Tony, who was born in the UK, first came to Equitorial Guinea in 1997, doing work in the oil and gas sector where he met Marisol, an Equatoguinean. He later ended up at a company called SOGECO. The owners of SOGECO eventually decided to pull out of the hydrocarbons side of business.
However, Marisol and Tony saw an opportunity to approach SOGECO existing clients and start their own construction company focusing on the oil and gas sector. So in 2012 they officially launched Elite Constructions.
“We started from zero and had to build everything ourselves. Granted, we started out with some clients, but we still had to prove to them that we could do the job.”
“Our actual construction work has flatlined. There is no construction work on the oil side of things. None of the oil companies are spending money. Luckily we still have our labour supply business, which keeps us going, and we have also diversified outside of the oil sector. But hopefully the oil price will recover,” notes Tony.
They both agree that Equatorial Guinea offers numerous untapped opportunities for investors who have the required capital. “Equatorial Guinea doesn’t just have oil. It has got mineral reserves, it has beautiful coastlines – the place could be a goldmine,” says Tony, also highlighting potential in manufacturing and retail.
“Sometimes outside people have the wrong idea about the country, thinking, ‘Oh EG is this, EG is that – you can’t do this, you can’t do that.’ But people need to come and see the country for themselves and meet the right people – people who have already implemented their own business ideas. Talk to them, and then you can decide for yourself,” said Marisol.
“The Chinese are smart businesspeople and they know where to go to make money. Look at where the Chinese are here – they’re everywhere. This place has endless potential.” said Tony
“When I first came here, the airport was a tin shed. The airport road was like a dirt track. So when you think about how much has been done in the last 20 years, it really is unbelievable.”
Elite’s offices are situated next to the airport, where a Chinese contractor is currently building a new airport terminal, which is expected to eventually position Malabo as an air transit hub for the region. On my flights into and out of the country I was also struck by the large Chinese contingent on board.