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Equatorial Guinea in P.R. Push to Improve Image

Reuters published a profile of Equatorial Guinea on March 10 that details the efforts of Equatorial Guinea to improve how it is viewed by the outside world. The kleptocratic and reclusive government, often synonymous with the “resource curse,” has hired Richard Attias & Associates, a Madison Avenue-based public relations firm, to clean up the country’s image. The Manhattan PR company specializes in helping African leaders “build their global influence.”

Equatorial Guinea is Africa’s third largest producer of energy, and has Africa’s highest GDP per capita. Those numbers hide the fact that the country’s people have not significantly benefited from oil exports. Instead, millions of dollars flow to the country’s corrupt elite. President Teodoro Obiang Nguema has presided over this pilfering, and his playboy son Teodorin has been the subject of corruption charges in the United States. Now Obiang says Equatorial Guinea is undergoing major reforms and he declared that Equatorial Guinea is “open for business” in a variety of sectors beyond oil and gas.

Related Article: Africa Energy Advisory

Obiang is seeking investors for mining (“we have gold, diamonds, coltan, bauxite”), farming, petrochemicals, tourism and finance. He hopes to increase transparency and put in place reforms that improve the country’s business climate. Obiang wants to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which sets standards for resource extraction countries, and gives approval for countries managing their resources well. Equatorial Guinea was already denied EITI certification in 2010.

Some think that Obiang’s attempts at reform are mere publicity. “I'm sure something's changing, I just don't know how deep that change is going to be” Jon Shields, IMF Mission Chief for Equatorial Guinea, told Reuters.” Other critics were blunter. “I don't see it, I think's it's PR,” said Ken Hurwitz, an anti-corruption expert with the Open Society Justice Initiative.

President Obiang hosted a symposium in February in Equatorial Guinea’s capital, Malabo, in an effort to present the country in a new light.

By James Burgess of Oilprice.com


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