Energy Opens Doors
This interview with César Hinestrosa Gómez, Secretary of State, Ministry of Industry and Energy Republic of Equatorial Guinea was originally published in the Africa Energy Series: Equatorial Guinea book.
What do you consider the biggest achievements in energy to date?
The biggest achievement in the energy sector has been the growth of production capacity. It has been the greatest challenge that the government has been able to overcome. In the past 10 years, the production capacity of the country has grown exponentially. Energy encourages the industrial sector and exports and all this energy should be destined for that. The development of the energy sector shows the development of a country.
Which energy sector developments are particularly interesting right now?
In terms of the petroleum sector, we are working on processes in order to use energy more efficiently. We want to complete the current projects and at an industrial level, we are working on the necessary legal framework in order to encourage growth. There are some important projects to be done in terms of laboratories and quality control. We are paying close attention to this. You cannot develop industrially without the facilities of this kind.
What are the competitive advantages of Equatorial Guinea and what projects are most attractive for investors?
The first competitive advantage is the peace and tranquillity of the country. It is very important in order to develop any kind of activities. This is a small country with plentiful sources of raw materials to be produced and manufactured. If we could develop this, the potential is huge. We are in a country where you could throw a mango seed onto the road and it grows. That is an advantage. We still have a way to go in terms of legal terms and we are currently working on this. Good industrial development allows you to add value to raw materials.
For investors, the problem is that the power sector is not privatized here, which makes energy sector projects unattractive to investors, in that they cannot fully engage in the sector. A company might come and install a solar energy system, but the state owns and operates it. In other countries, the investor comes, starts a plant and sells the energy. The energy sector opens doors to all other sectors. Energy security and good prices attract projects and developments.
What are the next necessary steps in the long term?
Once capacity has been reached, we should look at energy efficiency. We need to save energy, make it cheaper and use it intelligently. We need to incorporate adequate mechanization and automation systems and that requires investment. This is the future of energy in the country. Energy efficiency has to be the top priority. Even if we invest in renewable energy, we will still depend on non-renewable energy. The population grows very fast and it will keep on growing.
By the year 2050 there will be an estimated 2.5 billion African people. Population growth will be a huge challenge, as will supplying all sectors with the power they need. We will reach a point where we cannot meet capacity and we will have to work on efficiency.
At an industrial level, the main challenge is to diversify the economy. We cannot depend that much on the oil sector. There are two main objectives. One is at a micro level, to encourage local industry for local consumption through local investors. Another is to be able to attract foreign investors so that at a macro-industrial level we can produce things in this country that can be exported. We are already on our way in terms of framework and regulations. There is no industrial culture in Africa. There has not been an industrial revolution. We have had to adapt continuously to global movements, but this will change.
Are there any projects in place to educate the population about electricity?
Apart from the educational projects and programs that we could implement, it is important to create habits and customs. For example, with an intelligent meter at home, if you do not pay your bill, you do not have electricity. It has happened to all of us. You learn and you understand the value of the commodity and get into the habit of paying bills and being more efficient. Previously, a one megabyte computer would use a whole floor, now you have gigabytes in a phone. We have gotten used to change and progress. We know that we have to pay our phone bill in order to use the device. Society imposes, sooner rather than later, that we will have to be efficient with electricity.
What is your summary of Equatorial Guinea’s greatest achievements up to the present day?
Peace is the greatest achievement of our government and our country. We should take off our hats to the President for this. It is a very difficult thing. Africa is complicated. Moreover, we have monetized the resources in the hydrocarbons sector. It has been exemplary. Thirdly, the investments in infrastructure have also been a great achievement. I would highlight these three points in the past 50 years.