Embassies on both sides of the Atlantic are on hand to guide potential investors into win-win partnerships.
The Equatoguinean government is actively welcoming foreign investment, particularly from the U.S., and the increasingly close bilateral ties between the two nations mean that investors looking for prime opportunities in Africa would do well to take a closer look at Equatorial Guinea. In 2012 it was the second largest investment destination in Central Africa in terms of inbound foreign direct investment (FDI), reaching $13.5 billion, the majority of which being directed towards the oil sector. International entities with a presence in the country’s hydrocarbon industry represent a real multinational mix that includes Swiss, British, American, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Russian and Nigerian companies.
Nevertheless, sub-Saharan Africa’s third largest oil exporter is keen to expand its economic base and reduce its heavy reliance on revenues from its petroleum sector. Therefore, the government is pushing ahead to encourage foreign input of investment, skills and knowledge transfer across a raft of industries. In February 2014, it hosted a comprehensive two-day economic diversification convention, the Emerging Equatorial Guinea Symposium, aimed at attracting investment in five key sectors: agriculture and animal ranching, fishing, mining and petrochemicals, tourism, and financial services.
There is no single agency, or one-stop shop, for foreign investors interested in being involved in realizing Equatorial Guinea’s potential. The first step for investors in the U.S. is to contact the Embassy of Equatorial Guinea in Washington DC, or the Consulate General in Houston, Texas, for an appointment where they can present their proposals and freely discuss their ideas and projects in mind. Budding entrepreneurs will also receive practical advice on how to get started, as well as assistance in understanding the procedures that are part of doing business in the West African country.
According to the U.S. Department of State, most investment contracts are negotiated individually with the relevant ministry in Equatorial Guinea and in some sectors, investments must be part of public-private partnerships (PPPs) with a state entity. In addition, the government has been looking at introducing a national content law – which is still in the draft stage – that would require a certain percentage of the workforce to be Equatoguinean.
U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter the country, thanks to a unique agreement between the two nations. However, foreign investors are not currently allowed to be full owners of local companies, but they can be minority stakeholders in joint ventures with the government.
Similarly, non-native investors are not permitted to own land or property, but can lease it from the government or other entities. The law specifies that foreign companies or initiatives must include local capital, and a trusted Equatoguinean partner is essential in navigating the process of registering a company.
Although there are no specific corporate social responsibility (CSR) obligations imposed on firms operating in Equatorial Guinea, many U.S. firms do in fact have excellent CSR initiatives and the government has openly expressed its appreciation for such efforts and lauded the positive example that companies from the U.S. have set in looking for ways local communities can benefit from their presence.
For more information, investors are encouraged to contact the Embassy of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea in Washington by calling 202 518-5700 or 296 41 74, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org .