City (pop., 2007 est.: 96,000), capital of Equatorial Guinea. Located on the northern edge of the island of Bioko, it is the republic's commercial and financial centre. The main activity of its harbour is the export of cocoa, timber, and coffee. Its population fluctuated in the 1960s and '70s: the European population declined after 1969 riots there, and the African population declined when Nigerian contract workers returned to Nigeria in the mid 1970s.
Learn more about Malabo with a free trial on Britannica.com.
When the island reverted to complete Spanish control, Malabo was renamed Santa Isabel. It was chosen to replace the mainland town of Bata as the capital of the country in 1969, and was renamed Malabo in 1973 as part of President Francisco Macías Nguema's campaign to replace European place names with "authentic" African ones.
During his "reign of terror," Macías Nguema led a near-genocide of the country's Bubi minority, which formed the majority on Bioko Island, and brought many of his own tribespeople, the Fang, to Malabo. In the final years of his rule, when Equatorial Guinea was sometimes known as the "Auschwitz of Africa," much of the city's population fled as, indeed, did about one-third of the country's population. Malabo has yet to recover from the scars of that period.
The south of Malabo is bordered by the Rio Consul. Across this lies the hospital to the southeast. To the west is the recently renovated airport. The coastal northern region of the city is pierced by headlands and bays. The largest headland is the crescent-shaped Tip of African Unity behind the presidential palace. Encompassing the entire eastern side of Malabo Bay, it is almost as long as Malabo is tall. Malabo is part of a wider bay that represents most of the northern coast of Bioko; it stretches from Europe Point in the west (home to the airport), to barren lands in the east.
Notable buildings in Malabo include Malabo Cathedral, Malabo Government Building and the Malabo Court Building. The city is served by Malabo International Airport, while ferries sail from its port to Douala and Bata.
Hospitals sit without medications or doctors, schools languish in disrepair with no money for books or resources, electrical supply is sporadic at best, the vast majority of citizens still have no access to clean water or sanitation, and HIV and hosts of other STDs have become rampant with the burgeoning prostitution trade while infant mortality rates are among the highest in Africa.