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Electricity for everyone

Interview - January 22, 2015

SEGESA is the energy distributor company of Equatorial Guinea, besides having the ambitious plan to provide electricity to its total population, SEGESA has the challenge of providing a fair price of KW and be a reliable source of energy to power the huge industrialization plan that is beginning to develop Equatorial Guinea.

The IBATIN team met Marcelino Sima Mba to discuss the present in Equatorial Guinea. He gave us a feedback on the transformations accomplished by President Obiang and how they affect the general state of the nation.

He stressed the importance of the energy sector to the country's development, providing facilities to investors and citizens and its progress in terms of efficiency, price and extension. He highlighted the facilities offered by the country to invest in Central Africa, in terms of infrastructure, potential customers, strategic geographical position, and above all, legal certainty and political stability. Finally, he emphasized the importance of strengthening the distinctive cultural and historical ties with Spain for the development of both peoples.

MARCELINO SIMA MBA | GENERAL DIRECTOR SEGESA

One of the main reasons for this meeting is the growing interest that the international community of investors has in the region of Central Africa. Why is it considered that Equatorial Guinea is a step further in these areas, compared to other countries in the region?

The worst mistake that Western investors make is to take Africa as a country. Equatorial Guinea is more advanced, one step ahead of its neighboring countries. The most important thing is peace; there can be no development without peace. There can be no industrialization without electricity, because there is no growth for a country in the dark. Equatorial Guinea is bringing vast electrification to all villages. Even the most remote have to enjoy light, making an axiom of our shield: unity, peace and justice. There must be equity in the advance of development. That does not mean everyone will accept it in the same way, some more than others, but that brings confidence to investors.

Now, related to industrialization, how important is the reliable access to an electricity grid for these new industries to be installed?

We have all the elements, along with the already established plan; we have Djibloho, we have Sendje. Well, during the second phase of electrification, a firm platform will be given so all of these industries have access to electricity.

In addition, a new study on kilowatt price is currently underway. The current price of a kilowatt was established according to certain production center, now it has to be harmonized, the production of one megawatt or a kilowatt by a hydroelectric plant is less expensive than the produced by a gas central or a thermoelectric plant.  We are also trying to establish the price of a kilowatt according to solar strips and industries.

And what are the industries you are planning to promote? I imagine tempting them with kilowatt prices.

We are trying to encourage large consumers. Later, 25,000 kilowatt will cost 60 CFA francs compared to Cameroon, to name a country, and not to disparage, making our consumer prices the cheapest. Currently, SEGESA has a post-sales service that is working on a shared basis. It can assume 60% of the maintenance costs. That is my policy. If I say mine, I take it as mine because it emanates from the ministry, because I am the visible head of SEGESA.

How is Guinea positioned to be a natural energy exporter in the future by what you just told me? All this about being able to produce cheaper kilowatts than other countries.

I want Guinea to export energy to Cameroon, Gabon, Nigeria and, why not, Angola through an offshore grid in the future. That is the potential of Guinea, and our idea is that SEGESA should become an economic engine of the post-oil era.

Why Equatorial Guinea can afford to launch an industrialization plan, to be presented in a more attractive way for investors choosing a country in the region to settle an industry? Why do you think you have these advantages over Cameroon, Congo or another country?

Equatorial Guinea has these advantages first of all given its highly developed macro policy. All development plans have been established and each area and ministry knows exactly what to do. Equatorial Guinea does not act at the drop of a hat. We have a firm policy on that. Yes, we might have faults, but we should not be expected to be as developed as the westernized countries. We need to develop in an African way. Let’s say as a hybrid, with a mixed policy, conforming to our idiosyncrasies and our culture. However, we offer stable legislation and policy. Trust and respect for investors, who will recover all the investment and, furthermore, should not be limited by appointing native representatives to deal with government, as we hope for a "one on one" treatment between firms and our people. Also, investors should keep us in mind regarding the several local companies they can partner.

Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking of Equatorial Guinea as an unsuitable country for developing an industry being a 1 million people market. Thus, he pointed out the potential access Guinea has to 7 countries that make up a potential 300 million consumers within less than 400km. Why is it so important, especially for Spaniards, to know these advantages?

It is important. First we have to think about the cultural background. The 12th of October is the Independence Day of Equatorial Guinea and in the peninsula is also the National Day. We are Spaniards. There is a law that expresses "all Equatorial Guineans born before 1968 are Spanish."

Equatorial Guinea and Spain should approximate their policies, leaving political jealousy behind. This year, Guinea will complete 46 years of independence. Our Chambers of Commerce should relate in a non-furtive way, reaching fulfillment and equality of rights. The Spanish citizen should know that there was a culture 6 hours from Spain, 4,600km far from the peninsula, who were Spaniards who spoke Spanish.

What is the message you would give these investors that, on the one hand, had years of unfair news about the country, and maybe they are afraid, but want to enter the African market?

Well, the message will have to be a little historical. Rajoy is the first president to come visit Guinea. The message that I give to those investors is to not be afraid, fear leaves us behind, to inform themselves: what is Equatorial Guinea, where it is, what potential it has and what advantages Guinea has to offer to their investments. That's all.

They should not come for adventure. Come to Guinea for honest business. Here we have well-defined political elements. Stop listening when they say "dictatorship" on TV, because we are not a dictatorial country. You are a young journalist, years ago you would not have dared to come to Guinea.

Do not you think that most of the affected are Spanish businessmen and the Spanish people? Of course also the Guinean people, but do not you think that Spaniards are missing a great opportunity?

The most affected are both peoples. The Spanish people and the people of Equatorial Guinea, as these ties are weakening while should be tightening up. But, it's never too late, you can rebuild those bonds.

Repsol came here to invest, also CEPSA did. Many companies came, but as an adventurous enterprise. They have not come as a solid business, as you invest, for example, in countries such as Argentina, Peru, Norway or Colombia. I'm talking about permanence.

For example, in educational institutions, we only count with the Spanish College, and we are very grateful for the great work they do. But still other private universities will be well received. Because a country without professional training will not be able to achieve progress. That does not mean that there is no formation offer in Guinea, we have the UNGE (National University of Equatorial Guinea) made up by good professionals, but we need more and better ones.

Finally, what is your message to the Spaniards who are curious and just discovered this little pearl of Africa?

The truth is that the union of peoples makes great peoples. There is nothing to find out, but a lot to research, know who we are, who we were and where we want to get -both peoples. It is not discovering anything. That's my only message.

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