Malabo, city (1997 est. pop. 50,000), capital of Equatorial Guinea, on Bioko island, in the Gulf of Guinea. It is the chief port and commercial center of Bioko. Fish processing is the city's main industry, and cacao and coffee are the leading exports. Malabo was founded in 1827 by the British on land leased from Spain as a base for the suppression of the slave trade and was called Port Clarence, or Clarencetown; the Spanish later called the town Santa Isabel. An international airport is on the city's outskirts. Much of the city's large European population left after rioting occurred in the late 1960s; in the 1970s, the population declined again as Nigerian workers returned to their own country.
Malabo is the capital and largest city of Equatorial Guinea, located on the northern coast of Bioko Island (formerly Fernando Pó) on the rim of a sunken volcano.. Its population has grown rapidly over the past ten years to about 100,000.


The city was first founded by the British in 1827, who leased the island from Spain during the colonial period. Named Port Clarence, it was used as a naval station in the effort to suppress the slave trade. Many newly freed slaves were also settled there, prior to the establishment of Sierra Leone as a colony for freed slaves. While many of them later relocated to Sierra Leone, some of their descendants, called Fernandinos, can still be found in Malabo and the surrounding area, where they constitute a distinct ethnic group, speaking their own Afro-Portuguese pidgin dialect.

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.


With an average temperature of 77 °F (25 °C) and an annual rainfall of 75 inches (1,900 mm), it has an Equatorial climate/Monsoon climate. .


Despite its status as the capital of Equatorial Guinea for several decades, Malabo's street network remains poorly developed. Malabo itself has few paved roads leading into it, and fewer than one hundred paved and developed streets. Many of the street names reflect an African nationalist or anti-colonial theme, with names such as "Independence Avenue" or "Patrice Lumumba Road" being main roads. The few large roads not named for an African nationalist ideal or person are named for cities in Equatorial Guinea or other places or countries in Africa, as well as the road leading to the presidential palace. The palace and grounds consume a substantial part of the eastern side of Malabo, and are off-limits. The heart of the city is the colonial cathedral at Independence Place. Many buildings in the city from the Spanish colonial era are still standing.

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.

Discovery of oil

Malabo has been significantly affected by Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo's growing co-operation with the oil industry. The country's production has reached 360,000 barrels/day as of 2004, an increase which led to a doubling of the city's population, but for the vast majority, very little of that wealth has been invested in development.

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.


The Colegio Nacional Enrique Nvó Okenve has campuses here and in Bata.

Air travel

Malabo is well served by several international carriers including Iberia, Swiss, Spanair, Air France, KLM, Astraeus (charter to Gatwick) and Lufthansa (as of May 2008) as well as a few regional airlines offering service to surrounding counties as well as to the mainland (Bata). Travel on these internal carriers should be duly considered, as there is no capability of enforcing airworthiness standards in Equatorial Guinea and air traffic control is marginal at best.

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