The History of the Island of Bioko in Equatorial Guinea: Discovery, Colonization, and Independence

The History of the Island of Bioko in Equatorial Guinea: Discovery, Colonization, and Independence

Are you thinking of traveling to Equatorial Guinea and want to learn about the history of Bioko Island? Don’t miss this article where we tell you everything this wonderful island has been through!

Discovery and First Inhabitants.

Bioko Island, formerly known as Fernando Poo Island, is located in the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of West Africa. Bioko Island was discovered by the Portuguese in 1472 while they were searching for a trade route to the East Indies. The island was already inhabited by Bantu tribes who had settled on the island before Europeans knew of its existence.

According to other sources, this event occurred around the 7th century. As there are few written documents, this date is an estimation based on the analysis of migratory movements from other parts of the African continent.

Mapa de Guinea Ecuatorial
Mapa de Guinea Ecuatorial

The Bantu people were generally a nomadic people and those who lived on the island practiced a basic subsistence form that focused on agriculture, slash-and-burn forestry, and crop rotation, which allowed them to survive on an island with limited resources.

When the Portuguese arrived on the island, the Bantu people were the main source of labor for the plantations that were being established on the African continent. The Portuguese began to trade with the locals, exchanging European goods such as fabrics, weapons, and alcohol for local products such as palm oil, spices, and wood. They also introduced new crops to the island, such as coffee and cocoa, which became important export products.

The arrival of Europeans to Bioko Island.

In the 19th century, Bioko Island became an important center for the slave trade. Europeans brought thousands of African slaves to the island to be sold to other countries. During this period, the island was known as Fernando Poo, in honor of the Portuguese explorer who visited it in the 18th century.

In 1827, the island was declared a Spanish colony and the city of Santa Isabel became the capital of the colony. During the colonial era, the Spaniards built a series of buildings and structures on the island, including a cathedral, a palace, and some ports. These structures can still be seen on the island today and are important vestiges of the island’s colonial past.

Spanish colonization also brought significant cultural changes to the island. The Spanish language became the official language of the country and many of the island’s inhabitants converted to Catholicism, abandoning their local beliefs, which represents an important loss of identity that is still felt today.

The independence of Equatorial Guinea

In 1959, Equatorial Guinea became officially two more provinces of the Spanish government: Fernando Poo and Rio Muni. And later in 1963, an autonomous government was created, which had power over most internal affairs, while Spain still maintained control over defense, foreign policy, and other important matters.

In March 1968, a constitutional conference was held in Madrid to negotiate the terms of independence for Equatorial Guinea. The conference involved the participation of Equatorial Guinean leaders and representatives of the Spanish government.

Independencia Guinea Ecuatorial

The independence agreement was signed on October 12th, 1968 in the city of Santa Isabel (currently Malabo), the capital of Equatorial Guinea. The agreement was signed by the Head of State of Equatorial Guinea, Francisco Macías Nguema, and Manuel Fraga Iribarne, Minister of Information and Tourism, chosen by Franco’s regime to formally represent Spain.

After the signing of the agreement, Equatorial Guinea became an independent state and a member of the international community. Independence was celebrated throughout the country with parades, ceremonies, and official speeches. From then on, the island became the political and economic center of the country.

The island’s economy also changed after independence. The country began to rely more on the production of oil and gas, which were discovered in the 1990s, and became an important source of income for the country, contributing to the modernization of the island.

The current state of Bioko Island and Equatorial Guinea.

In the present day, Bioko Island aims to become an important tourism and economic center in Africa. The island has a rich fauna and flora, including numerous species of birds and primates. Additionally, it remains a unique and fascinating place, with a rich history and culture, stunning natural beauty, and great potential for sustainable tourism and development.

It is the perfect time to enjoy its beauty and get to know the culture now that it is opening up to tourism. Don’t miss the opportunity to discover the wonders of Equatorial Guinea!

Malabo Downtown

The future of Bioko Island and Equatorial Guinea.

Equatorial Guinea has a long-term development strategy, with a global vision for the country and its role on the international level, and it specifies the priority axes on which development will be based towards the 2035 horizon. These resolutions can be found in the Guinea Ecuatorial 2035 Agenda developed by the main actors in the region, including CEMAC, WHO, UNDP, IMF, and the collaboration of regional and national banks.

These strategic axes are as follows:

  • Poverty eradication
  • Social inclusion and sustainable peace
  • Productivity and industrialization
  • Environmental sustainability and territorial development

Therefore, the future of the country is outlined and all that remains is to follow the path marked out.

Horizonte 2035


In summary, Bioko Island is a small island with a fascinating history. From its discovery by the Portuguese to its role in the slave trade and its independence from Spain, the island has undergone significant transformations and changes. Today, Bioko Island aims to become an important tourist and economic center in Africa, and it remains a unique and fascinating place to visit and explore. Travel to Equatorial Guinea and don’t miss out on everything it has to offer!

Rumbo Malabo

Rumbo Malabo

Tour Operator in Equatorial Guinea

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