officially Republic of Equatorial Guinea
formerly Spanish Guinea
Country, on the western coast of equatorial Africa and including Bioko Island. Area: 10,831 sq mi (28,051 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 504,000. Capital: Malabo. The majority of the mainland population are Bantu-speaking Fang people, with a minority of other Bantu-speaking ethnic groups (see Bantu languages). The majority on Bioko are Bubi, descendants of Bantu migrants from the mainland. Languages: Spanish, French (both official), Pidgin English (commonly spoken). Religions: Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic, also other Christians, Protestant); also Islam, traditional beliefs. Currency: CFA franc. Bordered by Cameroon and Gabon, Equatorial Guinea's mainland region is separated by the Bight of Biafra from the island of Bioko to the northwest. The mainland has a coastal plain some 12 mi (20 km) wide, with a long stretch of beach, low cliffs to the south, and hills and plateaus to the east. The Benito River divides the region. Bioko consists of three extinct volcanic cones and has several crater lakes and rich lava soils. Dense tropical rainforest prevails throughout the mainland and includes valuable hardwoods. Animal life has been decimated by overhunting. Cacao, timber, and coffee are exported from the country, but since the 1990s petroleum is the major export. Equatorial Guinea is a republic with one legislative house; its chief of state is the president, and the head of government is the prime minister. The first inhabitants of the mainland appear to have been Bantu-speaking people. The now-prominent Fang and Bubi reached the mainland in the Bantu migrations of the late 19th and the early 20th century. Equatorial Guinea was ceded by the Portuguese to the Spanish in the late 18th century; it was frequented by slave traders, as well as by British and other merchants. Bioko was administered by British authorities (1827–58) before the official takeover by the Spanish. The mainland was not effectively occupied by the Spanish until 1936. Independence was declared in 1968, followed by a reign of terror and economic chaos under the dictatorial president Macías Nguema, who was overthrown by a military coup in 1979 and later executed. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo became leader of the country in 1979. A new constitution was adopted in 1982, but political unrest persisted into the 21st century despite the country's oil wealth.
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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.