Interview: Régis Immongault Tatagani
Which processing industries look to have the most potential for new growth?
REGIS IMMONGAULT TATAGANI: Mining is the basis of industry in Gabon. In order for the sector to successfully emerge it is important to go beyond primary activities, such as raw material extraction and exports, and increase local mineral resource processing. The future of sustainable development depends on an attractive and dynamic mining sector. As industrialisation accelerates, it will benefit other sectors. Intensifying research is paramount for development. A geological map of mineral resources exists, but we need to bolster research capacity to determine reserves and potential.
What are the main changes to the Mining Code?
IMMONGAULT TATAGANI: The Mining Code, currently under review, is meant to encourage extraction, environmental protection, corporate social responsibility, local processing and other GDP-boosting added-value activities. The main changes include developing research and providing new concession terms. The code also highlights requirements for the government to participate in providing extraction data and information on its future spending. The government will have at least a 15% stake in the extraction of precious substances, such as manganese, gold, iron, and diamonds, and 10% for other minerals. The government can also purchase stakes of up to 20% of precious substances and 15% for others, at a fair price.
How is the National Infrastructure Plan going to be implemented over the coming period?
IMMONGAULT TATAGANI: This strategy was defined by the government with Bechtel/ANGT, and priorities are now being aligned with financial possibilities. The plan is to spend CFA5.9trn (€8.85bn) in the five years to 2016. There are financial mechanisms that can be implemented, such as using the state budget to finance specific projects, or engaging in public-private partnerships in energy, road, port and railway projects.
What are the most significant infrastructure constraints for processing industries?
IMMONGAULT TATAGANI: Industrialisation cannot be carried out without energy. Therefore it must be made available everywhere, and tariffs should be lowered. The second constraint is the port, as it is congested and does not have sufficient capacity. Costs of port-related activity are high, and this does not encourage the emergence of industry in Gabon. The railway also needs to be upgraded to accommodate increased transit from the development of forestry and mining activity.
How can consumption of local goods be increased?
IMMONGAULT TATAGANI: First, the products that Gabonese firms produce must be identified to see where local products can substitute imports. Our products need to be more attractive and competitive so they can replace imports, many of which are expensive.
Gabon has a comparative advantage in that it is an old mining and oil country; there is therefore a huge window of opportunity in oil and mining services. Related industries, such as the fertiliser plant in Port Gentil, can benefit from the use of gas, for instance. Companies like Total are launching or considering gas exploration and production projects. Total is developing a liquefied natural gas industrial unit, and Shell has similar ambitions. This also involves Green Gabon, as flaring has been banned and gas is being recovered.
How do you measure the interest of investors for the Special Economic Zones (SEZ)?
IMMONGAULT TATAGANI: The SEZs can attract economic operators. In Nkok we’ve chosen wood, where Gabon has great comparative advantage, which is why it is good to process locally and export. Other processing plants are to be opened in Nkok. A ferro-manganese plant, for instance, which will be complemented by a power station. The idea is to choose products that can attract economic operators seeking to produce goods that will be competitive in the international market.
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