Financial Sector Overview
Equatorial Guinea (EQG) is one of the smallest countries on the African continent. After the discovery of large oil reserves in the 1990s, EQG became the third-largest producer of oil in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), preceded by Nigeria and Angola, and has been one of the fastest growing economies in Africa in the past decade. However, the country’s macroeconomic and fiscal situation deteriorated following the 2014 oil price decline. Largely dependent on oil exports which in 2017 accounted for 56 % of GDP, 95 % of exports, and 80 % of fiscal revenues, the country became a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in May 2017. Nominal GDP contracted by more than 46.5% between 2014 and 2018, from 21.5 USD billion to 11.5 USD billion. EQG’s GDP composition by sector of origin includes: 2.5 % contributed by the agriculture sector, 56.5 % by industry and 41 % by the services sector. Major contributors to the industry sector are petroleum, natural gas and sawmilling. Non-oil economic activity is chiefly driven by substantial public investment in new infrastructure projects such as roads and high-profile urban developments, specifically a housing policy for new homes and better access to service infrastructure. The government’s development agenda is guided by a medium-term strategy paper, the National Economic and Social Development Plan: Horizon 2020, which targets economic diversification and poverty reduction. The current phase of Horizon focuses on economic diversification, targeting strategic new sectors such as fisheries, agriculture, tourism and finance. In 2017, EQG was ranked 177 (out of 190 countries) according to the Ease of Doing Business Index. In 2018, Equatorial Guinea ranked 15th in Africa and 141st in the global ranking according to the Human Development Index.
Financial Sector Overview
EQG forms part of a monetary union, the Central Africa Economic and Monetary Union (CEMAC), and it shares a common currency with other member states. Financial sector stability is largely determined by the banking sector. The highly concentrated banking sector consists of five banks, three of which hold 84% of total assets. The rest of the financial sector consists of three microfinance institutions (MFIs) and three insurance companies. Banking and microfinance institutions are under the supervision of the CEMAC banking commission, COBAC, whereas the insurance sector is supervised by the Ministry of Finance and the regional insurance commission of the CIMA member countries. Although the CIMA (Inter-African Conference on Insurance Markets) treaty entered into force in 1995, EQG joined in 2002 as the 14th member country. Very little progress has been achieved in recent years to implement the country’s long-standing financial sector reform agenda, which includes establishing credit bureaus, upgrading collateral registries, strengthening contract and creditor rights’ enforcement, and improving SME access to financial services.
Long-term financing is low in EQG, under 3% in 2017. However, short-term credit provision has dramatically increased since 2014, especially to the construction sector, reflecting increasing demand of short-term debt from government contractors seeking to sustain operations. There is no stock exchange, but the country has access to the regional stock exchange for Central African countries. Regional bonds market is largely underdeveloped with small amount of outstanding government bonds. The financial sector as a whole is shallow due to lack of information about potential borrowers’ credit history and high collateral requirements. Financial inclusion is also hampered by the small size of microfinance activities and a delay in the launch of mobile banking in the country. As of 31 December 2017, EQG was the only CEMAC country without mobile banking activities. BGFI Bank, the subsidiary of a sub-regional bank, started mobile money services only in 2018.
The high oil dependence of the EQG economy negatively impacts banks profitability and stability especially when oil prices decline, as has been the case with the 2014 falling prices. In summary, EQG’s oil wealth in the context of weak business climate is likely to have delayed domestic financial development.
With a population of 1 million inhabitants, the EQG domestic banking market consists mainly of large companies - for 60% of bank deposits - and international institutions. As of 31 December 2017, the EQG banking sector numbered 5 commercial banks whose outstanding loans amounted to more than 1166.4 billion F CFA (USD 2.13 billion), or 19.9 % of GDP. In 2010, this ratio was equivalent to 5% of GDP. Banking credit to the private sector in 2017 represented 71 % of total volumes, while net claims on the government rose on average by 53.5 % between 2015 and 2017: from (-) 176 CFA Francs billion (-291.4 USD million) to (+) 338.4 CFA Francs billion (619.8 USD million). Short-term loans continue to dominate banks' credit portfolios, accounting for 84.3% of total credit in 2017.Despite high bank liquidity, commercial banks appear unable to effectively transform deposits into loans. The private credit-to-deposit ratio is on average lower in EQG than in other CEMAC countries, indicating that banks perceive high risk from lending exposure and constraints in terms of the availability of bankable projects. The banking system in EQG is also characterized by high overhead costs and high interest rate spreads, owing to high lending risk and low competition due to the limited number of commercial banks. Bank credit to the private sector was 16% in 2017, compared to 17.2 percent in 2016 and 5 percent of GDP in 2010; but remains heavily concentrated among large enterprises, especially those operating in the construction sector. Non-performing loans to gross loans ratio significantly increased with the unfavorable macroeconomic context, from 16.8% in 2015 to 27.2% in 2017. The sectoral distribution of non-performing loans (NPLs) reveals that the deterioration of asset quality was largely linked to the construction sector, whose share of total credit increased to 58 percent in January 2016, up from 30 percent in 2014. The construction sector is under heavy stress. The World Bank’s 2018 Doing Business indicators ranked EQG 122 out of 190 countries in terms of ease of getting credit.
Plans are also under way to develop nation-wide ATM and credit card networks, while authorities are considering proposals for the creation of a credit fund and the development of a government debt market. These will all enable a stronger banking and financial sector in EQG.
Financial inclusion in EQG is mainly limited to Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) activities and mobile money has only been launched in 2018. In 2016, EQG was reported as having 9 ATMs and 5 commercial bank branches per 100,000 adults. It was also reported that there were 22 borrowers from commercial banks, 200 depositors with commercial banks and 205 deposits accounts per 1,000 adults in 2016.
Out of a total of 857 MFIs in CEMAC as at 31 December 2017, only 4 MFIs operate in Equatorial Guinea and remained constrained in their lending activities.
The EQG insurance industry is regulated by the Regional Commission of Insurance Control (CRCA) at the regional level and by the Ministry of Finance at the national level. . Composite insurance is not permitted. 100% FDI is allowed; insurance companies from CIMA member states are permitted to operate without a license. Key classes of compulsory insurance include motor third-party liability insurance and professional indemnity insurance for insurance intermediaries. Despite the obligation to insure, the lack of an insurance culture has hampered the market. Three insurance companies and one reinsurer operate the sector, but many local companies refuse to or cannot insure, leading to a substantial shortfall in activity. The industry gross premium significantly increased from 3 CFA Francs billion (5.5 USD million) in 2014 to 10.8 CFA Francs billion (19.8 USD million) in 2017. But insurance penetration remains very low at 0.5% of GDP.
EQG is a member state of the CIPRES (Conférence Interafricaine de Prévoyance Sociale, in French), a regional organization comprising 16 countries. The domestic pension system is managed by the Instituto de Seguridad Social (INSESO) of EQG. The retirement age is set at 60 with at least 120 months of contributions, including at least 60 months in the 10 years before retirement. The minimum pension paid to the pensioner is 40% of the reference monthly wage while the maximum is 80%, with a benefit adjustment every 5 years.
Contact Details Information of Banks operating in Equatorial Guinea