Latest statistics reveal that more than 300,000 people in Equitorial Guinea are from outside the country, with the majority of the migrants arriving illegally in hunt for the supposedly abundant oil money.
Migrants from Senegal, Mali, Nigeria, Benin and Cameroon started arriving without travel or work permit in the country since the US oil drillers arrived in Equatorial Guinea in 1992.
Equitorial Guinea has oil generating more than $4 billion which is 90 percent of the economy but the oil-rich country with a fast-growing economy lacks a qualified work force and is obligated to rely on the labour of foreigners.
Reports claim that the migrants come into the country by the hundreds every month and they glide into it by bribing security officials. Local sociologist Marcelo Engonga has stated that the influx has heightened locals’ wariness: ‘Immigrants have flooded the job market and the informal economy has created a social malaise among locals who are not accustomed to such entrepreneurism.’ The local sociologist said.
The immigrants are said to have taken over what is now called oil villages around the capital Malabo. The communities are built by oil companies for staffs and employees. ‘Migrants mean one thing – dependable labour. Employing immigrants is inevitable in Equatorial Guinea. It is cheaper and you do not have to declare them. If you want a faithful gardener, an obedient driver, a professional builder, all you have to do is call a migrant, illegal or not.’ An Equatorial Guinean businessman said.
This development has however bred xenophobia amongst the natives as the population of the foreigners are increasing alarmingly. ‘Whenever Equatorial Guineans see a Beninese selling water or desserts, or a Cameroonian making a living selling grilled fish, they say these immigrants are in the process of stealing their country from them,’ said the local sociologist.
In 2007 the government banned West Africans from owning grocery stores. Nationwide, stores owned by Malians, Senegalese and other West Africans were either shut down or taken over by the state. Malabo is filled with Senegalese jewellers and restaurant owners, Nigerian art dealers, Beninese, Lebanese and Chinese businessmen, and Malian street vendors.