The Republic of Equatorial Guinea covers an area of 28,000 square kilometers on the western coast of Central Africa. It consists of the mainland region Rio Muni, which is also referred to as Continental Equatorial Guinea, and the Insular Equatorial Guinea that includes the islands of Bioko, Corisco, the Great Elobey, the Little Elobey, and the volcanic island of Annobon. Between Bioko and Annobon is the island country of Sao Tome and Principe, while the mainland region neighbors Cameroon to the north and Gabon to the south and east.
Prior to gaining independence from Spain in 1968, the nation relied on the production and export of cocoa, coffee, and timber to Spain, Germany, and the UK. Economic growth spurred because of oil and gas reserves exploration and exploitation. However, the ever-changing prices of oil have caused the country’s GDP to fluctuate. In 2008, economic progress was strong when the oil production increased but fell when the oil prices and production were reduced between 2009 and 2010. Farming provides the most livelihood and is a key contributor to the GDP, alongside forestry.
Equatorial Guinea became the first non-Francophone African nation to join the franc zone and use the CFA franc as its official currency. Before the CFA franc, the country adopted the ekwele from 1975 until 1985, replacing the peseta guineana at par.
From 1975, Banco Popular was responsible for the issuance of ekwele banknotes. It introduced 25, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000 ekwele paper bills printed by Thomas De La Rue. In 1979, the Banco de Guinea Ecuatorial took over the production of banknotes and introduced paper bills in denominations of 100, 500, 1,000, and 5,000 bipkwele. These paper bills were printed by Fabrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre in Spain. After 1985, these banknotes were withdrawn from circulation and were replaced by the Central African CFA franc.