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Horizonte 2020: the government’s roadmap to sustainability

Article - August 5, 2014
Seven years ago, Equatorial Guinea’s government drafted a comprehensive plan to ensure the country’s wealth was distributed to the populace through public works and social programs, and to set the bases for economic diversification
EQUATORIAL GUINEA
Transforming a nation from one which has been a byword for underdevelopment, poverty, corruption and a host of other ills into an enviable, forward-looking and prosperous country will not be an easy task, but Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang firmly believes the country’s development plan, Horizonte 2020 (Horizon 2020), will do exactly that.

In describing why this ambitious scheme will be so vital for his country, the President said that Equatorial Guinea needed a vision for the future, a roadmap to ensure its prosperity and the well-being of its citizens as the country’s cash-producing petroleum reserves would not last forever.

“The vision of sustainable development by 2020 adopted by the Republic of Equatorial Guinea means achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals through the multiplication of our efforts, expanding the sources of production and training human resources to achieve appropriate levels of growth for a competitive economy capable of eradicating poverty and hunger,” according to a government statement.

Inspired by other African, Asian and Latin American countries’ long-term development plans, Horizon 2020 aims to wrench Equatorial Guinea from its former status as a West African backwater into a country recognized, and more importantly, respected among the world community of nations.

The mission

Highways, airports, seaports, roads, social housing and energy systems are just a handful of the new infrastructure projects planned

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Horizon 2020’s four-thronged plan targets infrastructure, human capital, economic diversification, and government openness
According to Horizon 2020 officials, the plan has four general aims: to build infrastructure to international standards so as to improve productivity and trigger growth; strengthen human capital and improve the quality of life of every citizen; build a diversified economy based on private enterprise; and provide a government of quality to serve the people.

International partners involved with the plan include the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program, The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, the World Health Organization, the African Development Bank Group and others.

Even with the assistance of this impressive roster of partners, it will certainly be a long road and there will be bumps along the way, but with the billions of dollars of Equatorial Guinea’s oil and gas revenue backing the array of projects, President Obiang’s government is fully confident of eventual success.

And what impressive projects they are: Highways, airports, seaports, bridges, roads and government facilities are just some of the new or upgraded civil engineering infrastructure planned, while social housing, healthcare, education, safe drinking water, sewage and energy systems will bring Horizon 2020’s effects directly to the people.

When President Obiang first announced the plan in 2007, he outlined five major goals: to invest in strengthening economic growth; strengthen the development of structured investments; promote and strengthen the development of social policy actions; ensure a transparent social climate, and lastly, develop the prospects for better monitoring; and evaluation of poverty and living conditions for the Equatorial Guinean people.

The progress

Seven years later, the plan is well advanced and is already evident in many areas. In one recent three-month period alone, a new city council building, a soccer stadium, a public marketplace, a bridge, a highway, a hospital and a police station were opened.

Across the country, bulldozers are carving out roads, cranes dot the skylines of the main cities, tracts of affordable and comfortable homes are opening and foreign companies from around the world are flocking in to join the gargantuan effort to bring the 21st century to Equatorial Guinea.

But Horizon 2020 is not just about building. In this day and age of the importance of state-of-the-art communications Equatorial Guinea’s government is keen to see that the country is fully connected to the outside world and the plan has contributed to that goal.

And to that end, the nation is a founding member of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) underwater fiber optic telecommunications cable running along the continent’s west coast from France to South Africa. Once completed, it will eventually connect 23 countries.

Equatorial guinea’s government also aims to increase the role of women in the country’s development. Indeed, the horizon 2020 national agency is headed and staffed mainly by women
Along with and complimenting Horizon 2020 is the government’s Social Development Fund of $1 billion that is specifically aimed at meeting the health and education needs of the country’s growing population with the added task of working to ensure gender equality.

Indeed, the Horizon 2020 National Agency is headed by a woman, Francisca Eyang and the top leadership is almost all female, proving that the government is serious in its efforts to increase the role of women in the country’s development.

Ms. Eyang lists the main objectives of the plan as “employment for all, food for all, education for all, a house for all, drinking water for all and electricity for all”, with the emphasis on a modern administration serving the people.

In the field of health care alone, the country is now making great strides under the slogan “Health For All” and taking pride of place are two of Africa’s finest hospitals, the La Paz Medical Centers in Malabo and in Bata, both recommended by the U.S. government for its citizens traveling in Equatorial Guinea.

Designed, built and staffed to international standards, the hospitals feature around 130 beds, emergency rooms, intensive care units, operating rooms and staff that can handle anything from malaria and measles to trauma and major surgery.

Another impressive advance in health care funded by the plan is the fight against malaria which is endemic in this part of Africa and which has killed thousands of people each year.

The showcase of this effort has been the public-private Malaria Control Project on the island of Bioko which is supported financially by the central government and a private consortium headed by the Marathon Oil Corporation.

It has been so successful that it reduced by a third infant mortality from the mosquito-borne disease among the island’s population, achieving the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal for the reduction of child mortality well ahead of the 2015 U.N. deadline.

Indeed, many of the programs under Horizon 2020 and the Social Development Fund have demonstrated the government’s commitment to meeting and surpassing the U.N. development benchmarks.

The politics

In his address to the 65th annual U.N. General Assembly, then-Foreign Minister Pastor Micha Ondo Bile declared: “To mitigate the effects of poverty and meet the Millennium Declaration, the government of Equatorial Guinea has embarked on a strategic planning process for long-term development which has led to the holding of two national economic conferences.”

These gatherings, and other government-sponsored conferences, furthered the ultimate aims of Horizon 2020, defining and setting out new directions for economic and social policies to move the country towards an emergent and sustainable economy by the target date now just six years away.

Democratization is another key element in the plan and the country took a giant step towards this goal three years ago when voters approved a referendum on constitutional reforms, which creates the post of vice president and restricts the mandate of the head of state.

In addition, the governance overhaul improved transparency and accountability by setting up new oversight organs such as a senate, council of the republic, an ombudsman’s office, a national council for economic and social development and a court of auditors.

In their bid to boost the economy of Equatorial Guinea and diversify it away from the heavy reliance on petroleum revenue, Horizon 2020 officials are also targeting the finance, agriculture, fishing, fish farming and tourism sectors.

The world is taking notice of these changes with foreign leaders gathering regularly in Equatorial Guinea for summit meetings, regional conferences and other such events. This year alone Equatorial Guinea has hosted the 25th Session of the Executive Council of the African Union and the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group.

But as Horizon 2020 proceeds it will be the Equatoguineans who will reap the real benefits of the scheme that will provide them, their children and generations to come with the economic advantages, knowledge and tools to take their rightful place in our rapidly evolving global community.

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