How is life for Nigerians in Gabon

The West's newest best friend in Africa

The Kuwait of Africa - this name comes from advisers to President George W. Bush. In search of new, safe sources of oil outside of the Middle East, the United States discovered the Gulf of Guinea at the beginning of our century. About a third of Africa's oil reserves are located under the seabed off the west and central African coast.

The Americans found light crude oil of good quality in Equatorial Guinea. Extracting oil there has another advantage: the deposits are located offshore, that is, in the middle of the sea and far away from the local population, who cannot cause any problems during exploration. About 90 percent of the oil from Equatorial Guinea goes to the USA. Since then, the country's economy has grown by around ten percent annually and is the third largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria and Angola.

Good economic prospects

Airport construction in Malabo

A modern port is currently being built below the center of the capital Malabo, which is located on the island of Bioko. Like most places in Equatorial Guinea, everything here is reminiscent of a huge construction field. A yellow excavator drives back and forth on the pebble beach to pave a road. Two cranes lift sand from the shallow waters from a platform. A dam and dock are almost ready. Four posts protrude into the sky - only the roof is missing. A cargo ship is being loaded on the left side of the bank.

Günther Tröster can overlook the hustle and bustle on the beach from the terrace of the "Treasure Island" restaurant. The 50-year-old German entrepreneur is the owner of Mero TSK, which specializes in roofs and construction elements. This is his first time in Equatorial Guinea and after just two days he already sees opportunities for his company.

Tröster came to Equatorial Guinea with 20 other German entrepreneurs to explore economic prospects. Perhaps he could build the roof of the new airport that is currently being built on the continental part of Equatorial Guinea. In addition to the island of Bioko with the capital Malabo, a rectangular strip of land between Cameroon and Gabon belongs to the country.

Politically controversial

Troster wants to invest in Equatorial Guinea - also because the country is very stable at the moment: "At least there is one line in it, because if a new one comes every few months, it will be unpredictable."

Tröster prefers to leave other comments about the political system of Equatorial Guinea to the politicians in Berlin. The African country is internationally known for human rights violations, corruption and the iron hand with which President Teodoro Obiang rules half a million people.

USA preferred

Street scene in Malabo

Equatorial Guinea is popular with international investors. In the case of foreign investments, it only requires a small national share compared to other African countries. Companies from the United States in particular dominate the oil industry in Equatorial Guinea. United States citizens do not need a visa to enter. Critics meanwhile say that this preferential treatment did not necessarily lead to favorable agreements for Equatorial Guinea. That is why it is now trying to bring other investors into the country in addition to the Americans. The director general of the national oil company Sonagaz, Juan António Ndong: "We like the Americans, but we also have to vary. I don't want to criticize the Americans. The Germans are interesting for us, for example. They keep their word."

A year ago, Equatorial Guinea also became a natural gas exporter. Crude oil and natural gas are extracted from a depth of 1,300 meters; the pipelines bring the natural gas to shore and liquefy it in the Punta Europa facility. Pipelines through the tropical coastal forest carry the natural gas to a dock, where it is pumped into ships that then take it abroad.

New focus: natural gas

However, the government sees even more potential for natural gas production. Because until now a lot of the natural gas that is released during oil production has simply been flared. And so a huge flame illuminates the night horizon of Punta Europa. The burning natural gas can be seen from the center of the capital Malabo. In the future, however, the government of Equatorial Guinea wants the night horizon to be dark again.

A second liquefied gas plant is therefore already being built. In this project, too, the American Marathon Oil is the main shareholder. The Spanish energy supplier Unión Fenosa and the German E.on Ruhrgas are also there.

Teodoro Obiang has been President of Equatorial Guinea for almost 30 years. In almost all of his speeches he speaks of the entry into globalization. In the streets of Malabo, however, only the new buildings of the Chamber of Commerce and the Toyotas of the ministers and entrepreneurs are signs of the oil boom. Puddles form in the potholes behind the new presidential palace, paved roads are rare. Many families are living in emergency shelters until a new, public housing complex is ready. These emergency shelters are sparsely furnished, there is a smell of urine, and mice are doing gymnastics on the bookshelves.

Despite the oil boom, Equatorial Guinea continues to be poorly developed. On the list of the United Nations Development Program, the country ranks 127th out of 177 nations listed.