorial Guinea 145 out of 189 countries: the world's largest gap between per capita wealth and human development score.


Equatorial Guinea is the only African nation to have Spanish as an official language. Spain colonized the country on two separate occasions: first between 1778–1810 and then from 1844–1968.

Due to Spain's long historical influence, Spanish has remained an important language. However, the country also uses French and Portuguese as its official languages.

The flag of Equatorial Guinea
Green symbolizes the country's natural resources, blue represents the sea connecting the islands to the mainland, white stands for peace, and red represents the fight for independenceImage: Laurent Davoust/Zoonar/picture alliance

Worst human-rights record 

The current and former governments have been accused of gross violations of human rights, mismanagement of public funds, and high-level corruption. Human Rights Watch (HRW) says there is a repression of civil society groups and opposition politicians.

HRW alleges that critics have been tortured and that the country conducts unfair trials. In one such example, police arrested 147 members of the political party that held the sole opposition seat in parliament following a confrontation with police officers. A court later sentenced 28 of the party members to 30 years in prison and ordered the party's dissolution.