EG’s ports reflect the country’s modern infrastructure and are key to attracting new investments to the country. Alberto Ndong Obiang Lima, Managing Director at the Ports Administration of Equatorial Guinea (Administración de Puertos de Guinea Ecuatorial, APGE) speaks to Globus Vision about the importance of modernization at the deepwater ports at Malabo and Bata, the potential cruise ship market, and what the ports can offer international investors.
After establishing a model for infrastructure for the whole region, the possibility of diversifying the country's economy has been opened in Equatorial Guinea. This is Equatorial Guinea's big challenge. Could you describe the country's growth, particularly when it comes to port infrastructure?
When it comes to infrastructure, we arrived at the conclusion that the development of ports had been rendered obsolete, so the government decided to expand some ports: Malabo and Bata, the two most important ones, where most of the oil companies' imports go through.
These are the ports that have seen the greatest movement. In Bata’s port, which has the largest and widest infrastructure, for example, one can see the development and improvements we needed.
Now that the country has entered an industrialization and economic diversification phase, ports will play a key role. Can you tell us about how ports will contribute to the much wanted industrialization and diversification?
One can say that ports are a very important factor when it comes to industrialization. All the commodities that companies will bring for the development of a business, as well as the commodities that will be exported, will go through the ports.
Bata and Malabo, where the most important ports are, will play a key role. But the Ministry of Mining, Industry and Energy is talking about creating an industrialization area in Mbini.
As we know, there is a port in Mbini which would function in order to boost industrialization.
What competitive advantages does Equatorial Guinea have when compared to other countries in the region, and why would an investor choose EG?
The advantage we have is our location. Regarding ports, we have modern and fast ones, which is what companies are looking for when it comes to transporting the merchandise that would enter or leave the country.
Regarding security, Equatorial Guinea is located in a safe area, which is why many companies have decided to bet on the country.
Can you tell us about the specifics on Malabo and Bata ports?
When the renovations in the ports of Malabo and Bata – where the government has been mostly focused – started, the first thing that was mentioned was their depth, so as to know what type of vessels would be able to come in. Malabo and the Bata ports are 16-18 meters deep, which implies the capacity to bring bigger vessels, such as Panamax ships.
These are containerships, which could easily come in without any problems related to depth.
When it comes to the types of cranes we have, these are modern ones, in order to expedite processes.
In the Bata port, which is being renovated by a Chinese company, the government has demanded that it should be fully industrialized and equipped, for example in the docking, unloading, containers and cold containers areas; whatever equipment is needed in order to move all the commodities that could come.
As you mentioned, one of Equatorial Guinea's advantages is its strategic geographical position, which is in the middle of the Gulf of Guinea. This implies a mandatory stop of the goods that go from Europe to Asia, among others. This could also be the gateway for the Communauté Économique & Monétaire de l'Afrique Centrale (CEMAC), a market of up to 300 million people. In what way could Equatorial Guinea be positioned as a logistics hub for the region?
The Ports Administration logic is to industrialize and expand ports. Even if it looks like we could currently manage the number of containers that ships bring, we cannot.
Therefore, what we have decided is that, since the government has renovated many ports, many of the ships that come to Guinea will be moved to the ports of Malabo or Bata, or even to the port of Annobon, so that they do not have to overstay due to anchoring issues.
Therefore, the Ports Administration is working at full capacity in order to cooperate with the shipping companies, so that they will be satisfied with the way ports are being managed in Guinea.
Apart from the commercial function they have, Equatorial Guinea's ports also have a touristic potential, which is also a sector that is important to promote in pursuit of economic diversification. What role can ports play when it comes to attracting tourism to the country?
In order to attract cruises, we are trying to renovate special areas in the ports so that cruises will be able to come and dock easily, unload, load and set sail.
Many times, cruises have stops of less than 24 hours, for example in the case of cultural visits, and they need to enter and leave automatically.
We are trying to negotiate so that, in case we have the opportunity in the future, there is a specific area where cruises can dock easily.
Given the country's geographical complexity – an insular and a continental territory – how would you say ports have helped in Equatorial Guinea's socio-economic development?
I would say pretty much, as Equatorial Guinea's population has always used ships as a means of transportation.
Nowadays, the country is well equipped when it comes to aviation, as it has plenty of planes that travel not only within Equatorial Guinea but also within the whole CEMAC.
However, the population itself, particularly merchants, has always used national boats, which also transport those who cannot pay the cost of air transportation.
The United States is quite focused on Africa. A proof of this is the recent U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit that President Obiang attended. After this summit, $37 billion will be invested in Africa. What opportunities does Equatorial Guinea offer the international investor?
What we can highlight from the Ports Administration is that, if investments are made in Equatorial Guinea, ports management will work efficiently, as one the most important factors for an investor is the quick mobilization of their merchandise.
Therefore, they will have to know that our ports are ready for their merchandise to get here directly, without the need for technical stops in other ports first, which would mean higher costs for investors.
They will be glad their merchandise can get directly to Equatorial Guinea.
You also have the Luba port, which will offer services for the oil and gas industry.
Luba Free Port is basically a private port, in the sense that the government has set it for oil companies.
As I said before, oil companies, American and from other countries, have seen in Equatorial Guinea a safe and stable country.
That is why these companies bring their large amounts of merchandise to the Luba port, oil pipes and other, where they pick the merchandise in order to go to Nigeria, Angola or any other oil ports, with the advantage of moving their merchandise without having to pay high costs or facing bureaucratic issues.
What concept would you like people to associate the Ports Administration of Equatorial Guinea with?
Simply, what we are trying to do is to work and generate a bigger profit for any investor coming to Equatorial Guinea.
What is utterly important, as we have always said at the Ports Administration, is that we are a mirror and the first image of Equatorial Guinea. So we try to project this image to any investor that comes to the country and sees that they can work here, and realizes that there is security and stability in the country, and that we are here to help them with everything we can.