News / Africa

    Equatorial Guinea Attracts Foreign Workers Despite Dictatorship

    FILE - A construction worker carries timber at a housing project being built in an old cocoa-producing community just outside Equatorial Guinea's capital Malabo, February 5, 2014.
    FILE - A construction worker carries timber at a housing project being built in an old cocoa-producing community just outside Equatorial Guinea's capital Malabo, February 5, 2014.
    Equatorial Guinea. once among the poorest countries in the world, is attracting workers from Africa, Latin America and Europe due to its booming gas and petroleum sector. 

    The Punto Europa gas plant on Bioko Island in the shadow of the capital, Malabo, was completed seven years ago, about a decade after Equatorial Guinea discovered huge quantities of gas and petroleum reserves.  

    The plant refines 400,000 barrels per day of crude oil, methanol and liquified natural gas, one of the largest operations of its kind, according to Cameroonian-born gas exploration engineer Essono Jean, who has been working there for four years as production manager. He said it can only be compared with those in America.

    Essono is one of the 230 foreigners at the plant, who make up the bulk of the 300 workers.

    A view of Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. (Moki Edwin Kindzeka/VOA)A view of Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. (Moki Edwin Kindzeka/VOA)
    x
    A view of Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. (Moki Edwin Kindzeka/VOA)
    A view of Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. (Moki Edwin Kindzeka/VOA)
    The discovery of biofuels is transforming this small country of less than a million people into a huge construction site, attracting workers from all over the world.   

    Mikes Oliveder told VOA that he left his native Brazil to work as a bridge construction engineer in Malabo because there are all kinds of job opportunities. 

    "They are investing a lot in infrastructure, the roads, the buildings, developing their agriculture, health, so there is a lot of things here, not just the buildings," he explained.

    All this investment has raised Equatorial Guinea's gross domestic product (GDP) to the highest in Africa, more than $24,000 per capita, according to the World Bank.

    The traditional ruler of Nganmessock, near the port city of Bata, said Equatorial Guinea is witnessing a revolution.  

    He said until recently, Equatorial Guinea was unknown and now all the investment means water, electricity and more.  He says under the president’s plan everyone will have access to basic necessities by 2020.

    This revolution is certainly not political.  President Teodoro Obiang Nguema has been in power for nearly 35 years, since leading a coup.  

    And many citizens will tell you that despite what the statistics say, they are not experiencing a revolution in their standard of living.

    Nurse Ovam Didier, 34, says despite being trained in Nigeria, he can not get a job in the medical field.

    "Most of the 800,000 people here in Equatorial Guinea have very poor standards of living whereas the government is wasting a lot of resources in building roads and other infrastructure.  For me they need to take a look, closer look at the basic necessities of the citizens," he said.

    According to the World Bank statistics, 76 percent of the Equatorial Guinea's population is poor and 40 percent of rural residents lack water.

    Many suspect the riches are ending up in the hands of the elite inner circle.  International watchdog groups have long criticized President Obiang for being repressive and leaving his country's people in poverty.

     A party leader with the opposition CPDS, Andreas Essono, said the main obstacle is the political system.

    He said Equatorial Guinea is a dictatorship and freedom of expression is a serious problem and that even Equatorial Guinea State Radio dedicates almost all of its broadcast time to messages from President Obiang and his PDG party.

    In a rare meeting with foreign journalists this past February in Malabo, President Obiang said he knows his international reputation, but that will not stop him from opening the country to foreign investment.

    He said Equatorial Guinea is known as a country which disrespects democratic processes, violates human rights and practices corruption. But he said it is intent on leading Equatorial Guinea to be an emerging economy in the next five years.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.