Gemacor International Inc. has been helping Equatorial Guinea to fulfill its vision of “electricity for all” since 2006 with safe, reliable supplies of electricity that anticipates industry’s needs. Dadou Kapandji Gwamba, Director of Administration and Management at Gemacor International Inc., discusses the advantages Equatorial Guinea has to offer.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your professional career, and how it’s helping you now that you’re leading Gemacor International in Equatorial Guinea.
I’m an engineer and I also have special training in project administration and management. I’ve been in Equatorial Guinea for the past six years and before coming here I worked in a multinational company in North Africa, and since then I’ve been implementing my and my team’s knowledge to fulfill Equatorial Guinea’s big 2020 Horizon vision.
In that respect, Equatorial Guinea is a country that enjoys stability and social peace and is an example of governability in the region. The 2020 Horizon Plan was put in practice this year to help the country to become an emerging economy. What are the challenges that must be faced to achieve the goals of the Horizon 2020 plan, and what role does the electricity sector play in achieving it?
To speak about a country’s development and emergence, you have to talk about industrialization, modern infrastructure, and all their accompanying factors – what supports all of this is energy. Without energy there is no industrialization nor can you take advantage of the existing infrastructure. I think that anyone can see that Equatorial Guinea has invested a lot in the very important basic infrastructure that one talks about when one talks about an emerging country. I think that we can only talk about three countries in the sub-region that have the infrastructure that Equatorial Guinea has.
So, regarding industrialization, if we listen to the president’s speeches, he’s inviting businesses and businessmen to invest in the country’s industrialization. And in that, the energy sector is very important, because energy allows industrialization to be realized. And today, Equatorial Guinea, through electrical energy production and distribution projects is going to bring energy that could help and effectively accompany this development that Equatorial Guinea needs. We’re talking about the Djibloho plant which is now working, and the hydroelectric plant in Sendje, which is in progress and whose viability our company, Gemacor International, has studied and has under control and supervision – it’s a 200-megawatt plant.
The great challenge right now is also to diversify the economy towards other sectors of primary interest, not only oil and gas. How is the development of the electrical sector going to help achieve this much-hoped diversification?
First, Equatorial Guinea has oil and gas, and we have seen that hydroelectric projection has already begun, and that it might supersede thermal production in Malabo and in Bata, which is, as we say in French, clean renewable energy. Equatorial Guinea is also rich in wood. In the agricultural sector they produce the best cacao. And all of these are raw materials that must be manufactured to be consumed here and to be exported. From there on, energy is what this company, this factory, needs to be able to transform these raw materials into goods. So that’s how energy is included in the other sectors. We have had project meetings in which this transformation has been spoken of, for example, making pineapple juice out of pineapples – that is to say, to develop the food industry.
There is also wood of very good quality here. We see construction with wood already happening but the possibility of improving construction with wood exists, as does the possibility of investment. Equatorial Guinea has its doors open and offers a multitude of investment possibilities in sectors beyond gas and petroleum.
Investors also value that there’s a reliable source of energy in the country. How would you describe the electrical sector in Equatorial Guinea and what message of confidence would you send to investors in that regard?
I believe that if we look at a country like South Africa, which is one of the most developed countries in Africa, it has electricity problems and they are looking for a solution, a way to get electricity. Here in Equatorial Guinea, we have already anticipated that because the country’s energetic capacity is above what the country currently needs. So, in Equatorial Guinea there is already enough energy to cover the companies who are interested in investing in our industrialization. We can guarantee this, and I as an actor in the energy sector in Equatorial Guinea assure you that the quality of the electricity is safe, constant and we are always looking to widen the scope and produce more electricity to guarantee this necessity for the next 10 and 20 years.
Tell us about Gemacor.
Gemacor is a Canadian company, which is based in Montreal and has a subsidiary in Equatorial Guinea since 2006. We’ve started with the Malabo half tension project and the 33 Kv line that reaches Pico Basilé, we’ve installed electricity there to feed the nearby population. We’re working today on six projects in the country, we’ve worked with Chinese, Ukranian, Egyptian and French companies to build, modernize, expand and reconstruct the old network into a modern and efficient one. So we’re working in Malabo, Sipopo, Bata, Mongomo, Ebebiyín, and we’re now in Kogo, Mbini and Acurenam. I’ll take this opportunity to thank the President, the government institutions of the sector and GEPROYECTOS for the confidence they’ve had in our company Gemacor International to help in putting this vision of electricity for all into practice.
What has been your star project?
