Interview: Magloire Ngambia
In which non-traditional sectors do you see the greatest potential for increased capital flows?
MAGLORIE NGAMBIA: Gabon’s economic programme, as defined by the president, is mainly based on diversification. Beyond oil and mining, in the medium and long term it is important to attract the maximum amount of investment in sectors with high economic potential, such as forestry, agriculture, fishing and tourism, which are capable of significantly contributing to an increase in national wealth. Gabon has vast areas of arable land and a very fecund climate. With 800 km of coastline and fish resources at an estimated 230,000 tonnes, fishing also offers opportunities to investors in this domain. Tourism contains important niches, notably business tourism and the national parks. Gabon has also begun the construction of two special economic zones (SEZs) at Nkok and Port-Gentil. Another – designed to promote agro-industry – is planned for Haut Ogooué Province. The Nkok zone is mainly dedicated to wood processing, but the zone at Mandji Island (Port-Gentil) will be diverse, as it will receive investments from areas as varied as petrochemicals and information and communications technology.
What measures would improve the attractiveness of Gabon’s business environment?
NGAMBIA: Gabon is politically stable and has a favourable macroeconomic framework for investments. To reinforce this backdrop, the government has decided to improve the business climate with infrastructure initiatives. It was within this framework that the National Programme for Infrastructure Development was implemented from 2010. The programme concerns transport, housing, SEZs, telecoms, energy, education, health and more. The department for which I am responsible thereby has a very challenging task to realise this plan. We are conscious that the implementation of this agenda will boost foreign direct investment (FDI). The objective is not only to remove constraints on production, the exchange of goods and movement of people, but also to respond to strong social demand in sectors such as housing, water and electricity. The cost has been estimated at €19bn from 2012 to 2016. This effort will be shared between the government and the private sector through their own financing, FDI or public-private partnerships. Alongside these projects there are institutional initiatives, including the creation of the Agency for the Promotion of Investments and Exports, incentives such as the modification of our fiscal framework, reinforcement of the judicial system and land reform.
Has the African Nations Cup (Coupe d’Afrique des Nations, CAN) had any impact on development?
NGAMBIA: Hosting the CAN 2012 increased the country’s capacity to host visitors, through construction of high-standard hotel infrastructure and encouraging the training of staff in tourism services. It drew a significant volume of investment into the tourism and transport sectors, and to urban road improvement.
What can be done to improve the quality and the intermodality of transport networks?
NGAMBIA: The government is counting on private investment with regards to quality. In this context it is proceeding with the extension of Port of Owendo and envisaging the construction of a deepwater port at Mayumba and a new airport for Libreville at Andem. The government has also elaborated a plan for the implementation of an intermodal system, which has been taken into account in the National Programme for Infrastructure Development now under way.
How can Gabon best address the housing deficit?
NGAMBIA: Construction of social housing is a major issue, with the main difficulty being access to land, so we have begun to reform the sector to facilitate access to land titles. The government is also considering the acquisition mechanism for social housing, especially for the most vulnerable strata of Gabon’s population.
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