This article was originally published in the Africa Energy Series: Equatorial Guinea book.
His Excellency Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea
What are the key achievements of Equatorial Guinea in the energy sector in the last 50 years?
In Equatorial Guinea, we believe that the petroleum reserves in the country are a blessing. Other countries may see petroleum as a curse because it has been mis-used. Our country was once the poorest on the continent but today, thanks to the petroleum industry, we are among the wealthiest. We can be proud of the fact that we have achieved that.
Petroleum has undoubtedly transformed the economy of this country. In the past, Equatorial Guinea suffered a lot of difficulties and had to receive financial emergency aid from the International Monetary Fund, but we have been able to instead become one of the fastest emerging countries of Africa. We will not need the financial aid anymore. This has been a very positive development for the country, and it is due to the petroleum industry.
How has the government been able to effectively use Equatorial Guinea’s oil and gas resources to develop the economy?
Equatorial Guinea is not the richest nation, but we did know how to plan the use of our resources very well. When we knew we were going to produce oil, the first thing we did was to involve the entire government, the opposition parties and the non-governmental organizations to work on a development plan for Equatorial Guinea. This was done via an economic fo- rum, where we planned the development of the country in the short term, medium term and long term. The objective was that by 2020 the country needed to be self-supporting. Due to the low price of oil in the international market in recent years, we will need to adjust the plan to whatever our policymakers believe is reasonable and good for the country.
Equatorial Guinea is now an African leader in the production and processing of gas. What role will gas play in the nation’s future?
We have indeed overcome a lot of the deficiencies that we had before. We now have the knowledge to operate at a high level in the gas sector. We now have the financial resources, the human resources and the know-how to exploit our own gas reserves without needing to outsource this to other countries. We know by now the importance of oil and gas, so we want to make sure that in the future we can use our natural resources in the country itself.
What can other oil and gas exploring and producing countries on the continent learn from
Equatorial Guinea, and what have you learned from other countries?
We have learned from other companies, but we really educated ourselves along- side the companies that came to work here and followed our lead in developing the industry. Nowadays, we can assist other countries. At the moment, we are working with South Sudan and Uganda to provide assistance at their request. I think a lot of African countries can benefit from our experience, and we are able to help them.
To what degree will greater access to education influence the future of Equatorial Guinea’s people and its oil and gas sector?
For me, education is key. When a country does not have enough professionals, it cannot guarantee future development and projects, because you need technical and scientific knowledge for that. We are where we are right now due to the fact that we have offered the right education to our youth. Young people can go to other countries to get their education, but we have now also opened several centers of education in the country. We have sever- al universities and soon we will open an institution to educate people to take managerial positions in the oil and gas sec- tor. We want to continue to educate our young people to help our country become self-sufficient.
How does Equatorial Guinea maintain good relationships simultaneously with the United States, China, Russia, African countries and other global partners?
Equatorial Guinea’s policy is to maintain good relations with countries around the world. We do not want divergences be- cause they do not contribute to anything. Traditionally the world was divided be- tween the East and the West, but we don’t think this is favorable for developing countries like Equatorial Guinea. Russia and China have helped us a lot with regards to the education of our workforce and in economic growth. But we have been very careful to maintain a careful equilibrium between Eastern and Western countries to make sure there is no divergence be- tween our positions towards our partners and that the balance of power is fair.
Looking to the future, what other industries and sectors are you prioritizing?
When we look towards 2020 or 2030, that would be the horizon for the industrialization of the country. For the primary sector, which is agriculture, we would like to see this industrialized in a way that we could use all our natural resources and benefit from greater food security. This is another pillar of the self-sufficiency that we are working towards. It will also make sure we are able to grow our currency reserves and not use them for imports.
What three key developments of recent years have contributed most to the growth and development of the country?
First of all, peace. Without peace, we could have never attained the level of develop- ment we have right now. Next to that, it was very important to reconcile the differ- ent parties and make sure there was solidarity among the people and no distinction between Equatoguineans. Lastly, we had to work on the security in the country. With- out security, society and business cannot flourish. Those were the three main ways that we were able to guarantee the future of Equatorial Guinea.