Ambassador David Gilmour, Equatorial Guinea

Ambassador Gilmour greeted us with warmth and great information.  As the only Spanish speaking in Africa.  Ambassador Gilmour noted that the Spanish spoken there is not like contemporary Spanish, but vestige of a more traditional Spanish spoken during colonial days.

Ambassador Gilmour speaks both Spanish and French.

The Ambassador has a long list of accomplishments during his service to the United States Department of State. He was the Chargé d’Affaires a.i. at the U.S. Embassy in N’DjamenaChad. He has served in the Bureau of African Affairs at the Department of State as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central Africa, Director of East African Affairs, and Director of Public Diplomacy for Africa. He was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. embassies in Panama and Malawi, and Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Mission in Geneva. Other overseas assignments have included Australia, Costa Rica, South Africa, and Cameroon as well as the Ambassador to Togo from November 7, 2015 to March 9, 2019.  

ON August 6, 2021, President Biden nominated him to be the ambassador to Equatorial Guinea.  Following his confirmation he presented his credentials to President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo on May 22, 2022.

The Ambassador then shared his appreciation for CDA and our focus on “incredibly important Citizen Diplomacy—one of the most valuable pieces of public diplomacy, as our influence comes from understanding America and life in the U.S.” 

He went on to talk about the critical and growing importance of Africa to the United States and mentioned three specific area. Africa is experiencing:

  1. A population boom that by 2040 will likely surpass India and China in terms of workforce populations. 
  2. A youthful population with great potential: currently 60% of the population is under 30 years old, and most of that group is under 18.
  3. A rapidly urbanizing population with areas of 28-48% urban growth. 

In addition, in technology, it is the fastest growing mobile phone market and more than 20 million population in Lagos. And, it has 60% of the world’s unused arable land for food production. And it is “a biodiversity hot spot.”

While it is an extremely wealthy country based on vast deposits of oil and natural gas, there is also a vast discrepancy between the “elite and regular populations.”  As these oil and gas deposits are rapidly running out with between 10 and 15 years left, new industries need to be developed quickly. Corruption at high levels, extremism, and terrorism are resulting in huge population migrations to the U.S. and elsewhere.

The United States has three top priorities on the agenda:

  1. Regional Security: Safeguard U.S. interests and American investments. The country has taken over Somalia’s lead as the # 1 hot spot for piracy there is a focus on creating collaborations with other areas to curtail it.
  2. Economic Prosperity and Human Capacity Development: training and support for entrepreneurs, reduction of government interference in business development, attraction of more investment, and the creation of tourism opportunities. English learning is being promoted, academic exchanges, including Fulbright Fellowships are available, and U.S. Oil companies are training a new generation of local engineers to leave behind a legacy of skilled native workers. 
  3. Encouragement of more transparent government operations, free elections, and release of political prisoners. 

Ironically, while people are denied some basic freedoms, social media is accepted and widely used, even by the governing family. Young women are emerging as successful entrepreneurs, student exchanges are emerging as a priority all opening the country to western influence. 

The population growth is so rapid that government is not able to produce new job opportunities. New and rapid development of private sector industry is essential to ensure stability and prosperity for the country—especially as China is looking to establish a military presence in the area. 

CDA discussed with the Ambassador the opportunities that are available with our partnership with Pima Community College and the great program in the trades as well as preparation to move on to a 4 year university.  The information was passed on to the International Division for follow up with the Public Affairs Officer at the embassy.  

Randy Williams was the moderator for this World Watch talk, it’s the second time he has assisted in this capacity since he has traveled to all the countries in the world and can share the passion and familiarity while moderating.  We want to thank Randy for his assistance.

Each of the moderators that CDA has had the privilege to work with have been either former foreign service officers or current consul generals.  Randy is in good company.