One of the most important security challenges in Africa currently is the Gulf of Guinea. The area is a known hotspot for acts of piracy. Overfishing of the Gulf is also a factor along with other forms of criminal activity.
Piracy itself isn’t the only risk at play in the region. There are multiple Political Risks as well in the region. When the ideas of Political Risk are first raised the thoughts naturally turn to the insurgencies in both Nigeria and Cameroon. There are also concerns regarding the situation in Northern Benin as militant groups have entered the country and are steadily moving to the south attracting the attention of France.
However there is another country in the region that also presents risk. Some of the risk is political but there is also some economic risk as well. What country are we talking about? That would be Equatorial Guinea. Some of the reasons for these concerns include:
The decision by the US Energy Company Chevron in February to sell its assets in the country so it can focus on more profitable fields in the United States and Kazakhstan
Within a week Nigeria signed an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Equatorial Guinea which will result in Nigerian Natural Gas from offshore sites to be processed at the center in Punta Europa. Both countries were vocal among emerging African Energy suppliers that are resistant to the trend towards greener energy sources at the recent CERAWEEK Energy Conference in Houston.
There are some concerns as well regarding whether or not China will build a naval base in the country. In recent weeks the Biden Administration sent a delegation to Malabo in an effort to prevent this from happening. This is the second effort by Washington within the last year to discuss this very topic. In return an offer to assist Equatorial Guinea deal with Piracy is on the table as well. It will be some time before this issue is resolved.
It should be noted that before the discovery of Petroleum in the country that the country was considered to be an ally of the Soviet Union. Now it appears to be an ally of the United States so should this move come as a surprise?
The country has a border dispute with Gabon over three uninhabited islands that is currently in front of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) . This comes after the country signed a pact with Cameroon to prevent the construction of a border wall.
In early March the Vice President visited Uganda where several MOUs were signed regarding Defence and Security Cooperation. Including the exchange of Military Trainers. Considering that the Army of Equatorial Guinea has only 1500 Troops on its rolls it should be interesting to observe how this process plays out.
These actions are interesting. Some can be seen as a Kleptocratic Family trying to stay relevant in an era of change, others will see these actions as a country which has potential for growth and are currently taking the necessary steps to ensure such change.
However there is a dark side that needs to be explored. In the most recent TIP (Trafficking in Persons) report compiled by the US State Department noted that Spanish authorities were investigating whether Officers of the Equatoguniean Military were active in a Human Trafficking ring where people were trafficked into Spain. The matter was still under investigation a year ago but there has been little coverage in the media regarding this incident.
Why should the country be monitored? The easy answers are geography and its supply of hydrocarbons. The Obiang family which rules the country seems more concerned with lining their own pockets with cash than depositing it into the national coffers. Members of the family have had property and other trinkets seized in Madrid, Paris and even Los Angeles. Having a healthy dose of skepticism in this situation is not that bad of an idea.
But when someone realizes that they are in a position to be paid they will take the actions that they deem to be necessary to ensure that they do in fact get paid. To them that is the bottom line.