Government INTERVIEW. Vicente Ehate Tomi, Minister of Transport, Technology, Posts and Telecommunications The maximum manager of transports and telecommunications of the country speaks to us about the principle objectives of his Ministry: diversification of road communication, expansion of maritime transport, full security of air transport, development and service of telecommunications ... aspects, all of which are indispensable for achieving the goals of Horizon 2020, which have evolved rapidly in recent years, because, in Equatorial Guinea, communications advance at full speed. SPECIAL REPORT: Building the communications of a country.

16/07/2010

Vicente Ehate Tomi (Malabo 1968) Minister of Transport, Technology, Posts and Telecommunications of Equatorial Guinea has the maximum administrative   portfolio of all the bodies and the country’s transport infrastructure, not only overland, but also air, sea and river transport. He is also primarily responsible for the development and operation of the telecommunications infrastructure, new technologies and mail.

 His department is, therefore, one of the most important so that the goals set in the objectives of the Horizon 2020 plan become a reality. And the process is fast and unstoppable, because as the minister himself reminds us, only fifteen years ago hardly a decent road was to be found in Equatorial Guinea. It has been in the last twelve years when the Government has provided funds for true reconstruction of the country's communications.  With these funds from oil they are building thousands of kilometers of new urban and interurban roads, huge investments are being made to modernize and adapt the airports and ports to the current  needs, and sophisticated infrastructures of the latest technology are being installed that will improve telecommunication networks at a national and international level.

 Diversification of Public Transport

 The development and diversification of public transport to provide full national coverage, upgrading and improving telecommunications and achievement of air security assurances are, for the Minister of Transport, the next priorities and goals to be reached. It is clear that these goals are also essential to Equatorial Guinea to go beyond being an emerging country in 2020, because if there are not good transport and telecommunications, industry cannot be developed, and neither can companies from different sectors or tourism, nor other economic areas that the country needs to be developed in the coming decades to remedy its dependence on oil.

 "Huge investments to diversify and multiply the transports are being made," says Vincent Ehate Tomi-"For example, in shipping, the objective is to expand the number of ships that currently connect the mainland with the island region. In overland transport, the thousands of miles of roads built in recent years will soon be covered by bus routes that will guarantee both the urban and intercity transport. We hope that by 2015 this service will be fully available.  We must bear in mind that until ten years ago in Equatorial Guinea there was not even a road infrastructure, we barely had cars, let alone buses."

"Today we still have the problem that there is  no private investment to build a highway, for example. For this reason the government is doing it all, and the control and running of highways and toll booths are managed by the Government  too. However, we are completely open to the entry of companies that build and manage these highways in the future."

 Multiple Offers to fly to Guinea

 One of the most complicated and important areas for the Ministry of Transport, Telecommunications and Posts is precisely air traffic: "The objective of the President, and the Equatorial Guinean government is to open up the country more and more. For this reason the companies that fly to Equatorial Guinea are steadily increasing. We currently have numerous offers on the table from Nigerian and Spanish airlines and other national airlines who want to begin to operate here."
 
Airport security and that of companies are matters that are being actively dealt with: "The Government is giving a lot of attention to our airports, with a huge investment to ensure that the terminals offer the international airport security guarantees. This week, in fact, we'll be speaking with two different delegations regarding specific aspects of this matter. I think this will allow us to overcome in very short time, the difficulties that we still have with the issue of security. "

 As for the national company, Ceiba, the Minister also tells us that the Government has worked hard to maintain in perfect conditions the four planes in the fleet, and are working to get all guarantees and security certificates so that soon the company can fly to Europe.

In this area, Vicente Ehate also refers to the discrepancies that his ministry has with the Spanish carrier Iberia, which for decades has been the main means of transport between this country and Europe through its flights to Madrid. Recently, the Ministry of Transport, Technology, Post and Telecommunications of Equatorial Guinea sent to them the Government’s  complaints and those of many of the passengers using this service, the majority of which referred to the fare, which not only is much more expensive than other places with higher mileage, but also other aspects such as the treatment of Equatorial Guinean passengers by the Iberia  employees compared to that accorded to other nationalities, which leads to continuous complaints and protests from passengers who feel discriminated.

