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Investors stand to gain a great deal in EG

Interview - August 8, 2016

Francisco Shaw Thompson, head of one of the top companies providing logistics services in Equatorial Guinea (EG), takes a look at the country’s development and explains what international enterprises stand to gain from getting involved in it, particularly through partnerships with local firms. He also discusses what he sees in the future for his Franmar Group.



Could you share with us your opinion about what oil represents for Equatorial Guinea’s future and the efforts made by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo?

The truth is oil is the main industry in many countries. For many years people didn’t know where Equatorial Guinea was, but the President and all the work accomplished for the country has made it possible to use the oil’s commercial activity to help further develop Guinea. Now we can even compete with other countries in an international level.


What are the projects and contributions that make the country and the President proudest in general?

Well for instance, nowadays we have business people that are permanent. Things have changed a lot; living conditions have improved over the years thanks to the work of the government and the President.


What is EG’s role in the region?

As we speak, Equatorial Guinea is an emerging country. We are currently building very good relations with other countries, supporting them and contributing with money. Even Orphans of Africa (OA) has been here and received support from us. Guinea has turned out to be a kind of bridge within Africa thanks to the infrastructure it has.


As head of one of the top companies that offers logistics services in Guinea, what message would you send to investors?

Current economic activities on behalf of oil commerce have dropped a lot. We have been doing many more things. Soon, plans to industrialize will be applied, according to the final phase of Plan Horizonte 2020, as well as agriculture and many others still being explored.

We have a free port. You can come here and work with your companies while enjoying those benefits, taking also advantage of the fact that Guinea is a small country and there are always people willing to work. It’s also a country where many languages are spoken, so you don’t necessarily have to learn one to be able to do business.

We can receive investors. It’s just a matter of coming, getting used to the country and realizing everything that can be exploited.


To achieve self-sufficiency and diversification, Equatorial Guinea needs comprehensive logistics for its development; here’s where Franmar comes in. What role does Franmar play in helping accomplish EG’s goals?

Part of Franmar’s job is to support the government’s initiatives. As a company we’re speaking to many countries. We’ve brought Portugal, Zimbabwe, logistically connecting Guinea with the outside world. We present investment ideas to international companies, and then we make appointments with the government so they can talk to them too. That’s why we’re working so hard on the outside activities, to be able to connect with more investors that might want to come to Equatorial Guinea. We’re precisely that link, because we’re in Europe and Africa at the same time.


What projects are Franmar developing right now?

Right now, in Oyala, we’re working with a company to build the Oyala Government Palace. We’re also in the ports with the Ministry of Infrastructure, finding ways to build new roads to drive through the woods of the country. We also have to begin producing our own oil-derived products like motor oil, working alongside GEPetrol.


Could you tell us what your experience with the country’s human resources has been?

We have shareholders that always send us training manuals and material. Every time a new project begins, we do a preparation and guide meeting for locals, so they can learn how the job gets done.


Could you tell us about something you see benefiting international companies from being here?

The cost of living is much cheaper here than in other countries. Right now there’s a flow of international investors seeking places like that for their activities. In the end, Guinea will be a country with the same quality of life standards that other countries have. The idea is to make it qualify as an emerging country so as to be able to get loans and all those kinds of support mechanisms.


You are a Pan-African company with a presence in Nigeria, Valencia, Guinea and the United States, and you have international companies as customers. What is you competitive advantage? What sets you apart from the rest to make important clients like Maratón choose your services?

We’re always concerned that a company doesn’t have to give up to its initial project. Right now, for instance, we’re working with a Spanish company, and we had to bring their equipment from Spain to our country and then transport them from Bata to other places, such as electricity materials or things that aren’t easy to find here. We implement a chain system from Spain. We must, for example, be on time with dates and schedules; organization is key to success.

And again, we must highlight that all this activities represent a really low cost for the foreign investor, because our workforce is very cheap. That factor combined with the chain system and training are the aspects that make us more competitive.


Under your point of view, what can a country like Spain brings to the logistics sector and in general to Equatorial Guinea?

First of all, Spain can provide representative economic resources to help develop educational projects, because we must train locals in what economic notions are. In that sense Spain can collaborate a lot with Equatorial Guinea, since it is the only Spanish-speaking country in all Africa. There’s a lot that can be done. That way we can enter the European market as a non-expensive option. Partnerships can be reached.


In what way is Franmar supporting and helping define an Equatorial Guinea that we can associate with quality and innovation?

In Franmar, we’re creating employment for Guineans, for example. We’re seducing companies outside, which is a way of selling and promoting the country’s image to other countries. Also, we’re right now in negotiations with a financial company to get them to invest their money in our country. That might be seen as something very small, but in the end it’s all part of the development process.


Which projects make you proudest at Franmar and what would like to get done by 2020?

Well, I could point out that one of the projects we recently concluded was the conference hall, since we collaborated with the company that built it.  We were working for eight months. We organized logistics for cars, buses, stopping traffic, coordinating 600 employees, working 24 hours a day. We provided water, laundry and whatnots for 600 people. Because it was a 24-hour shift, people needed to be moved and served with what they needed. We mobilized them with a crew of drivers in about 20 buses.

In 2020 I’d like to see Franmar in the household business, and be recognized as a main brand in Equatorial Guinea, so that the image of the company will be directly related to that of the country’s. That’s what I have in mind, and it can be accomplished by working hard, talking to different governments, GEPetrol, the Ministry of Infrastructure, and maintaining links with all of them. We’re still negotiating and analyzing other projects to bring here.