Business and Politics in a Criminal State: The Case of Equatorial Guinea

Business and Politics in a Criminal State: The Case of Equatorial Guinea

Geoffrey Wood African Affairs, Vol. 103, Issue 413, pp. 547-567 | October 1, 2004
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This article assesses the changing nature of the contemporary political economy of Equatorial Guinea. It provides an overview of the complex and dynamic web of elite rent-generation and explores the extent to which the development of an oil industry has contributed to a monoculture of accumulation. It is concluded that, despite the oil windfall, other, ‘illicit’, modes of elite rent-generation persist and have even intensified.

"Dubbed the Kuwait of West Africa, the former Spanish colony of Equatorial Guinea has experienced extremely rapid growth as a result of the discovery and exploitation of major offshore oil reserves. Less enviably, the country has a well-deserved reputation for gross human rights abuses and corruption.Whilst accumulation centering on a tiny elite is widespread on the African continent, the concentration and nature of the activity have had particularly adverse consequences in Equatorial Guinea. Indeed, in his classic account, Small is not Always Beautiful,Max Liniger-Goumaz suggests that the closest comparable examples can be found in the former clan dictatorships of Latin America, including the Duvaliers’ Haiti, the Somozas’ Nicaragua, Porfirio Diaz’s Mexico and Batista’s Cuba. Equatorial Guinea’s ‘family caudillismo’ Nguemist regime matches or exceeds earlier Latin American manifestations both in rapacity and brutality; President Obiang Nguema Mbasago is regularly named as one of the worst despots in the world. 

This article analyses the political economy of Equatorial Guinea, which has been largely neglected in recent Africa-related research. It provides an overview of the complex and dynamic web of elite rent-generation and explores the extent to which the development of an oil industry has contributed to a monoculture of accumulation..."

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