Big ambition for Equatorial Guinea

November 18, 2009

This week has seen a rush of key policymakers and business executives from Africa flocking to London. Apart from Sierra Leone, oil and gas executives have been discussing the outlook for Equatorial Guinea, a small central African state rich in oil.

Equatorial Guinea made a relatively rare foray into the global news earlier this month for a presidential pardon of  former British army officer Simon Mann, who was serving a 34-year prison sentence in the country for his role in a failed coup d’etat in 2004.

Gabriel Obiang Lima, vice minister of mines, industry and energy, was in London to talk about his ambition for the country. “Our aim is not to be the Kuwait of the region. It’s to be the Singapore of the region,” he told dozens of business executives in a conference in London on Wednesday.

“Equatorial Guinea has to have other industries that are not dependent on oil and gas.”

But it has a long way to go towards establishing a Singapore-like country. The U.S. State Department says application of the laws remains selective and corruption among officials is widespread, and many business deals are concluded under nontransparent circumstances.

The vice minister says Equatorial Guinea is investing heavily in ports, health care and infrastructure.

“Talk is cheap but we have to deliver,” he said, wrapping up his 40-minute speech.

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