afrol News, 15 November - Gabonese authorities have managed to secure investments worth a total of US$ 1.7 billion from Singapore, including a new fertilizer plant to be set up outside Port Gentil and palm oil plantations.
The announcement was made today by the office of the President of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba. President Bongo had been on a four-day official visit to Singapore to "strengthen economic ties" and to "help the modernisation and diversification of the Gabonese economy."
"The climax of the visit was on Saturday 13 November when two deals were signed between the Republic of Gabon and Olam International Limited, a Singaporean multinational and leader in the agro-food sector," the statement said. "The contracts are worth more than 1.7 billion US$ and will create 21,000 jobs," it added.
The first contract, representing an investment of US$ 1.5 billion, concerns the construction of a fertilizer production plant in the free trade zone of the Island of Mandji in Port Gentil. This investment was to mark the "real launch for the Mandji free trade zone and should allow a real diversification of Port-Gentil's regional economy," which currently relies on a diminishing oil exploitation.
The factory was set to occupy an area of 120 hectares and to produce up to 1.3 million tonnes of urea per year. 300-400 direct jobs and around 1,500-2,000 indirect jobs were planned. The construction of the factory was set to begin in April 2011 and last for a period of 36 to 42 months, employing 4,000 people.
"This represents the largest investment deal signed in the whole of the West African-Central African zone, by means of a joint venture between the Gabonese Republic, which will hold 20 percent of the capital, and Olam, who will be an 80 percent shareholder," according to the Libreville presidency.
Government hopes this development project would bring a high added value to the Port-Gentil region, "with around US$ 500 million generated per year," as well as the construction of a certain amount of infrastructure to accompany the fertilizer plant, including roads, a power plant and a new deepwater port.
The second contract signed by President Bongo in Singapore concerns the first phase of a global contract for cultivating palm oil, announced in August 2010. The first phase, which is estimated to begin in February 2011, was to involve a US$ 236 million investment to establish 50,000 hectares of palms in the centre of the country.
"These 50,000 hectares of palms should allow the production of 280,000 tonnes of palm oil per year and the creation of a total of 14,000 jobs" according to the presidency. 30 percent of palms would be held by local farmers.
Government calculates that this new palm oil development project would generate an additional US$ 300 million a year for Gabon, "with the eventual creation of a palm-oil refinery in Gabon." 300,000 hectares of palms would eventually be planted, "which will make it the largest palm grove in Africa." Rubber plantations would also be planted in the second phase of development.
"The development of palm oil cultivation is also part of a drive to diversify the Gabonese economy, with an emphasis on agriculture," according to the Libreville presidency.
As the contracts were signed, President Bongo declared that Gabon "is an attractive country for foreign investors in industries other than the traditional sector of petrol and gas. We welcome the investments made by Olam jointly with us that will bring real added value to the exploitation of our natural resources and therefore will help us to fully realise the economic potential of our country."
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