-Ambassador -Purificacion Angue Ondo
By Ajong Mbapndah L
In a world where development has stagnated in the last couple of years, Africa is surviving the turmoil on a surprising scale. On the list of countries making tremendous economic progress is Equatorial Guinea. This small Central African country with a population of less than a million is one of the fastest developing countries in the continent. Known in the past for its underdevelopment and the vicious dictatorship of founding President Marcias Nguema which forced many of its people to exile, Equatorial Guinea has in a little over a decade seen a total reversal in its fortunes. The Equatorial Guinea Ambassador to the USA Ambassador Purificacion Angue Ondo is passionate when talking about her country and the transformation that has taken place there in the last few decades. Prior to 1979 when current President Obiang Nguema came to power, her country was in pathetic shape. The absence of economic opportunities and the dictatorial policies of the first President forced many including herself to seek refuge out of the country.Eductional facilities were lacking and the general state of infrastructure was appalling.
Equatorial Guinea is today a vast work in progress Ambassador Angue Ondo tells PAV with pride. The trend has turned around and Equatorial Guinea with its small population not withstanding is now a power player in Africa with the growing buoyancy of its economy. The economic miracle of Equatorial Guinea Ambassador Ondo admits is credited largely to the discovery of oil. Alongside Nigeria and Angola, Equatorial Guinea is today amongst the largest producers of Oil. Being a late addition to the club of oil producing countries, Ambassador Angue Ondo says her country was able to learn from examples of countries across the continent where oil resources have not been commensurate to Economic Development. Hospitals have been built, and roads constructed to ease movements to virtually all the chief towns of the country Ambassador Angue Ondo says. As the country seeks to diversify its economy and avoid dependence on oil, agriculture the Ambassador says is one area where the government of President Obiang Nguema is placing a lot of emphasis.
Economically, the Ambassador emphasizes that though oil may be the main source of income, her country is making great efforts to diversify its economy. The people of Equatorial Guinea must be food sufficient she says and the government is working hard to modernize agriculture. The work that is being done on road infrastructures for instance is also to help farmers move their goods to markets with relative ease. The tourism sector she says also has great potential, so too is timber exploitation, and other minerals that abound across the country.
Politically, ambassador Ondo says her country enjoys a multi-party democracy. The presence of about thirteen political parties for a country like Equatorial Guinea is ample proof that people are allowed to express themselves and live through their aspirations. Local and national elections routinely take place .A fervent defender of Womens’Rights, Ambassador Ondo who runs an NGO for the empowerment of women says under the leadership of President Obiang Nguema, women have played an important role in contributing to National development. There are women in government, in high levels of the administration, in the diplomatic service with her presence in Washington as the Equatorial Guinea Ambassador to the USA is an eloquent testimony of how much the country values the contribution of women in its forward march.
The Nations Cup that her country is co-hosting with Gabon is something that fills all her compatriots with pride. The excitement in Equatorial Guinea where football is the dominant sport is at fever pitch she said. The country has adequate infrastructure in Bata and Malabo to successfully host the tournament she said. Although Equatorial Guinea may not be one of the power houses when it comes to soccer in the continent, participating is the most important she says adding that at the end of the day there is only going to be one winner and that is Africa. The tournament she says will equally be an opportunity for Africa and the rest of the wider world to know more about her country, its progress and immense opportunities for investment that abound there.
When asked on the investment climate in her country, Ambassador Ondo said it was very friendly. The road network has been greatly improved and expanded upon. Her country has very good seaports and airports which meets international standards. Besides direct flights to a number of top destinations around the world, Equatorial Guinea is one of the few countries which had direct flights from the USA to Africa. The telecommunications network is also good and it is possible to use mobile phones even in very remote parts of her country.
On transparency in the management of the oil resources, Ambassador Ondo says the transformation in her country speaks volumes on how efficiently the resources are put to the service of the entire country. The government has greatly ameliorated the provision of social service and is doing more in that direction. The country is able to fund a majority of its development projects without incurring cut throat loans. There is also a savings fund that is set aside for the funding of future projects. The fund she said is on standby and is untouchable as of now.
