According to countryaah, Equatorial Guinea, whose business has traditionally been based on agricultural production, had major economic problems until the mid-1990s. Between 1970 and 1980, the country’s GDP fell by about 6 percent per year, and Equatorial Guinea was one of Africa’s least developed countries. Large deficits in the budget and trade balance meant that the country was highly dependent on foreign aid, mainly from Spain and France, and on foreign loans, mainly from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. In an effort to stabilize the economy, in the early 1980s, the country joined the Central African Cooperation Organization CEEAC and the Central African Customs Union UDEAC. But despite these measures, as well as an investment program 1988–91 and stimulation of private investment, attempts to stimulate the economy failed.
It was not until the mid-1990s, when significant oil and gas deposits, mainly off the island of Bioko, began to be exploited as the economy began to show positive signs, and oil production quickly changed radically the country’s economic conditions. Since the late 1990s, oil has generated much of Equatorial Guinea’s GDP and export revenues. The country is now one of Africa’s largest oil exporters with an annual economic growth rate of between 40 and 75 percent, and GDP per capita has increased from US $ 530 in 1996 to 10,174 in 2018. Although oil recovery has led to a remarkable improvement in the country’s economic ratios, however, the population has not fully benefited from the increased wealth. The country’s main export products are oil, timber, cocoa and coffee, and the most important import products are equipment for the oil industry, machinery and food. Equatorial Guinea’s most important trading partners are Japan, China and the United States.
Agriculture and forestry
Until the mid-1990s, agriculture and forestry were the backbone of Equatorial Guinea’s economy. They then accounted for about 50 percent of GDP, but as a result of increased oil production, their contribution to GDP has dropped to 9 percent (2016). The most important products are cocoa, coffee, palm oil, bananas and cassava. The most important barley crops are cocoa, which is grown mainly on Bioko, and coffee, which is grown mainly in the mainland part. Cocoa is the country’s foremost agricultural export, but due to uncertain landowner conditions and neglect during Macías Nguema’s regime (1968–79), cocoa production has declined sharply in recent years, despite the fact that the government and the World Bank have tried to rebuild production. The country’s second largest agricultural export is coffee, but coffee production has also declined dramatically since independence.
The country has large forest resources, but transport difficulties and inefficient means of production make it difficult to increase production. Prior to the 1990s, oil exports were the country’s most important export product; It is mainly okoumé and acoga timber exported. The main harvesting areas are located in the mainland, along the coast and the rivers.
Minerals, energy and industry
The country has oil and gas assets both on land and in the form of offshore deposits. In 1992, oil began to be exported on a small scale. During the 1990s, oil production increased, and now Equatorial Guinea is one of Africa’s largest oil producers. The oil is estimated to contribute about 90 percent of the country’s export revenue and has radically changed the country’s economic conditions. So far, however, a large part of the oil revenues have been with oil companies outside the country. In addition to oil, deposits of gold, iron, manganese, tantalum and uranium have also been detected, but the extraction is hampered by the dense vegetation and by the almost total lack of roads.
The country’s energy supply comes mainly from firewood and charcoal. Two smaller hydropower plants are located at Bata and Riaba.
Equatorial Guinea’s manufacturing industry is poorly developed. Before independence, there was a lively light industry around Malabo, but this one, with the exception of some food industry, has almost completely disappeared.