Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Football's Goal

 Question: Which is the richest country, per head of population, in Africa? Theoretically at least, each citizen there should be more than three times richer than the average South African.

Answer: Equatorial Guinea, the continent's third-largest producer of oil after Nigeria and Angola.

Its population of just 650000 people in this tiny country should enjoy a standard of living approximating that of the average citizen of Portugal, which it closely matched in terms of GDP per capita, at more than $20000. South Africa's GDP per capita is just over $6600.

Instead, 80% of Equatorial Guinea's population live in abject poverty? According to the UN, fewer than half its population has access to clean drinking water. About 15% of Equatorial Guinea's children die before reaching the age of five. According to a recent article in the prestigious Foreign Affairs journal, it is "one of the deadliest places on the planet to be young".

The reason for the wealth gap is simple. Energy revenues, derived from pumping around 346000 barrels per day, have flowed into the pockets of the country's elite, but virtually none has trickled down to the poor majority. Obiang Nguema Mbasogo seized power in 1979 and enjoys, along with his great riches, the title of being Africa's longest-lasting dictator. Obiang and his dictatorship was once described by George W Bush's Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice as "our good friend".

Reporters Without Borders, which monitors the state of media freedom in the world, described Obiang as a "predator of press freedom'', and Transparency International places Equatorial Guinea in the top 12 of its list of the "most corrupt states in the world".

If you think the father’s corruption is bad, the son is even worse. Teodoro Jnr, recently installed by his dad as the country's vice-president, is also a prodigious collector of real estate across the world. His mansion in Malibu Beach, California was seized, along with a Gulfstream jet, and eight Ferraris by US Justice Department officials. In court papers, the prosecution averred that his riches were a consequence of corruption and were "inconsistent with his state salary of less than $100000 per year". Last year, to settle the criminal indictment, Obiang forfeited some $34-million of these assets to the US government.

We can expect silence upon the reality that exists outside the football stadium and nor can we expect any remarks by the football commentators during this African Nations tournament. But indeed it is a circus to camouflage the poverty and deprivation. 

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