Is A National Political Dialogue As Panacea For Development In Equatorial Guinea? – Chofor Che

Equatorial Guinea is an oil rich state found in the Central African region.With a population of less than 800,000 people, Equatorial Guinea is Africa's third energy producer behind Nigeria and Angola, accommodating a couple of oil companies including ExxonMobil and Marathon Oil.

In May 2013, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema’s ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) was victorious after the legislative elections. The PDGE occupied 54 of 55 seats in Senate and 99 of the 100 seats in the lower house of assembly. The elections were not considered as free and fair especially by Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS) party, the only opposition group represented in parliament.

On September 1, 2014, Reuters Africa, in an op-ed revealed that Equatorial Guinea's President, Obiang, has called for a national political dialogue for November 2014. According to Reuters Africa, this national political dialogue, which is the third meeting of this calibre in the history of the state, will even include exiled members of the opposition.

President Obiang has ruled this oil-rich Central African state since 1979 making him Africa’s longest serving head of state. At a reunion with officials of the ruling political party and members of the opposition, President Obiang invited all and sundry to be part of the development drive in Equatorial Guinea.  According to a local media in Equatorial Guinea, President Obiang promised to forgive those politicians with cases pending before the courts.

In the wake of this envisaged political dialogue, Equatorial Guinea's major opposition leader Severo Moto has been in exile in Spain for several years. According to Reuters Africa, his political party, Progressive Party of Equatorial Guinea remains banned. All the same there are rumours that he may travel home to take part in the political dialogue.

In as much as a national dialogue is welcome, more needs to be addressed in the case of Equatorial Guinea. The state’s civil society remains very weak. What needs to be done by President Obiang’s government is to create an enabling atmosphere for more jobs. This drive needs to be encouraged by the International community as well as the numerous oil and gas multinationals in the state.

There is equally no gainsaying that France remains interested in the oil rich state. France and other Western states need to therefore encourage President Obiang’s central government to improve on its infrastructure and technology. Small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) especially those run by women and the youth need to be revamped via private and government partnerships.

Equatorial Guinea has to also revisit its educational system. Since independence the state has adhered to the Portuguese educational tradition inherited from colonialism. In a world of globalization it is thus germane for President Obiang’s government to revisit the educational system and make it tie with challenges of globalization especially state of the art techniques in oil and gas extraction.

More Equatorial Guineans need to be employed in the extractive industries. It does not suffice for foreign multinationals to rip the state of its natural resources while nationals suffer from poverty. The state thus needs to put in place a comprehensive local content policy.

Relying grossly on extractive industries is a serious mistake Equatorial Guinea as well as other oil rich states are making. There is a lot of uncultivated land in Equatorial Guinea which remains unexploited. The state is yet to meet its full potential when it comes to agriculture. It is thus germane for President Obiang’s government to consider revamping the agricultural sector. These issues are more important to the state’s development than a national dialogue.

Chofor Che is an integral part of the Africanliberty’s Voice of Liberty initiative. He is also a Doctoral Law candidate at the Faculty of Law, University of the Western Cape and blogs at

Photo: Guardian