Constraints faced by MSMEs hindering economic growth in Equatorial Guinea

Guest blog written by Cesar A. Mba Abogo

I signed up for the Implementing Public Policy (IPP) course after having completed Leading Economic Growth (LEG), where my understanding of the economic growth challenges facing my country, Equatorial Guinea, had been literally reset. Attending LEG was a bit of cathartic therapy for me, as I had been Minister of Finance, Economy and Planning in a particularly exceptional period. From April 2019 to October 2020, Equatorial Guinea had closed a bailout programme with the IMF and launched a wide-ranging catalogue of macro-fiscal stabilisation and governance improvement measures. In the midst of these far-reaching reforms, COVID19 had emerged as an existential challenge for which humanity was ill-prepared. LEG helped me to sharpen my understanding of economic complexity, to re-examine my tenure as head of my country’s Ministry of Finance, and to understand a notion that now seems like a no-brainer: the change space, this chessboard where reformers struggle between what is feasible in the local ecosystem versus the legitimacy required by external demands.

Throughout LEG, the growth challenge I focused on was the low productivity of the non-oil sector as an obstacle to inclusive growth. The narrative and available data led me to the thesis that this low productivity was an unintended consequence of Equatorial Guinea’s over dependence on the oil sector for more than two decades. I came to a somewhat stark but hopeful conclusion: Equatorial Guinea was crossing a bridge under turbulent waters on a journey into the unknown that required an adaptive strategy that generates knowledge and facilitates evidence-based, sequential and iterative decision-making.

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Troubled Waters Under the Bridge: Time for Inclusive Growth in Equatorial Guinea

Guest blog by Cesar Augusto Mba Abogo

Equatorial Guinea (EG) is a little known country. In fact, Wikipedia in its entry on the country warns not to confuse it with Guinea Conakry and Guinea Bissau. In the period between the month of April 2019 and the month of October 2020, I had the honor of serving as Minister of Finance, Economy and Planning in probably the darkest economic downturn the country has known since the mid-nineties of the twentieth century when it became a producer and exporter of hydrocarbons. At the end of 2019, the country was beginning to emerge from the recession into which it had fallen in mid-2014, we had closed a comprehensive agreement with the IMF that included the traditional macrofiscal stabilization component but also a commitment to strengthen fiscal governance, fight corruption, allocate greater resources to social sectors, stabilize the banking sector and boost diversification of sources of economic growth… and then the health and financial pandemic of COVID19 crashed down on Equatorial Guinea.

But before I go into detail about the most relevant learnings, in my humble opinion, of HKS´s Leading Economic Growth course and how it has changed my understanding of the challenge of inclusive growth facing my country, let’s talk a little about this my unknown country.

Continue reading Troubled Waters Under the Bridge: Time for Inclusive Growth in Equatorial Guinea