Where government goes, private enterprise follows

Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons of Equatorial Guinea, H.E. Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, will address the Germany Africa Business Forum in Berlin next month. In his interview with GABF, the Minister gives us his views on German-African relations.

Why do you think that the time is right for German investment in Africa?

Africa’s growth over the last decade and a half has been phenomenal. Since 2010 overall economic growth has slowed and in the last two years oil producers have taken a hit, but at the same time our economies have become much more complex and Africa’s performance remains high in comparison to other regions.

European companies’ involvement in Equatorial Guinea and other nations has historically been closely linked to cultural and language ties. Germany, with a limited colonial history, is less familiar with our national cultures and her companies have been reticent to invest. These factors are now being superseded by new considerations. Consumer markets have grown enormously; our energy business has become far more sophisticated, now including wind and solar on a large scale; Africa’s infrastructure deficit is a more urgent priority than ever; and manufacturing is on the rise. In all of these areas we need international expertise. Germany in particular is seen as an ideal partner, and is now recognizing the opportunities on offer.

What do you think has held German companies back from investing in Africa to date?

For companies with no experience in Africa, working on the continent can seem like a leap. Equatorial Guinea has long experience working with international firms and has successfully welcomed US, Chinese, Indian, French and Spanish companies, ensuring that they can make good returns on their investments. German companies that now decide to invest in Africa will find that quality of corporate governance, education levels and support from local partners, and better overall security in many places, make the continent more attractive than ever.

Previously Germany has been a minor political actor in Africa, which has also kept investment at a low level. This is now changing, with Germany’s presidency of the G20 prioritizing Africa on a strategic level. I am confident that German government leadership will open the doors to increased private investment.

How can governments better promote opportunities for the private sector in Germany and African nations?

We are already seeing a powerful outreach by the German government to African heads of state. There is a recognition that with German technical expertise and capital, this is a relationship with great potential. Where governments go, private enterprise will follow. Public forums such as the Germany Africa Business Forum allow us to meet with German corporates and explain on a more detailed level the opportunities that exist. This is also a platform to cultivate partnerships that bring investment to our manufacturing, infrastructure, agriculture, energy and other key sectors.