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Providing the nation with competitiveness

Interview - January 22, 2015

Multipurpose Terminals of Equatorial Guinea (TMGE) was established in April 2014 and despite taking its first steps, is a mature company. TMGE is the result of the fusion of the two most experienced shipping companies in Equatorial Guinea, Besora and Mac Guinea S.A. Both successful cases of permanence of Spanish capital in Equatorial Guinea, the first 35 years and 24 Mac Guinea SA. The objective of this merger is to provide a more efficient service to an even more competitive cost. To achieve this, the company made a deliberately strong commitment with an initial investment of approximately 10,000,000 Euros and a major focus on staff training that is expanding the labor horizon of local manpower.

The IBATIN team met Javier Cortés to discuss the present in Equatorial Guinea. He gave us feedback on the transformations accomplished by President Obiang and how it affects the general state of the nation.

He emphasized the central role of services in this second stage of the country development, as well as the importance of staff training and facilities that deeper integration at the regional and global level, would bring to the foreign capital investments.

He highlighted the opportunities in Equatorial Guinea for both foreign companies and workers, and the importance of building long-term projects for each case.

JAVIER CORTES | GENERAL DIRECTOR TMGE DATA

From your perspective, what do you think is the role of Equatorial Guinea in this whirl of regional development, and how is it positioning itself as a logistical, financial hub, etc.?

As you said, Africa and the West African coast in particular is attracting a lot of international interest for investments and development, for business in general. In my field particularly, many ports are being built. Several multinational shipping companies are joining this area: the globally most important three are present in West Africa.

What is the role of Guinea there? Well, the first part for Guinea will be the distribution. A distributor to the African inlands, the mainland and a dealer in all of the surrounding ports, such as Cameroon, Angola, Sao Tomé. Neighboring ports that could be accessed by others such as Malabo without restrictions and taking advantage of the competitive location of Malabo as an island and its closeness to many other major ports.

In the West African coast there are three major ports, including Abidjan. We are talking about thirty-seven ports throughout the African coast, not millions of them, where three are top and the rest are a sort of sub-HUBs, and that is where Equatorial Guinea should play. Should be positioned. The structures were positioned, but now must adjust a series of different aspects so this opportunity will not be missed.

The country is now facing a new stage of the "Horizon 2020" plan that, according to the President, would have "the strong will and intention to achieve the installation of small, medium and large industries towards economic self-sufficiency and imports reduction.” What is the role of services and companies like TMGE in this new phase of the country?

First, to this stage the President has been discussing, I think the important thing is the arrival of plenty of merchandise that provides local companies while giving the chance to slow down the imports and slightly stimulate the exports. Our intention is always to be aligned with our neighboring countries in terms of port costs and even increase competitiveness.

After all, it is our duty to get the ships in and out quickly, it should not take a week, so the costs reduce and productivity raises. How do we get the efficiency? Working with trained staff; we have a training plan to improve the productivity performance of our employees. We can also enhance productivity through mechanical means, for example the mobile cranes bought last year. This will enable reducing costs, and provide local companies with their products at lower prices. In addition, productive local companies will also promote exports.

You mean you could say that companies like TMGE bring more competitiveness to the nation?

They are struggling to bring more competitiveness to the nation, local businesses and end users. In the end, when we go to the supermarket, the product is cheaper or more expensive depending on the costs that the retailer has had, and one of these, a significant one, is what we have from port services.

TMGE is a brand new company but comes from a fusion of two experienced groups and have continuity in the country. How would you describe these first steps from TMGE?

As said, TMGE is formed from the integration of Mac Guinea, a company with 24 years of experience in the country, and the distilling of Besora, also with over 35 years of expertise. It has not been an easy process, let's point out that the company was formed in April this year; today we can say that the integration has completed satisfactorily. We are all workers of TMGE and are integrated within the port environment, with the authorities, with shipping companies, everyone.

We know that TMGE focuses its CSR program specifically on staff training. What can you tell us about the related programs or measures?

During the last two years, in addition to the usual social benefits in terms of salary, payment of social securities, and all these things, we have an Annual Training Plan. This plan is not only addressed to our employees, but is also destined to foreign workers; because in the end, we want people to be prepared and ready to come work with us.

Every year we look the training plan over and we are always growing. The first year we started with a very modest program that consisted of courses taught by our own workers and some we did outside, but very little.

Last year we already focused on courses provided by external staff, by professional companies that are dedicated to training in the Spanish port sector. We collaborate with Valencia Port Foundation, a nonprofit foundation from the port of Valencia that develops such programs for that port and for those who are also interested. We have developed our training program with them.

By 2015 we want to take another step further. We would like every employee in the company to take at least two basic courses. So, we are going to repeat them for all the people who could not make it, and new people who want to join them, adding two or three new courses in this plan.

And this training means that staff are trained to work within the sector both in Guinea, in TMGE, like any other...

Yes. It is not a formal training as such, but we offer them a certificate issued by the Valencia Port Foundation, and that certificate is international.

How do you see the evolution of the inclusion of local manpower in senior positions throughout these four years? Do you see that there is progress?

Yes, there is a progress. Yet, to be honest, there are a number of limitations that we try to overcome daily; it is what we seek through training. The force has to be local staff. We have 350 workers and still have 22 expatriates between Malabo and Bata. Obviously a struggle that we have is to gradually introduce local people in these positions.

What advantage do you believe Spaniards have if they came to work, invest or develop a business here compared to the other nationalities or other countries?

I think that past history is essential, because it is the obvious tie that will always exist. Fundamental is language, one of the major handicaps. Second, I believe that although we are different we share cultures and we're not so far apart, even when there are many miles keeping distance between us. I think we are well received here in Equatorial Guinea and Spain is little by little starting to open up to Equatorial Guinea, slowly, but I believe that relations are improving and that Spanish presence should be increasing.

On July 31, we were able to publish an article in El Mundo, highlighting the strengths or opportunities for Equatorial Guinea. How do you think the readers received it -when, obviously, it is a fact that generated and will generate a lot of controversy?

With surprise. As you might know there is little awareness and it was a way of knowing Equatorial Guinea without any bias. You could see it was an article selflessly done and was a way to inform a little about the existence of Equatorial Guinea. And people received it well and with interest. More information surely will be welcome.

Hopefully! Finally, what is your message for all Spaniards that consider coming to Equatorial Guinea?

That they take it as an opportunity to improve and develop their professional lives and come here to make a life plan. It is a near country. It is important not to come here to live only for two or three years, but to settle, to come open and eager to work. To work hard.

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