Interview: Régis Immongault Tatagani

What steps are needed to increase the manufacturing sector’s participation in the economy?

REGIS IMMONGAULT TATAGANI: The first element needed to initiate a successful industrialisation process is a thorough strategy. To that end, the focus has been on diversification of the local economy, hence diminishing an overreliance on the oil industry. Sectors identified as conducive to this goal are the mining, forestry, agricultural and fisheries industries. Today, the industry sector represents 6-8% of GDP; the goal is to increase its share to 30% by 2025. In that regard, the participation of the secondary sector and tertiary activities must be enhanced. Several factors must be taken into consideration, such as sustainable development, infrastructure and human capital. Furthermore, additional foreign direct investment (FDI) is needed to implement an effective industrial strategy; CFA17trn (€25.5bn) will be required by 2025. As the industrial phase can only happen with private sector participation, Gabon’s business environment must be improved. Recent studies show that Gabon is negatively perceived, but by reforming our administration and increasing competiveness, we expect to see quick results.

To what extent can the local mining industry capitalise on Gabon’s wide index of minerals?

IMMONGAULT TATAGANI: The mining sector currently represents 4% of GDP, mostly due to manganese exploitation. With more than 900 mineral occurrences, the sector has extraordinary potential. However, in order to capitalise on this potential it needs to be measured and production capacity must be developed. SRK Consulting is currently conducting research to assess the potential of the Belinga mine. In order to fully benefit from Gabon’s mineral resources, both smaller and major companies should be involved in the exploration and exploitation processes. A specialised strategy has been implemented for each mineral. For instance, utilising capacity in Moanda, 6% of manganese production there will be used to produce silicomanganese and manganese metal. Thanks to the Grand Poubara Dam, energy will be efficiently supplied to Moanda’s production unit. Further, COMILOG will soon be able to sell manganese on its own, directly on the local market. Iron ore production should start in Belinga in 2025. Gabon Steel, the national operator, will be in charge of the first transformation phase of iron ore. The second stage will be taking place in Port-Gentil, where gas is available. There is also potential at the Mabounie mine, where polymetallic deposits include tantalum, niobium, phosphate, thorium and uranium. As the latter two generate a lot of radioactivity, Eramet is currently developing a process to separate those two minerals. To that end, a pilot plant will be built Lambaréné in 2015.

How will the mining code encourage FDI inflows?

IMMONGAULT TATAGANI: The objective is to provide a fair and clear view of procedures and remove bureaucratic burdens. Private companies want to increase their profitability, and the government wants to capitalise on natural resources. While there is a minimum 10% state participation in every mining project, the state has implemented fiscal incentives such as eliminating value-added tax and Customs fees during the exploration process. The ultimate goal is to protect mining firms and their investments. The mining code is also expected to have different fiscal policies for projects of different sizes. For instance, the Belinga and Mabounie mines will be subject to different tax rates.

In what way can regional integration facilitate domestic industrialisation and exportation?

IMMONGAULT TATAGANI: The plan is to build a qualitative industry sector geared towards export. Undeniably, the local market is too small. Studies show a rise in middle-income earners in Africa, and there is higher demand for goods and services. In that sense, Gabon is well placed to provide its neighbours with a variety of finished products. Intra-African trade will play a major role in the future trade balances of our countries.