Cameroon oil company Tradex was allowed Monday, December 17, 2018 to distribute petroleum products in Equatorial Guinea, the Central African country where the french Total has a virtual monopoly in this area, the Equatorial Guinean Minister of the oil, Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, gave to the Cameroonian Tradex, 3rd operator in this sector alongside the national company GEPetrol, created in 2002, «approval to build gas stations and market petroleum products in Equatorial Guinea
« The greatest legacy I can leave for my children as well as to the people of Equatorial Guinea is the reality of the infrastructure. In Equatorial Guinea, regardless of the place where they will travel by car, there will be fuel; everywhere where they settle, there will be electricity; everywhere they go, they will be accommodated» Dixit, S.E. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Your Excellency, Minister in charge of Mines and Hydrocarbons, thank you for receiving us here in Malabo this 18 December 2018. This interview is about TRADEX Cameroon setting up in Equatorial Guinea. We would like to know your vision of southsouth cooperation, as well as the major projects currently under implementation in your country among others. If I may ask: what is the current state of the oil sector in Equatorial Guinea, and what is your relationship with other oil producing countries? Besides, what is the impact on the households’ food basket?
GABRIEL MBAGA OBIANG LIMA
Well, first of all, I would like to thank Challenge International for this interview and I know that you came for this occasion of Tradex, and I would like first of all to reiterate that the main objective of this new term of invitation of Tradex, is like you just said, a commitment to continue with the South – South Cooperation, and at the same time, it is to follow the mandate that the Heads of States of CEMAC have been instructing, both for governments and private sectors, to work together to be able to create stronger economic community. Now, regarding your question, I have to say that the biggestadvantage or the better advantage that Equatorial Guinee had regarding oil and gas is that we were the last ones to discover oil. So for many years, you have countries like Cameroon, Gabon, Nigeria, Congo or even CAR without the minerals that they all were blessed with that resource and they were exploiting it.We were in a situation whereby, not having resources, we were unable to do it. So when we actually declared the discovery of that resource, we did take two key advantages. First, we were the last ones, and secondly, we were able to learn from the advices, and I could say the positive and the negative experience of our neighbours. So countries like Cameroon and Gabon were very instrumental in that advising, and I do remember the advices given to us like for example to be very careful on increasing salaries too quick because you have the funds, advices like investing heavily in infrastructures, because that’s absolute resource and nobody can take it out. So that has definitely been our clear relationship. Now our relationship with our neighbours is a very good one, especially Cameroon and Nigeria. We have some joint development activities; we participate in conferences, but we are in the new stage, which is that we are no longer an exploration country, but a country that has already proven itself in the production field. So we need to go further to the next stage, and this stage is even more difficult than the stage of bringing in companies. This stage which consists in taking over some of the operations and going into the downstream. So how this industry has impacted the population or the regular households; I think the impact is greater, and Equatorial Guinea has one of the highestliteracy rate in Africa, and this was because we focussed from the beginning on thickly aspects, notably infrastructure, and the second one was human resources. So we have a huge number of youth being trained at secondary, higher and university levels. Now of course, we did have a great benefit to the rest of the households, and this benefit that we actually had to the households was not mainly in the capital.Indeed, one of our main focus was clearly to be able to invest not only in the capital, but also in every single town in the country, in order to avoid migration. So definitely, that has been for greater benefit to households. Investing in infrastructures, in rural electricity, or other basic infrastructure have been, I can say, the main benefits that reached the majority of the population.
Mr Minister you talk less, you are secretive, you mind what you say, but you take concreate and tangible action. There is a saying that all infrastructural innovation carried out in the country is implemented by your Ministry, under the personal supervision of the President of the Republic. So, what is the secret behind such success? Do you have the strong feeling that this country is close to emergency by 2020 as envisaged by the President of the Republic? Will it be possible to achieve that goal?