 After posing to the carrier the need to improve some of these services, the Ministry has received virtually no response from them. Therefore, the Minister recently warned Iberia, that should it not attend any of their demands, the Government will eliminate two of their weekly flights that Iberia makes to Malabo: "As I said before, we have offers from many companies who now offer to fly to our country, which right now is a hub that moves many passengers, and as time goes on this will increase. We understand that a company above all seeks to make a profit. We do realize that Iberia was here in the most difficult times, and there were flights that took off with only one passenger, a point that the Government takes into account. But we are constantly receiving complaints from passengers of Iberia, mainly due to the contemptuous treatment of the Equatorial Guinean passengers. Money has no color, there can be no discrimination between the passengers of one or another country! The Government must do something about the complaints of its citizens. Moreover, the fares for flights from Madrid to Malabo, and vice versa have steadily increased to become almost abusive, and are much higher than those applied to other Iberian destinations. We've been in talks with Iberia for some time and hope to solve these problems, but if not, we will take action.

 Connecting with the Future

 Currently there are two telephone companies operating in the country: GETESA, with a participation of 70% of the Government, and Hits Telecom. The minister said that the entrance of new telephone companies at the moment is not a priority for the Executive in a country so small, but nevertheless, providing the best service for customers is a priority.

 "There is a network that connects all the provinces despite the problems, but major investments are being made to develop the transmission and improve the service. The project of submarine fiber optic cable is being carried out that will connect the two cities of the country, Malabo and Bata. In fact in a matter of days experts arrive to give a training course to a group of Equatorial Guineans on control and operation. This is a project that has cost a lot of money to the State and will   achieve a better flow of communication between the Island and the Mainland."

 "Apart from the fiber optic cable for the national connection, Equatorial Guinea is also participating in the project to communicate with the ACE consortium to extend another fiber optic cable that will link Europe to Africa. In Equatorial Guinea it will begin in Bata, and the connection will emerge further abroad   which will mean that telecommunications may be extended to the villages." This project, promoted by France Telecom-Orange will feature a 17,000 km length of cable that is expected to be operational as early as 2012 and that will connect no less than 23 countries.

 "With the speed that all these projects are being developed in this ministry, the goals they had set will surely be achieved beforehand." The minister also points out, that, as important as it is to achieve the objectives, is the dissemination of new technologies: "The computerization is a fundamental goal for the country, and we hope that within the space of two years we can all have computerized offices and ministries."

 For Vicente Ehate Tomi, the country's transformation in recent years is a real  miracle: the minister remembers how the cities of Malabo and Bata, along with the other towns and villages have completely changed their landscape, with new neighborhoods, new buildings, town halls, schools, all with roadways and lighting, public parks or land reclaimed from the jungle to build new housing or public facilities ... Especially interesting is his reference to Sipopo, a city, just few kilometers from Malabo, with the capacity to accommodate all delegations attending the African Union Summit 2011: "The work that’s being done there is just  spectacular, they are building a super highway making it accessible within minutes to all visitors, and communications will be of the highest quality. In fact it will be the first Intelligent City in all of Africa. All households will have televisions, computers, etc. controlled for all users ... Equatorial Guinea, under the direction of the President is preparing well for this event. "

 To the question of how he sees the future of Equatorial Guinea, Vicente Ehate Tomi has no doubt that it will be brilliant, and that the country is going to become an emerging country. "The government is studying how to develop the transport industry for the benefit of the population, but we must also think along the same lines about the human elements, of health, education, food ... so we are working with the same intensity in other areas such as agriculture, to be able to export and supply quality products to our people ... And the same goes for education, health ... We work hard to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Equatorial Guinea and with the progress in many areas, so fast and so important that I have no doubt that we will reach the goals of Horizon 2020. "

 

Interview:  Nuria Blasco

Equatorial Guinea’s Press and Information Office


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