What is the scope of PetroGabon's operations? What new initiatives are you involved in?
BIKALOU: PetroGabon is a privately owned Gabonese company involved in the downstream market with the distribution of oil and gas products. PetroGabonâ€™s market share in Gabon is around 35%. Our proceeds for last year were $200m. Our projects for the future are mainly in logistics. We are working to improve our logistics by truck, by bus and by boat. Weâ€™re also going to improve the countryâ€™s storage capacities. We have some subsidiaries. One operates in the construction business and builds our, petrol stations. Further, we intend to move from our downstream business, to the upstream markets well. We are looking for new partners in the upstream business to improve our prospects and increase national production. PetroGabon owns 12% of the shares of the national oil refinery. It is not necessary for us to invest in refining. In addition to being the CEO of PetroGabon, I'm the President of the Chamber of Commerce of Gabon. We are currently looking for new investors in our country because our Head of State has a program to move Gabon from a 3rd world state, to an emerging state by 2025. To achieve that, we need to have a great deal of investments in our country. Our countryâ€™s main sector is oil and gas. There is opportunity for growth and investment in mining and infrastructure. When I say infrastructure, Iâ€™m talking about improving our roads and airports network. We also have the objective to increase our national production and to sell our products to our neighboring countries. Our laws are also very attractive for investors. We are building a new economic zone with special incentives for new investors.
How much does the energy sector contribute to the economy and what growth potential do you see for energy?
BIKALOU: The contribution of the oil sector to our GDP is more than 60%. The aim for the state is to reduce the size of the contribution of the oil sector to GDP in percentage, while at the same time increasing our oil production.
What are the main challenges that you face in the energy sector?
BIKALOU: One of the challenges for us is the fact that we are close to Nigeria and Angola, the biggest producers of energy in Africa. Our region is rich with oil. Our goal is to massively increase our production of oil in our country. We are also in a good area for mining. Until today, we have only produced manganese, but we have a lot of potential in the mining sector. It could be a good opportunity for new investors in our country.
In terms of the growth and development of PetroGabon, where do you see the company going in the upcoming 3 to 5 years?
BIKALOU: Our intent is to be the best company in its industries. Right now we are the second largest energy company in Gabon with 35% of the market. We are working to be the number one in the downstream market. It is challenging. We are confident that by improving our upstream activities in the oil business, and by increasing our mining business, we will get there. We know our country and have the required local experience. We need to build partnerships with foreign investors to increase the amount of investment in Gabon. With regards to our efforts to increase investment in our country, the government is looking to forge more public-private partnerships. The government is looking to form three-way partnerships: a foreign investor with strong financial capacities, a local company familiar with the environment of the country and lastly, the state.
What is the current economic relationship between Gabon and the Middle East and how are you working to improve that relationship?
BIKALOU: Currently our intent is to strengthen our relationship with the states of the UAE. Gabon is a member of the CEMAC (Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa), a regional organization. By investing in Gabon, investors will have better access to the southern African market, including Cameroon, Congo, Chad, South Africa, and so on. It will become easier to enter those markets via Gabon.
The contribution of the oil sector to our GDP is more than 60%. The aim for the state is to reduce the size of the contribution of the oil sector to GDP in percentage, while at the same time increasing our oil production.
How significant is the private sector to the economy of Gabon?
BIKALOU: The weight of the private sector is very important in our country. Interestingly, we have a strong relationship with France because we are a French speaking country. Our intent is to diversify our partnerships. We are looking for new partners from English speaking countries to expand the scope of our business dealings.
What is your general economic outlook for Gabon?
BIKALOU: Our head of state wants to move Gabon to be an emerging economy by 2025. Itâ€™s an important target for us and there are many things that need to be done. For example, right now we export only raw materials and crude oil. We want to transform our economy to add value to our raw materials before exporting them. This will add greatly to the development of the economy of Gabon. In addition, we are focusing on the environment. Gabon is a part of the Congo forest environment. We are the second largest oxygen-producing region in the world. It is also important for us to develop sustainable activities across our country related to the environment. In the area of eco-tourism, we see a great deal of potential. We are extremely lucky to have such a beautiful environment and forests in particular; weÂ mustn'tÂ waste our beautiful environment and therefore we encourage responsible eco-tourism. The areas where I see a great potential for growth are in the industry, agriculture, and environmental sectors.
Why should investors come and make Gabon their gateway to the region?
BIKALOU: In Gabon, we offer stability. For investors, stability is important. We are also very open to foreign investors. Regarding the land dealings, Gabon has favorable conditions.