President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo guides Equatorial Guinea peacefully towards the consolidation of a successful bright future; establishing self-sufficiency while aiming to set the nation up as a reference point for the whole of Africa.
H.E. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo founded Equatorial Guinea’s first political party, the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE), in 1987. He has since been re-elected as president of the nation in a series of overwhelming landslide elections. The President’s accomplishments lie in his focus in conserving an atmosphere of peace and stability within the country, while establishing excellent international relations, pushing for progress and ensuring a secure and solid economic growth within Equatorial Guinea. His world view has also yielded success; a passionate supporter of life sciences, President Obiang has founded and financed the UNESCO-Equatorial Guinea International Prize for life-science research and in 2011, he acted as President of the African Union. Penresa had the immense honour and privilege to sit down with the President to talk about Equatorial Guinea’s milestones over the past 50 years, as well as his hopes and aspirations for the nation.
What have been the nation’s milestones over the past 50 years since independence?
I lived through the moment of transition from colony to independent state and I was very aware of the change; freedom is at the root of a person’s happiness and people felt encouraged to start working for an independent country after Equatorial Guinea’s independence. After the freedom coup, we had to create a reconciliation programme, we had to attract different political tendencies within the country and that is how the acceptance of the new government began, making it possible for everyone to contribute through development. This is how the country started to see the light for physical and political change. It was not easy because without resources and money we could not do anything; the discovery of oil was a very fortunate situation.
The country has gone through different phases during your leadership. What has been your major challenge?
Raising awareness within the international community such as the United Nations, international organisations and other countries, while building up trust for Equatorial Guinea’s new government, which has since occupied relevant positions as a member of the OPEC, non-permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations and member of the Executive Council of UNESCO, as well as collaborating with a number of countries.
Can you provide us with a brief outline of Horizonte 2020’s phases?
When it was announced that Equatorial Guinea was producing oil in 1995, the first thing we did was call the nation’s forces (political, governmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as the population in general) to define how we were going to use the resources coming from oil. The plan for Equatorial Guinea’s economic development determined how the money was going to be used by investing in important sectors, such as health, education and infrastructure. After five years, we had to redirect the plan, this became Horizonte 2020 and aimed for the nation’s self-sufficiency by 2020. The economy had to be diversified, and we have been working along those lines, investing in infrastructure and the formation of human resources and agriculture, in order to avoid oil being the only product generating income for the state. Unfortunately, the oil crisis and the subsequent price drop in oil occurred; but in spite of the crisis, Equatorial Guinea does not have external debt and we are still funding the pending programmes. What the government has to do now is analyse and study what has been invested in the Horizonte 2020 programme and establish how many years it will take to reach those objectives. According to me, the industrialisation phase will be the key phase that will allow us to achieve self-sufficiency; focusing on our own production is the key to good economic development, not through the big industries, but via the small and medium industries.
Which are the sectors for investment being prioritised by the government?
I think that we have to continue working hard. We have invested in social, health and educational sectors. At the moment, we have two universities and various professional schools so we don’t have to send students abroad.
What are the competitive advantages for new investors in Equatorial Guinea?
Foreign capital is very sensitive, but the work that we have done has attracted a lot of investment. China has destined a credit of US$2 billion to Equatorial Guinea, with the possibility for us to ask for more if we need it, and it will be given to us under very flexible conditions. We have to use this credit in a rational way to invest mostly in those sectors that can change the image of the country. For locals, the most important thing is legal security; companies find a secure field to recuperate their capital and benefits. We also have the Foreign Capital Investment Law, which is very flexible and encourages a lot of companies to invest. They feel safe to come and do business and obtain benefits because they are being guaranteed by Equatorial Guinea.
What is the legacy that you want to be remembered for?
As president, I have seriously defended peace, Equatoguineans live harmoniously. In Equatorial Guinea, there is no ethnic crisis or discrimination. I think that peace will allow the nation to have an inheritance, a fortune that can secure a promising future for subsequent generations; that is my dream.
How do you see Equatorial Guinea in the next 50 years, what is your vision?
Our programme is to make Equatorial Guinea an emerging country. The country has to create its own products which will prevent the transfer of its foreign currency abroad. We have to produce our own food; we have to get used to consume what we produce and not consume products that we are unaware of how they are being cultivated. Equatorial Guinea has a very fertile land. I am very satisfied because we are seeing the increase of local products in our markets.
What message would you like to convey to the readers of FORBES AFRICA?
We want to maintain good relations worldwide; other nations and international organisations trust Equatorial Guinea, in spite our differences within Africa, such as our language, Spanish. Equatorial Guinea is a multilingual country, we speak English, French, Portuguese and Chinese. We are focused on forming our citizens so they can activate their strengths in any part of the world. The wealth of our nation lies in having public servants in international organisations and possessing the ability to compete with other countries.