It’s difficult for me to pick one project because each person that we could bring electricity to is already a source of great satisfaction, because electricity changes people’s lives. And if every day we could bring electricity to one or more people – today there are 500 people per month who receive electricity thanks to our guarantee and certificate of quality – that makes me feel proud and fills me with happiness. When we arrived in Equatorial Guinea six or seven years ago, the view from the airport of the city was dark. Today when you arrive, you can see that the city is like in Europe. So I’m very proud to have participated in bringing about the president’s vision.
Our function is to support the State, the government, particularly the Ministry of Mines, Industry and Energy, in the energy sector, as well as the management and maintenance of the projects with Geproyectos, to continue with them and bring experience and expertise to the sector of electricity. We have world-class engineers that we put at the government’s disposal to support the study, quality control and maintenance of the project.
How would you describe cooperation between the private and public sector?
Collaboration between the government and the private sector is very important and is upheld. We work in the ministry with competent people, with people that understand the president’s vision, and that assures that we work with the same goals and with confidence in the same vision. So I think the president is to be congratulated on having chosen the right people for the right positions.
We know that Equatorial Guinea has plans to export energy in the region, to countries like Cameroon and Gabon, for example. Does Gemacor have any plans to take advantage of this opportunity?
Our company today works in various African countries. We’re not only in Equatorial Guinea. We’re also in Congo, in Mauritania, and we’ve worked in Angola… I could cite 14 or 15 more, and we’re looking at an offer in Gabon. One cannot think of Africa or plan on doing something in Africa as if it were a multitude of people, but as one place – you have to look at is as one country, as a global region. When we talk about Equatorial Guinea we have to talk about the Central African region, as you can see when you go to Mongomo or Ebebiyín and you see how the president has built a bridge to facilitate communication with neighboring countries. You can also see how electricity and highways have reached those places, through agreements between both countries. Now we are talking about free circulation, which wouldn’t just apply to people but also to goods and investment, so that companies can also be able to circulate and work in both places for the well-being of the region as a whole.
Among your activities you also have construction and agricultural engineering. Do you have any plans to diversify your portfolio in Equatorial Guinea?
The company, the home office, is very diversified: we do engineering, construction, institutional support, but the office that I run here in Equatorial Guinea specializes only in the electrical sector. This is because the government has confidence in us, because we’re not going to put our hands in too many pots, we’re going to specialize in this sector, fulfill the needs and support the government in the electrical sector. But the parent company might open another office specializing in other sector, but that’s something else…
Your international agreements give you access to state-of-the-art technology and equipment, so let’s talk about these agreements and how you take advantage of them in bringing this technology to Equatorial Guinea.
The company has two functions: the first is to assure the government that the work is done, that the electrical network built is of quality, and that it is up to international standards. The second phase of our work is to support the transfer of knowledge here, to make sure that people have the training and knowledge to keep up the maintenance themselves. That’s why we have a training program: we train people from outside internally. We have engineers who come from other countries; we have about 18 nationalities. If we were to visit the Sendje plant you’d see that we have experts of six nationalities. Our experts in the energy sector work with Equatoguineans to give them adequate training to support this process. This is one of the most important things for us, because the president also demands it, and we are very proud to see that tomorrow the Equatoguineans can maintain the investment that has been done today.
Today we are looking at how Gemacor can work directly with Segesa Holding, an institution created by the Ministry of Mines to support Segesa, and today we’re looking at how we can work with them to leave the country with more knowledge and possibilities so that they can do things from now on.
We know that Equatorial Guinea is deeply engaged with the protection of the environment, and the UN has named 2015 the “Year of Light.” How are you collaborating with the implementation of renewable energy in Equatorial Guinea?
We’re working with the Ministry of Mines, with the office of project supervision, which guides and supports us. They have asked us to study renewable energies, so that we should have very clean energy, which in Africa we could easily do thanks to the heat and the water we have. I think that for the population it would effectively cost less to have hydroelectric or solar energy, and I can assure you that with the government we have plans to develop this sector in progress. There’s a 100% solar electricity plant being built now in Annobón and I think that this is proof of the strong political will to deeply invest in clean and renewable energies.
What is Gemacor’s 10-year plan in Equatorial Guinea?
I think that Equatorial Guinea is a country that has made an incredible infrastructural transformation. Today it has many things, but you can’t keep building the same thing over and over. Companies must think about services because what Equatorial Guinea needs today is diversity and service companies. That’s what must come in the future – Equatorial Guinean companies that support the government in creating wealth and that understand how to maintain what already exists and offer new services. This is what’s coming in the next 10 years.
Keeping in mind that great world leaders are going to read this, what concepts would you like Gemacor International to be associated with?
As a partner in development.