In recent years Equatorial Guinea has experienced economic growth and a vast improvement in its infrastructure, developments that largely are owed to the participation of SOMAGEC, a Moroccan infrastructure and harbour construction
company, working in the African coastal nation for the past seven years. Throughout Africa, SOMAGEC is a leading company for maritime projects and one of the largest construction firms in northern Africa. In Equatorial Guinea alone SOMAGEC has invested 450 million euros in addition to bringing advanced technology developed specially for the construction of some of the most modern regional harbours built in Morocco, including the deepest port in Africa, located in Tangiers. With its experience and technology, SOMAGEC is quickly expanding throughout Africa not just to the wealthy coastal nation and former Spanish colony of Equatorial Guinea, but also to Senegal and shortly to South America, focusing on sustainable development and broadening modern infrastructurewithin neighbouring countries.
“We have the highest growth rate in the world at the moment,” explains Jean-Charles Hayoz, General Director of SOMAGEC, noting the huge potential for development in Africa. “We have to show companies that Africa is not the same as it was. I think Equatorial Guinea should be an example for all the neighbours of what can be done here and there.” The company first arrived in Equatorial Guinea in 2005 and since then has built four airports, two of which are international, as well as harbours and roads, all significantly contributing to the current infrastructure.
The completed harbours are in Annobon, an island 350 kilometres off the coast, and Kogo, tucked along the Muni River in the south of the country. A port in Bata, the country’s largest city along the Atlantic coast, is scheduled to be finished in 2014 as well as the a port in Malabo, the nation’s capital, at the end of this year. For this project, SOMAGEC is in charge of all the supervision whereas a Chinese company is responsible for protection.
A domestic airport was built in Annobon as well as two international airports built in Corisco, a small island off the coast, and Mongomeyn. SOMAGEC was also integral in the expansion of the airports in Bata and Malabo. However, when the current projects are finished, SOMAGEC does not plan to leave Equatorial Guinea. Mr Hayoz, for one, sees numerous opportunities yet to be exploited throughout the country. “One of the most important sectors that the government should develop is the tourism sector. This region has a lot of tourism potential, with beautiful landscapes and virgin land,” says Mr Hayoz, noting the company’s interest in potentially being part of a project to expand tourism. “There are many different things that we can see around.There are hotels and lots of things. We are thinking about our future here too.”
Now with modern infrastructure in place as well as a strategic location along the Atlantic Coast, Mr Hayoz considers Equatorial Guinea to be a significant investment opportunity for other potential international companies.
“Equatorial Guinea is a really important country for those who want to come work here,” notes the General Director. “It offers a lot of possibilities for each investor. Here there is everything to do and everything is possible.” But beyond just investing in the country, SOMAGEC has shown through its social and education programmes that they are committed to improving the country, developing a skilled local workforce and creating jobs.SOMAGEC employs 2,600 local employees and 1,600 foreigners, giving it the title of single-largest employer in Equatorial Guinea. This workforce is continually trained and educated, sometimes with experienced professionals who come from Morocco and international teachers who train the personnel in information technology.
Furthermore, when SOMAGEC first installed itself in Equatorial Guinea, it was decided in advance that they would function like a Guinean company rather than an offshore one. Mr Hayoz explains that when a foreign company comes to a country, the government pays it a lot to develop infrastructure, using the money for all equipment, vehicles, etc. Mr Hayoz goes on to say: “When I finish, if I am an offshore company, I take everything and then go back. But we agreed to stay in Guinea and for all equipment to stay in Guinea.” SOMAGEC is dedicated to the development of African nations and hopes other investors will see the importance of both working in a country and making it better.
“We are not just committed to finalising the work the government is giving us, but also to training the future generations,” says Mr Hayoz. “We have to set the foundations for the future generation. We are committed to this with the government.”