Last year alone, according to the Bank of Cenral African States, Equatorial Guinea earned 4.3 billion dollars in oil revenue. This was about 90% of the country’s GDP. This in a country of just over 600,000 souls. Last year’s World Bank estimates put the country’s per capita income at about 20,000 dollars. But don’t be fooled by this figure, more than 60% of the citizens of this tiny Central African country live on less than a dollar a day. It is estimated that the government has stashed more than 2 billion dollars in foreign accounts. Mr. Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the president since 1979, is one very wealthy man.
Whenever I think about this country – among many other equally wealthy African countries – I ask myself: How hard can it be? How hard can it be to provide education for your people? How hard can it be to provide decent housing? How hard can it be to ensure that people are not starving? And all this while your treasuries are overflowing with cash. Of what use are the billions to Obiang and his friends if his country-people are starving? Don’t these men have a scintilla of pride? Doesn’t Mr. Obiang feel even a tinge of shame when he sees pictures of fly-infested faces of emaciated African children in the front pages of major world newspapers or book covers?
It is very frustrating. It is inexplicable. It makes you wonder whether these people are grown up men or children. It seems almost commonsensical that a country like Equatorial Guinea – small in size and with an abundance of oil – should never wallow in want. It takes a great deal of stupidity to plunge a whole 60% of the population in abject poverty with this much wealth. 600,000 Obiang. Just 600,000. You can keep track of every one of your citizens, providing for their basic needs and granting them a decent education, healthcare, housing and what not. Seriously. It is not rocket science.