COMALI has been 15 years successfully exploiting EG’s forests, and is now set to go further adding value to EG’s demanded wood.
How is the wood sector in Equatorial Guinea?
Equatorial Guinea is a welcoming country. We have been here for 15 years. Here you respect people and people respect you. Life is good. Our industry, timber, is fine. It needs some modifications to improve the conditions of forest management and to achieve a higher profit. We need more ideas, technology and more training for the people in woodworking. The logs that are left in the forest can be converted into energy.
One of the priority areas to be developed by the government is agriculture. You were already telling us that there are opportunities to add value to the sector with transformation.
The land of Guinea is rich; it is very good for agriculture. But we are running short of ideas, equipment and training. Here there is coffee and cocoa, we also produce some tomato, among other things, but we can produce and export more because there is a large area of land. One difficulty we have is that labor is more expensive than in other countries. This is because the standard of living here is different, since this is an oil producing country.
Minister Alfredo Mitogo Mitogo Ada for Agriculture and Forests told us that one of the greatest achievements has been the revision of the legal framework for the sector, which dated back to 1987. What is your opinion?
It is natural that the forestry law has been amended to benefit the country. Now there are not as many forests as before.
The minister also told us that now they are issuing certificates of origin and legality of timber. That also opens doors, perhaps to the European market and the American market. How are you taking advantage of this certifications? Are you planning to export to Europe or the United States?
Most exports go to China, precisely because Europe and America have always demanded the timber certification. China, however, will start demanding it this year. It is good to have this certification because it opens our market to the world.
What kind of partners are you looking for?
We are looking for a partner who will come to conduct a study in the woods about what can be done, what benefits can be obtained. We know some points, but not all. In Europe and America forests are exploited in many more ways.
In two or three months a new factory will be opened, right?
Yes, a sawmill to transform wood. We are looking for partners to bring in a veneer factory.
The Director General of Forests also told us that you were thinking of building a furniture factory.
Yes, it is this same sawmill. Now, most of our furniture comes from China.
Guinea is not thinking only of exporting, but also of making factories here and supply the local market with finished products. What message do you think you are sending? Or what example are you giving?
Here there are many opportunities to do business. A lot is missing here. For example, we do not have many factories. We receive many products from neighboring countries. You can study the export market and manufacture more products for both domestic consumption and export. This would greatly help to create jobs.
This is also in line with the industrialization plan of Equatorial Guinea, a purpose of which is to add value to certain products. The Ministers of Trade and Agriculture have told us that a national co-investment fund to help investors to develop their projects has been created. Do you have in mind using part of this fund? Are you negotiating with the government to see if they can help you?
Why not? There are collaborators in the agriculture sector coming from outside with machinery. I support agriculture very strongly. I think it is a sector that has a future, it is a sector that cannot be stopped, since people can stop dressing, for example, but they can never stop eating. Here there is little livestock, but we could produce here the frozen products we now import.
Equatorial Guinea, because of its geographical location, may be the gateway to the CEMAC.
Yes. The other day I saw on television, for example, that Saudi Arabia produces one million eggs per day for local consumption and for export. Here you can also export many products.
In Equatorial Guinea there is stability, social peace, political peace and a government that is open to investment. This makes it possible to settle here.
The government of our country has a lot of flexibility in this business. There are no obstacles.
How do you train your workers and how are you contributing to the generation of employment in Equatorial Guinea?
Forest workers are the townspeople. They have been teaching each other about wood. Some drivers, machinists, have been trained in other countries, too.
The minister told us that there is an effort to decentralize so that people stay and live in the countryside too. Are you also contributing to this project?
Yes. Several activities are created in the countryside so that young people do not want to live just in the city. Now, as opposed to 10 years ago, we have water and electricity in the countryside.
How are you collaborating with the policy of "cut down tree, planted tree" to protect the environment?
This project has just begun. An agency to begin planting should be created. Anyway, here, every time the wind makes fruits fall down, new trees grow.
Given that we will publish this interview in the US and that this country is very interested in Africa, what opportunities would you like to emphasize and what message would you give to American partners?
My message is that they have to come, they have to see what businesses can be done in Equatorial Guinea. Our country is still a little virgin and it has many business opportunities in various sectors such as timber, for example, which offers the opportunity to transform wood.