GABRIEL MBAGA OBIANG LIMA
Well I could say, what people usually ask about is the secret behind the success, or people gaining a lot of money, and, I have learned that it is not what somebody can teach, but what you have inside; and our biggest advantage is the leadership we have. The leadership of H.E. President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has been very instrumental. Because what he does to us is that… he pushes us forward. He said: ‘’ do not be afraid because you are young, because you do not have resources, but just do it. I prefer you making a mistake rather than not doing it’’. Even most of the time, he was the one saying: ‘’ if you are afraid of something, shake the frame and do it’’. So his leadership has been clearly instrumental because from day one, he has believed in us. This ministry has been one of the Ministries with a lot of continuity, and also, we have full support of the president, from day one, understanding what we do. The other key thing which I thing is the secret for this Ministry and, I’d say Equatorial Guinea itself, is that we took a very serious decision, that we needed to invest heavily in infrastructure. Everybody insisted that it was crazy because we needed to invest in social, sovereign investments etc. but H.E. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo – and that’s why we call him a constructor-said: “the best legacy I can leave to my children and to the people of Equatorial Guinea is that they can have full infrastructure; they can drive everywhere in Equatorial Guinee, there is petrol; they can go to anywhere, there is electricity; they can go anywhere they can have buildings etc. So even right now, in the midst of the downturn of oil, Equatorial Guinea as one of the best infrastructure in CEMAC or even Africa per capita”. The issue now is, we need to develop human resources. We need to develop the youth, I will give you the best example. I travelled to Cameroon, I travelled to Nigeria or Ghana. If these three countries had the same level of infrastructure, they would be huge economies, and this is clearly because the only thing that we miss here is the knowhow and business expertise of Cameroonians, Nigerians or Ghanaians; and if we had that spirit, right now we would be the biggest economy in the region. And we still believe that we could do. So clearly, the key thing and the secret have been the leadership of H.E. the President, he has always been pushing us beyond the limits. He says: I want this building at this frame, and we do it. So you never bring enough to the president. The second one is heavy investments in infrastructure.
« Keys and the secret of our success lie in the leadership of our President, S.E. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, which has always submitted to working hard, taking us. to exceed our limits. When he says: ‘I want to see such a building built at this place’, the building emerges. The president keeps asking over and over again »
Since 25 May 2017, your country, Equatorial Guinea, became the 6th African country to join OPEC. For how long have you worked on that issue? What is the level of satisfaction you gained? As a matter of fact, what is the economic repercussion of that integration?
GABRIEL MBAGA OBIANG LIMA
First of all, regarding our joining OPEC, we should have done that ten years ago, we have a saying in Spanish that ‘better late than never’. Because we were supposed to join OPEC when we were at the peak of production. And we usually know that during this production peak, you have high production, high construction, high revenues, and you think you are on top of the world. You don’t need nobody, you don’t need consultants, neighbours, nobody. You feel you are the king of the world. You forget that there are some people who already have some experience and can teach you something. So when the downturn is now coming, you realise that we were not that king, that smart, and so we started looking around, and we realised that we cannot just be going around asking for consultants, for banks, what we need to do is to go and sit down with other people who have been through that cycle.The experience has been amazing – next year will be our second year in OPEC –because we have been able to receive information that we could not get from the consultants, experience with other ministers, experts, or even Africa. So clearly, joining OPEC has been one the best decisions that we made.Maybe because of Information. OPEC is an organisation that enriched us with information, giving us a direct road for development. So, the answer is that, like I said, we should have joined it earlier and not just in 2017, but once more, it is better late than never. Now there is definitely going to be an important force for our next cycle of development.
« We own the largest methanol plant in Africa, one of the more colossal.We have a literacy rate substantially greater than the average in Africa, because of our major projects and training initiatives »
Let’s all agree that the economy of Equatorial Guinee was based on oil, Mr Minister. Today, with the ongoing downturn, the President of the Republic, H.E. Theodoro Obiang Nguema, has opted for economic diversification: What do you intend to do to keep your promise of economic emergence by 2020? In other words, what magic elixir do you intend to implement to drive Equatorial Guinea towards this goal in the nearest future among the leading countries? Do you have any strategy forward?
