An essential guide to the co-hosts of the 2012 African Cup of Nations
Last Updated: January 18, 2012 9:27am
Franceville's 2012 AFCON stadium
Equatorial Guinea and Gabon are preparing to welcome the 14 other countries set to contest the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.
The two African neighbours may not exactly be stand-out countries on the spectacular continent in terms of financial stability, but both carry a rich history and attract global interest for various reasons. So take the moment to broaden your horizons and enjoy a delicious slice of cultural pie.
The first of these tasty little tidbits is the fact that both countries have only ever had two rulers since gaining their respective independence. Equatorial Guinea's current president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, took power after overthrowing his predecessor and uncle Francisco Macias Nguema in 1979 - the latter enjoying an 11-year reign after the country had broken away from the rule of Spain.
Gabon, meanwhile, elected their first president in 1961 after being granted independence from France, with Omar Bongo Ondimba being nominated head honcho for over four decades before being succeeded by his son, Ali-Ben Bongo, in August 2009.
As with most Central African countries the majority of the population in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea practice Christianity, while the total population percentage of Islamic followers in Equatorial Guinea is just one percent.
Gabon, meanwhile, has one of the lowest population densities of any African country, yet there are over 40 different ethnic groups residing within its borders, including such groups as the Fang - who are considered the largest - as well as the Ntumu, the Mvae, and the Okak, to name but a few.
So now that we've chewed through the tough political and religious meat of it, our next course serves up an interesting geographical helping of information, and it comes from Equatorial Guinea. Strangely enough, the country has its capital city Malabo floating on the Bioko Island, while its mainland is found on the continent, making it the only African country of its kind.
Equatorial Guinea only recently stamped their name on the global financial map following the discovery of rich oil wells, with the country's income per capita being boosted from $590 in 1998 to $50200 in 2006. Substantial increase that, to say the least. However, despite the country having become the third largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria and Angola, poverty still remains widespread throughout the state.
Through the fact Equatorial Guinea and Gabon share a border, the latter's main economical resource also comes courtesy of oil, which takes up roughly 46% of the government's budget, and is responsible for 43% of gross domestic product (GDP) and a whopping 81% of the exports. However, statisticians in the field estimate the country's supply of said black gold could be completely expended come 2025.
However, they may just have a natural failsafe in place, with acres of rainforests teeming with life - including lowland gorillas and forest elephants - covering large areas of the land, which could become a major influence in the development of the country's tourism trade.
Back up north across the border, Equatorial Guinea's educational system provides a surprising/shocking piece of information, with the fact they only have one official university, Universidad Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial, which is situated around 8km outside the capital Malabo. The country does, however, also boast a medical school at Bata on the mainland.
And last, but by no means least, we discover a statistical treat that bodes well for both the African neighbours' AFCON ambitions.
As always with a host nation, or in this case two host nations, there comes a certain belief amongst the players and their countrymen and women that they can really challenge for honours, and in Africa's footballing spectacular that is no different, with Egypt (3), Ghana (2), Nigeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Algeria, Ethiopia and South Africa all having lifted the AFCON trophy while staging the showpiece in their own respective backyards.