Equatorial Guinea Celebrates New Capital

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Equatorial Guinea has unveiled its new capital, Djibloho, nestled in the sanctuary of wildlife in the African forest. Olawale Ajimotokan who attended the 3e Actuaries Open championship hosted by the country, reports

We left the plush Grand Hotel Djibloho, where the contingent to the 3e Actuaries Equatorial Guinea Open championship, hosted by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, was serenaded for a tour of the city built from the scratch.

Gabriel, the local guide, who drove this reporter and Olalekan Okusan of The Nation newspapers, pulled up near the 500 feet long suspended bridge across River Wele, along Avenida La Paz.

The stop afforded ample benefit to glimpse the country’s main water-body as it meanders through the dense forest down to Mbini, where it empties its contents into the Atlantic Ocean.

Interests in Djibloho, sometime called Oyala, escalated after Equatorial Guinea, Africa’s third largest oil producer, in February last year, announced the movement of its administrative capital from Malabo on Bioko Island to the mainland.

The Prime Minister, who was also in charge of the Administrative Coordination, Francisco Pascual Obama Asue, presided over the inaugural meeting in Djibloho on February 7, 2017 with the members of the government.

Built on an area measuring 8,100 hectares for a projected population of 200,000 people, the new district is carved out of a swathe of untouched tropical forest, inhabited by western lowland gorillas, forest elephants and other rare wildlife species.

Its people belong to the Bantu ethnic stock whose main occupation is farming and hunting.

Surrounded by national parks, Djibloho is in Wele-Nzas Province, the central most of the mainland enclave known as Rio Grande.

Still a huge construction site, the amenities that will be created from the frenzy will make some developing nations go back to the drawing board. Here the electricity and telephone cables are run underground and never visible to the prying eyes.

“This city will excite many people when it is finally completed. It will be touted as Africa’s smartest capital on the evidence of the facilities to support urban living. Every concept about it speaks of modernity,” the General Manager of Grand Hotel Djibloho, Viscenzo Presti, said in a low pitch.

The palatial six-star Grand Hotel Djibloho with 50 presidential villas, international conference centre, indoor swimming pool and an 18-hole golf course was built in 2015 as part of the new capital city vision.

The construction of Djibloho began in 2010 and is due for completion by 2020. But eight years on, another African capital, with modern infrastructure and state institutions to go with it is steadily emerging from the forest.

The dome of the Presidential Palace is visible from Avenida Justicia on the main administrative zone, the equivalent of Nigeria’s Three Arms Zone in Abuja.

This boulevard, 81m in width and about 4km long, is inspired by Champs-Élysées in Paris. It is one of the four main streets envisioned to ease the traffic flow and to host a great variety of infrastructure. Others are Calla Malabo, Avenida Littoral and Avenida La Paz.

The ministry establishments, the Tribunal (Supreme Court), Presidential Guards, National Square, several high end buildings for offices and commerce, and housing complex that correspond to a diverse range of urban activities are to be located at Avenida Justicia.

Parallel to this avenue, close by the River Wele, is the Nature Axis where several cultural and leisure facilities are situated. They are strategically located in order to take the most of the natural elements, specially the proposed lagoon that results from the rivers enlargement.

The Parliament is already built at Avenida La Paz, which is also reserved for the foreign embassies, residential quarters, the Universidad Americana de Africa Central (American University of Central Africa) and La Paz Hospital.

The hospital, currently under construction will serve the district.

Measuring 22,000 square metres in size, the multi-disciplinary building will run a medical college. It also boasts of an emergency room, imaging, dialysis, cardiac, obstetrics and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and other services.

Aside the business district, Djibloho is strategically connected with other villages in Wele-Nzas province and other parts of the country.

Travelling on the asphalted highways, which vary in width from double tracks to three tracks, makes driving on the road an experience only comparable to driving on a Formula 1 track.

On the network are Aconibe, Nzok, Evinayong and Bata, the country’s largest city on the western coast. It also covers Mongomo near the border with Gabon, ultimately branching out to Mongomeyen, which has the fifth international airport serving Equatorial Guinea, and is considered the best equipped airport in the entire Central African region.

The airport can handle aircraft in the Boing 747-400 class.

THISDAY visit to Djibloho for 3e Actuaries Equatorial Guinea Golf Open championship overlapped with the contract signing ceremony between government and engineering companies involved in the capital project.

President Obiang renewed the contract with the firms including Bouygues, Piccini, Vinci SA, Unicon, Summa and General Works over a long term.

The government is using golf as a driving force to boost tourism and attract development to the new administrative city and the whole province as part of the country’s ambitious Horizon 2020 plans.

The golf course in Mongomo, about 80 kms away, and the venue of the annual national golf championship will complement the layout at Djibloho and Sipopo in Malabo. In addition, the government has embarked on developing a boutique golf estate called Elysian Fields on the ocean front in Bata.

Prospects are high for tourism given the firm political will, financial backing and international interest in golf in the enclave.

Obiang himself expressed this desire at the opening ceremony of 3e Actuaries Open. He stressed that the country had started to reap from the decision to invest in tourism through sports.

“Golf was an unknown sports here until I introduced it to this country through investments in golf courses. Our idea is to invest in tourism through sports to continue to develop our country.

“Equatorial Guinea used to be one of the poorest countries in Africa that nobody wanted to visit. In the past they said we could not find oil but looking at the geography, we said ‘Nigeria and Gabon have oil and why shouldn’t we?’ With that we are able to develop our country with oil revenue,” Obiang said.

Nigerian businessman Olawale Opayinka, is the brain behind 3e Actuaries, which has been leading the team to deliver on Obiang’s vision to use golf to spearhead Equatorial Guinea tourism.

Since 2013, Opayinka has successfully organised the Equatorial Guinea Open, creating an event that has captured the interest and admiration of the global community and attracted players from the highest level.

Through his initiatives and commitments, golfers from Africa and other continents now make yearly trips to Wele-Nzas in pursuit of the nation’s ultimate golfing honours.

He told THISDAY that the plan ultimately is to make the event an African Major by 2020 and be the platform for at least six African children to play at the Olympic Games in 20 years.

“We want to create a narrative of small Equatorial Guinea doing great things. We have a new capital in Djibloho with great infrastructure and one of the best hotels in the world plus a great golf course. This tells a beautiful story about Central Africa, giving a pure message about the country and its people,” Opayinka said.