GABRIEL MBAGA OBIANG LIMA
Well, first of all, I think the downturn of oil price was a blessing to us and not a curse. I say this because eh… like I said, in Spanish we say, ‘’for every bad thing, there is one good thing that come in it’’. We were becoming over confident, we were coming into a situation whereby, when you have so much resources, you believe you can built the biggest buildings, you can buy the biggest cars, you can have the biggest programmes, so clearly, that imagination really overblown our projects, you know, what we wanted to do. So having the downturn gave us the opportunity to have a reflection on where to go next. The good thing that we did was that by 2020, the majority of the objectives where already achieved, especially infrastructure. The only key one not yet achieved, on which the government is still working is diversification. In Equatorial Guinea, we have achieved every single one. We have done infrastructure, we have done the socio with hospitals… we have invested in H.R., we have done the electricity, we have done the water projects… all of them have been done. But there is still a key in the economy on which everything depends, all our revenue is still oil and gas.Almost 90 per cent. So clearly, diversification is not just a role of the government, it is also the role of people, because when you develop a plan, it’s not just government that will have to execute it, but people also have to be involved. This can justify the importance of small and medium-size companies; the entrepreneurship, to be able to do all those businesses. Now what is the recipe for future generations; the recipe or the formula for the future generations is: Believing in oneself. Not just being constraint to the vision of a small or developing country etc. you have to have the high thinking; you have to think that whatever can do any country in the world, your country can do. When you have your people thinking like that, nobody can stop you. Right now, in Equatorial Guinea, we have the fastest built energy plant in the world. It was built in two years, ahead of time and budget; we have the biggest methanol plant in Africa; we have one of the highest – I will mention – literacy per capita in Africa and even a lot of the construction that we have done – and the development has be done- was not just to do a simple thing. We have built this one done by Bouygues, Probably one of the biggest water front built withmarble in the world. Almost 22 to 23 kms on marble, between Malabo and Bata; and as you can see, this is marble, not cement. So you can go there. We have done a lot of the construction then. But from the beginning, H.E Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo always said the same thing: “think that you are the biggest one, and once you think so, you will definitely be the biggest one in your head and in whatever you do, and this has always be a challenge and we don’t care how lesser” populations are, how small the resources are.What we think is; our heart is our heart, and I can tell you that H.E. the President has one of the biggest hearts, and that’s why we have made Equatorial Guineein the marble where it is.
Last question, with your permission, Mr the Minister; as far as Djibloho, the administrative capital to be is concerned, where are you up to? Is it just getting slack like other towns like Abuja and Yamoussoukro? Do you still have a feeling for Djibloho?
GABRIEL MBAGA OBIANG LIMA
I think the view of H.E. the president has been that, the government in the capital has to serve the people, and to be able to serve the people, you need to go to the people, not that the people come to you. We saw the example of Abuja, Yamoussoukro in Cote d’Ivoire, and we have done the same thing, but with one big difference: we do not have a permanent capital. So what happens is, you have Malabo, you have Bata and you have Djibloho. Malabo is the diplomatic capital. Bata is the economic capital and Djibloho, the administrative capital. In these three cities, the government rotates. A period of eight to nine months, from each one of them. We have been almost nine months here in Malabo. In January we will move to Bata for eight to nine months. Then after that we shall move to Djibloho. So what happens is that you don’t have a permanent capital, but you have a rotating capital, and this almost every year.This allows the government to be close to the people. So everybody can remain back, with awareness that every year, one capital is moving.
« With Bouygues, we have built on the marble probably the largest banks of the world.» Of about 22 to 23 km between Bata and Malabo. As you can see, this is the marble and no cement. We have really built this country, and as the president of the Republic has always said: «think you are the greatest, and once that in mind, you will be certainly, both your spirit in every thing you do».
« This has always been our challenge, in spite of the small number of the population or the amount of resources »
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