In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Equatorial Guinea

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • From Decolonization to “Democratization”
  • Labor and Migration
  • Gender Relations
  • Literature
  • Anthropology

African Studies Equatorial Guinea
Alicia Campos Serrano
  • LAST REVIEWED: 17 August 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 February 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0179


The state of Equatorial Guinea is the product of the patchy Spanish colonization in the Gulf of Guinea since the mid-19th century and the success of the nationalist movement in obtaining a joint decolonization in 1968. A small area (less than 28,051 square kilometers), it is comprised of a mainland territory, Río Muni, bordering Cameroon and Gabon; the main island of Bioko, in front of the Niger Delta, with little more than 2,000 square kilometers; and several other smaller islands, such as Annobon and Corisco. With extensive coasts, the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone of the country are proportionally quite remarkable, which explains the large amounts of hydrocarbons discovered offshore in the mid-1990s; the country is the third oil and gas producer in sub-Saharan Africa in the early 21st century. Hydrocarbons are the last of a series of natural resources that have been produced and sold in faraway markets, connecting these territories with other places in the area—from palm oil and cocoa in Bioko during the 19th century to coffee and timber in Río Muni in the 20th century. Agricultural and mineral rents, along with international aid in the 1980s and early 1990s, have promoted the dynamics of extraversion that have historically characterized much of the political economy of the country. These factors explain, in part, the authoritarian character of the government since colonial times; if Spanish domination during the Francoist dictatorship inflicted a double despotism on Africans, the Nguema family that has occupied the government since independence has built an autocratic regime based on fear and racketeering. President Obiang Nguema has presided over the government since 1979, when a palace coup overthrew his uncle and first independent president, Francisco Macías Nguema. Democratization reforms of the 1990s signified little apart from the legalization of political parties, which were, however, subject to harassment and co-optation. The later agreements between (mainly US) oil companies and Nguema’s family in government has empowered the Nguemas, vis-á-vis the rest of social groups, without ameliorating the living standards of the majority. On the other hand, the oil and gas industry has also promoted social changes, including the arrival of numerous immigrants, a boom in the construction sector, and the partial abandonment of rural areas and growth of urban centers.

Reference Works

Apart from several historical overviews (see Early and Colonial History), there are few publications on Equatorial Guinea that can be considered reference works. Liniger-Goumaz 2000, the author of which has dedicated his entire academic work to the country, deserves to be in this section. Ondo Ayang, et al. 2002 is an ample collection of contributions on the early and more recent history of the country. Many of the papers presented at an international conference on the country held at Hofstra University in April 2009 were published in a monographic issue of the Afro-Hispanic Review (Sampedro Vizcaya and Fra Molinero 2009), resulting in broad coverage of different historical, cultural, and socioeconomic aspects. The articles on Equatorial Guinea in Africa South of the Sahara and Africa Yearbook are also good introductions to the country.

  • Africa South of the Sahara. London: Routledge, 1971–.

    Published annually, this publication records mainly political and economic data and events of the past year. It includes a brief geographical and historical introduction, a statistical survey, a directory, and a bibliography. Marisé Castro is the author of the last editions.

  • Africa Yearbook. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2005–.

    Published annually, this publication includes the previous year’s events on domestic politics, foreign affairs, and socioeconomic development authors.

  • Liniger-Goumaz, Max. Historical Dictionary of Equatorial Guinea. 3d ed. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2000.

    This original book by one of the most dedicated authors on Equatorial Guinea surveys important historical developments and actors through the end of the 20th century in the form of a dictionary. Originally published in 1979.

  • Ondo Ayang, Luis, Anacleto Bokesa Camó, and Max Liniger-Goumaz. Misceláneas guineoecuatorianas. 2 vols. La Chaux, Switzerland: Editorial Tiempos Próximos, 2002.

    These two volumes collect numerous contributions by specialists on Equatorial Guinea, which cover many aspects of the history from colonialism to the beginning of the 21st century.

  • Sampedro Vizcaya, Benita, and Baltasar Fra Molinero, eds. Special Issue: Equatorial Guinea. Afro-Hispanic Review 28.2 (Fall 2009).

    This collection of essays covers a wide range of issues, from history and economy to migrations and literature. The island of Annobon receives unusual attention. It was the product of the international conference “Between Three Continents: Rethinking Equatorial Guinea on the Fortieth Anniversary of Its Independence from Spain” (Hofstra University [Hempstead, NY], April 2009), which brings together thirty-six specialists, writers, and activists, many of them from within the country or in exile.

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