Relations between the USA and Equatorial Guinea are good she said. There may be a discrepancy between the size, population, economic development and international standing of both countries but that the USA has an embassy in Equatorial Guinea speaks to the growing importance of her country. The USA happens to also be one of the largest trading partners of Equatorial Guinea.
Criticisms against the government of Equatorial Guinea are often misguided, unfounded and far removed from actual reality. There are disgruntled politicians who take delight in sullying the image of the entire country she says. President Obiang she says deserves credit for progressively moving the country towards a democracy where political parties are free to operate, where people are free to run for various electoral positions. For a country the size of Equatorial Guinea, the presence of thirteen political parties is an indication that there is an acceptable level of political activity. That President Obiang is in power is a decision of the Equato –Guinean people and it is in recognition of the visionary transformation the country has experienced under his leadership. The truth of the matter the Ambassador says is, Equatorial Guinea as it stands today under the leadership of President Obiang is starkly different from what it was before he took office in 1979.
Even those who claim to have fled the country for political reasons are returning home in droves the Ambassador said. The contribution of all Equato Guineans is needed for the country to keep moving forward. The difficult economic realities in other parts of the world are pushing more and more of her compatriots to move back home. It is also an admission on the part of others that the government of President Obiang deserves more credit than it gets. Backing her assessment with concrete examples, Ambassador Ondo cited two cases of compatriots in Finland and Canada who have embarked on the journey back home.
On what the President intends to do in the remainder for his current term, the Ambassador said, the President has had a very busy agenda attending to his functions as Chair of the African Union. Hopefully when his tenure as Chair of the African Union ends, there will be time for him to return to his challenging domestic duties. There is a programme in place that seeks to make Equatorial Guinea a developing country by the year 2020. The programme is on course she says and the government is doing all it can to make sure that Equatorial Guinea continues with its steady progress in development.
Found in the central Africa. The country consists of a mainland territory, Río Muni, which is bordered by Cameroon to the north and Gabon to the east and south and five small islands, Bioko, Corisco, Annobón, Small Elobey and Great Elobey. Although it is one of the smallest countries in the continent, it has one of the highest per capita incomes. There have been criticisms that the wealth of the country is concentrated in the hands of a few while the majority has nothing. Ambassador Ondo seems to debunk this emphasizing that projects that are carried out are for the benefit of all citizens, from roads, to hospitals, schools and telecommunication facilities.
Credited with several national and international distinctions for her work in advocating for women rights, Ambassador Angue Ondo has represented her country in the USA since 2005. She previously served as Ambassador to the Republic of Cameroon from 2000 to 2005. Ambassador Angue Ondo herself was a victim of the dictatorship of first President Marcias Nguema. She suffered imprisonment and eventually escaped and sought refuge in exile. On her return from exile in the early 80s she helped in the creation of a department for the promotion of women in the new
government. She served the department with dedication and was recognized by the United Nations Population Fund as one of the top women leaders in Sub Sahara Africa. A participant at the United Nations Third World Conference on Women in 1987 in Nairobi, Ambassador Angue Ondo was elected as President of the UN’s Africa Region Coordinating Committee for integration of Women in the Central African Sub Region.
Upon her departure from the government of Equatorial Guinea in 1995, Ambassador Angue Ondo dedicated her energy and focus on women’s issues. She served as a local consultant for the United Nations women’s development and integration issues in her country. Working in the civil society, she created two nongovernmental groups the Federation of Women for World Peace and ABIFAGE, a group focused on family planning. Both groups continue to be at the service of women in country today. Ambassador Angue Ondo was a participant at the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994 and The Hague in 1998. She was equally a participant at the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. In support of Ambassador Angue Ondo’s firm opinion that the country is resolutely on its way forward, the country was credited with the successful hosting the first match of the 2012 Nations Cup she is co-hosting with Gabon .Playing in its first ever African Nations cup, Equatorial Guinea made it to the Quarter Finals…. The country still has a long way to go but from what it was twenty five or so years ago and where it it is the contrast is staggering .