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What kind of home can you get as an African agriculture minister with a 60k salary? If you're the son of an African leader running an oil-rich country, apparently you can afford a Malibu mansion. The UK-based anti-graft watchdog, Global Witness, recently outed the son of President Obiang of Equitorial Guinea, who purchased a $35 million California home this spring, complete with 16 acres, a golf course, tennis court and a swimming pool.

This is bad news for the country, whose oil resources have so far only been seen to benefit high level officials. While Equatorial Guinea has seen extraordinary economic growth of around 16% due to the recent discovery of offshore oil reserves (making it the 3rd largest oil exporter in Sub-Saharan Africa), little of the money ever reaches its people. It ranks 121st on the Human Development Index, and 151st on the Transparency International Corruption Index. This year's human development report, Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis, listed Equatorial Guinea as the worst off country in Africa, where nearly 60% of its population lacks access to clean water.

Given all of the attention focused on tackling corruption by bilateral and multilateral donors, the time is ripe to get serious with Equatorial Guinea. At the very least, it seems like a no-brainer that the U.S. would want to step up, given its recently launched Anti-Corruption Initiative, the National Strategy to Internationalize Efforts Against Kleptocracy. This would be a perfect test case to prove the U.S.'s resolve against big-ticket corruption, by seizing assets and imposing travel bans of foreign public officials such as Obiang. In the end, it's important to ensure that the newfound wealth from this oil-boom benefits the people living in Malabo, not the home-builders of Malibu.


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.