Published on 19 January, 2023

Gabon Advances Bilateral Ties with Equatorial Guinea During Presidential State Visit

Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of Gabon, met with his Equatorial Guinean counterpart, Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, during a state visit to the country, whereby the parties discussed advancing intra-African trade, regional integration and cooperation across the fields of security and energy.

Underpinned by ambitions to scale up regional cooperation in pursuit of socioeconomic development, Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of Gabon, has arrived in Equatorial Guinea for a series of high-level discussions covering various topics such as intra-African trade, regional integration and improving security and regulatory certainty as both countries target accelerated growth across multiple sectors of their economies.

President Ali Bongo Ondimba was received by Nguema Obiang Mangue, Vice President of Equatorial Guinea upon the Gabonese delegations’ arrival, and thereafter, engaged in high-level talks with his Equatorial Guinea counterpart, President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, with the aim of improving Gabon-Equatorial Guinean ties. As the voice of the African energy sector, the African Energy Chamber (AEC) commends the initiative taken by the Presidencies of Gabon and Equatorial Guinea and views this high-level visit as the start of a long and fruitful relationship between the Central and West African nations.

The state visit could not come at a better time for both Gabon, and its rapidly growing economy, and Equatorial Guinea, as the country takes strides towards becoming a regional energy hub. Gabon, for its part, has put in place an ambitious economic development plan, targeting long-term and sustainable growth on the back of energy diversification and maximization. Despite holding 3.68 billion barrels of proven oil reserves and 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas – producing on average 189,000 barrels of oil per day in December 2022 – natural declines in legacy fields and demand increases have made clear the need to ramp up exploration and production.

As such, the government has prioritized scaling up E&P activity through improvements in private sector participation and investment. Recent progress includes advances in frontier drilling such as the drilling of the first well in BW Energy’s multi-drilling campaign in the Hibiscus/Ruche development. As this development and many more unlock new production, Gabon is set to generate new supply across regional markets.

Meanwhile, with ambitions to become a regional Gas Mega Hub through the monetization of offshore resources across the domestic landscape, as well as the pooling of stranded resources across regional basins, Equatorial Guinea is kickstarting a new era of industrialization and intra-African energy trade. Currently, the country is in the final stages of negotiating a series of exploration contracts, with signings expected in the coming months and wells are being reconnected at the Zafiro project, while gas agreements have been signed with regional neighbors to the likes of Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana and others.

Stepping into this picture, the state visit aims to set the tone for improved regional integration, with discussions centered on advancing regional trade systems and improving regulatory efficiency. Specifically, top of the agenda was the Central African Pipeline System (CAPS) – an intra-African energy network aimed at establishing a regional market for energy commodities based on the creation of hubs and pipeline systems. Boasting 11 member countries, the CAPS comprises three multinational pipeline systems, with the second – the Central West Pipeline System – set to connect Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and The Republic of the Congo. During the state visit, the Presidents discussed the progress of the system and how it will help advance both Equatorial Guinea-Gabon relations as well as intra-African trade as a whole. Both Ministers Vincent de Paul Massassa, Minister of Oil, Gas, Hydrocarbons and Mines and Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons, held separate conversations with a mandate to fast track on going energy initiatives.

Additionally, as both countries target large-scale project developments and distribution systems, the Presidents discussed the need to improve policies and regulations associated with securing foreign investment, with focus shifting to improving legislative certainty associated with the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa. What’s more, the parties deliberated strategies for improving security across the sector, addressing key issues such as piracy and asset protection. By putting in place measures to combat hydrocarbon theft and vandalism, both countries are set to witness unprecedented growth across their respective energy markets.

“The visit conducted by President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon and President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea represents a milestone in the creation of strong, intra-African trade ties. Leveraging decades of established bilateral relations between the two countries, both the Gabonese and Equatorial Guinean Presidents are committed to strengthening relations even further, and this was made clear through the recent state visit to Equatorial Guinea. This is what Africa needs. Strong, regional ties to kickstart new opportunities for intra-African development,” states NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the AEC, adding that, “The AEC fully supports the efforts being taken by the respective Presidencies to forge new trade, energy and security ties.” Concluded Ayuk