Equatorial Guinea, or Republic of Equatorial Guinea, a country of west-central Africa. It lies near the Equator and consists of a mainland region, called Río Muni, and several islands, the largest of which is Bioko (formerly Fernando Po). Río Muni faces the Gulf of Guinea and is bounded by Cameroon and Gabon. Bioko lies about 100 miles (160 km) northwest of Río Muni; Annobón, the next-largest island, is some 300 miles (480 km) southwest of the mainland. The country's total area is 10,831 square miles (28,051 km2).
In Río Muni, a coastal plain rises inland to hills that reach elevations of more than 3,900 feet (1,200 m) above sea level. Bioko is volcanic in origin and rises to two main peaks, the higher of which is 9,869 feet (3,008 m) above the sea. Much of the country is heavily forested, except at higher elevations on Bioko and where the land has been cleared for farming. The climate is tropical and rainy.
Equatorial Guinea is one of the poorest countries in Africa, with an economy based mainly on agriculture. Cacao and coffee are major exports; cassava and sweet potatoes are grown in large amounts for domestic use. Logging is significant. Most of the manufacturing consists of processing farm and forest products. Efforts are being made to develop fishing and petroleum production, mainly by foreign interests. There are no railways and few good roads. An international airport and the country's chief port are at Malabo, the capital. The basic currency unit is the CFA franc.
In 1991 the population was about 356,000. Most of the people lived in Río Muni. The largest cities are Bata and Malabo, with populations of about 17,000 and 10,000 respectively. Except for a few Europeans, the people are almost all Africans. The Bubi on Bioko and the Fangs of Río Muni are the largest groups.
Spanish is the official language. Fang is the most widely spoken of the numerous Bantu tongues. An estimated two-thirds of the people are Roman Catholics. The country's school system is inadequately developed and only about 20 per cent of the population is literate.
Under the constitution of 1982, Equatorial Guinea is a republic headed by a president, elected for a seven-year term. The legislature is the House of Representatives, whose members are elected for five-year terms.
Portuguese explorers discovered Fernando Po in 1472. It passed to the Spanish in 1778 and remained in their control except for a brief period of British occupation in the early 1800's. Claims to Río Muni were disputed by several European powers in the 19th century, but Spain finally gained the territory in 1900 and named it Spanish Guinea. Independence was granted in 1968 and the name was changed to Equatorial Guinea.
Under the brutal dictatorship of Francisco Macias Nguema, the country's first president, some 50,000 Guineans were killed and more than 100,000 forced into exile. His economic policies caused the country's economy to collapse, and his foreign policy brought Equatorial Guinea under the influence of the Soviet Union. In 1979 Nguema was overthrown by his nephew, Lieutenant Colonel Obiang Nguema, and executed. Nguema, who made himself president in 1982, reestablished links with the West, receiving aid from Spain and France.