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The biggest wood manufacturer in Central Africa

Interview - April 16, 2015

SOFMAL has invested big in the transformation of wood to add value and create employments. In their opinion the future of the country is in the industrialization.

MOHAMMAD MAJED, MANAGING DIRECTOR
MOHAMMAD MAJED | MANAGING DIRECTOR

The government of Equatorial Guinea has the ambitious Horizon 2020 Plan to reach that year as an emerging country. In your opinion, what challenges has Equatorial Guinea still to face for this purpose?

As you just said, this country has a plan for 2020. The contribution of oil is important, but also we in the forestry sector are helping to develop the country. The government is encouraging factories, like the veneer factory SOFMAL has, which I believe is the largest in this area. There are many things to do for the country's development, for example in the field of agriculture and technology.

The government is keen on economic diversification and development of agriculture and forestry. For this purpose it has created a joint venture government fund of about $1 billion to help and ensure certain investments in the country. Do you plan to take part in this fund?

Yes, because agriculture is a safe and long-term investment to eliminate world hunger.

There is a lot of investment in the forest sector and now there is a focus on the transformation of wood. What wood processing operations do you have?

We have two kinds of transformation. We have the saw mill, to make wood for construction and furniture. We also have a veneer factory, in partnership with Spanish associates. We send this merchandise to Spain. We are also planning to expand this factory.

Now certificates of origin and legality of timber are given. This opens the market to Europe or America. How does this benefit you when exporting?

This allows us to be open to ship our products worldwide.

SOFMAL origins date back to 1996 and the company was established in 2002.

Yes, we started with another company that had many problems and then switched to SOFMAL. It is a family business.

What do you think are the major achievements over these years?

The factories are a great achievement. But it takes time for a factory to become profitable. We are still investing, but to be profitable, the factory must work 24 hours. So far we do not work 24 hours. Now we have bought dryers for the saw mill. For the veneer factory we have brought a large machine that helps produce more. We are also reorganizing the factories for the future. I do not think there is anyone here who has a factory like ours; we are prepared for the future. We are prepared so that Guineans can have safe and sustainable employment.

What are the benefits of having an automatic dryer?

It is very different to cut dried wood. Many customers are attracted to plants that have dried wood. The market likes dried wood, they want dried wood. We sold wood mainly to the local market during the construction boom.

What is your biggest market?

We have sold a lot to building companies because they buy a lot. In the future there will be new types of lumber for building, for furniture or even for the beams of the train tracks. Although we have the largest market in Asia, we also have a lot of local demand.

The Minister of Agriculture and Forestry told us that you have factories in rural areas, which helps to create jobs in those areas and to fight against centralization in cities.

Yes. We are 30 kilometers away from the city. This is useful for the country's development. The people in the village where our factory is situated live from our factory. We have many employees. Each employee has a family, so, with his job, the people who depend on him eat and live.

How do you train your employees to know how to use the equipment?

We have native technical graduates from UNGE (National University of Equatorial Guinea); they train their peers.

How do you work with the new policy of "cut down tree, planted tree"?

We have selective cutting, we do not cut down the whole forest; we cut up to 1.30 meters, which allows the tree to continue growing.

What would be your message for American readers to know about your potential and to become potential partners or buy exported lumber from you?

The message is that we would like to invite businessmen from the United States to visit Equatorial Guinea in order to see the business opportunities we offer, because this is an open country for everyone who wants to invest.

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