JOHANNESBURG—South Africa, February 2022/ — Equatorial Guinea has emerged as a frontrunner on both the regional and continental stage. Backed by significant oil and gas reserves, the country has been ambitious in its plans to develop a competitive energy market.
Now, with plans to review its Hydrocarbon Law, Equatorial Guinea is focused on improving local company participation in the energy sector, with key factors such as asset transfer and regional supply chains driving development.
In an exclusive interview with members from the African Energy Chamber (www.EnergyChamber.org), H.E. Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons, Equatorial Guinea, provides insight into the government’s plans for 2022, the role asset transfer will play, and how the country is attracting investment in a capital competitive environment.
Please provide insight into the areas of focus for Equatorial Guinea’s energy industry this year.
Petrochemicals are a very important part [of Equatorial Guinea’s energy mix] because it will help development. Another part that is very important for 2022 is what I am calling other technology. I am talking about other technologies because I believe that in Africa, every country needs to evaluate the best renewable technology for them.
The other key part that is very important for 2022 is local content. We are going to start using and capturing all of our great people to go into the last important part of local content, which is asset transfer.
Excellency, when are you planning on taking on state-owned companies in energy?
The first thing that we need to do is to work on the Hydrocarbon Law because it needs to clearly state the responsibilities of the national company. If that national company needs to have two board of directors or an audit, it needs to be in the hydrocarbon law. The second thing is to reduce the bureaucracy and for it to be more efficient. We cannot have two national companies: one for oil and one for gas; we need to reduce costs and be more efficient.
Regarding the CEMAC forex regulations, what changes will Equatorial Guinea make to attract investors?
Now, I am comfortable saying that the regulations will be okay. Regulations are not going to hinder potential investors. I still believe that if CEMAC was a country it would be one of the most powerful countries in the world. We have everything. We have minerals, oil, gas, and youth. One of our problems is that our economies are not integrated. A lot of what we do is to try and integrate CEMAC.
With Equatorial Guinea’s exploration licensing round coming up, what is being done to attract independent American companies? What kinds of partners are you looking to attract with the licensing round next year?
Your question regarding the licenses and what we are doing to attract companies is very simple. We need to go to them. The minister cannot sit in the office and expect that companies will fly from Houston to find him. You need to go to Houston, to Paris, to London, to Beijing and different places. Ministers need to be better salesmen. This is what we will do in regard to the license round. We aren’t just going there saying this is the best license round and you can find a big elephant. We told them that we are the most efficient. Look at our history and our track record. If they come to Equatorial Guinea, they will be able to recover their investment in four years. We understand business, there is less hassle, and the risk is very low.
What is Equatorial Guinea putting on the table that is new to attract explorers and what is your outlook on OPEC?
There is definitely going to be a lot more buy-in and mergers of US companies working in Equatorial Guinea. Those are things that are going to be game-changers. We need fresh blood. This doesn’t mean that we are kicking companies out, but we need fresh blood in companies that are able to see the opportunity.
What is the future after His Excellency Mohammad Barkindo?
We are extremely proud of H.E. Barkindo and what he has done for Africa. I think the new Secretary-General will be very good for our continent. He understands Africa very well. He can do the same thing as His Excellency Barkindo to visit all the African countries.