Buba port project in Guinea Bissau re-launched using Angolan funds

5 November 2007

Bissau, Guinea Bissau, 5 Nov – The port of Buba in Guinea Bissau, a project initially planned by the Portuguese colonial authorities and later the soviet Union, is to be re-launched using Angolan funding, a move which clearly shows Luanda’s interest in the region.

The total investment outlined for the project is of US$500 million, which will be provided by Angolan private investors and in return they will explore the port and the bauxite mining business, at a time when international markets for raw materials are seeing record prices.

Export of bauxite mined in the Boé region, according to newsletter Africa Monitor, will be the responsibility of Angola Bauxite, and implies the existence of a large port at Buba, but the project also includes a component to get a return on the construction investment.

The project includes construction of a railroad linking Mali to Burkina Faso for transporting products to these hinterland countries can be carried out via Buba.

This component is causing some concern in Dakar and Abidjan, whose ports would have a significant competitor in transporting goods to outside the region.

Angola’s transport minister, André Brandão, who is also linked to the project, recently visited Abidjan, apparently with the aim of settling the Senegalese authorities, who had shown some apprehension, according to Africa Monitor.

The natural conditions at Buba – particularly the depth of its waters and width of its safe harbour – make it possible for the facility to receive large draught ships, as well as being geographically close to mining areas and large economic centers of Mali and Burkina Faso.

Africa Monitor said that Angola’s Minister for Public Works Higino Carneiro is heading up the project. The minister has traveled to Guinea Bissau regularly, the last time as part of the delegation accompanying prime minister Fernando Piedade dos Santos.

He also welcomed, over a period of less than a month, his Guinean counterpart Rui Araújo, to the Angolan capital.

The Saltinho hydroelectric dam, which is also linked to the port project, will make it possible to meet the energy needs of the main facilities.

Angola’s intention to promote a project of this size in Guinea Bissau is being seen as part of the country’s intention to boost its influence in West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea.

A first step in this strategy was made with the recent drive to re-launch the Gulf of Guinea Commission, and organization focused on economic cooperation, development and security, which will be headquartered in the Angolan capital.

Luanda has had a fundamental role in choosing the new executive-secretary Carlos Gomes, a native of Sao Tome and former director of the joint STP/Nigeria authority for oil development.

The inauguration ceremony took place in March, in the capital of Gabon, with the presence of Sao Tome president, Fradique de Menezes, but the main drive behind the re-launch of the organization, which since 1999 had shown few signs of life, was given by his Angolan counterpart.

Angola’s presence in Sao Tome is also clear through the large number of cooperation agreements between the two countries signed recently.

In the oil sector the Sao Tome and Principe national oil agency recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Angolan state oil company, Sonangol, in order to open up the way for a partnership between the two.

In transport, Angola’s Taag is part of the winning consortium of the privatization of the new Sao Tome airline, STP-Airways, which replaced Air Sao Tome.

TAAG is expected to start a route from the capital of Guinea Bissau, with the Guinean Transport minister saying that partnership negotiations between TAAG and Air Bissau were at an advanced stage.

At the end of March, Sao Tome and Principe received a visit from a delegation of Angolan businessmen, namely from the tourism and banking sector, with the stated aim of “assessing potential investments,” on the archipelago, which has said it is available for partnerships between companies form the two countries in the infrastructure and agricultural sectors.

The focus of Angolan economic agents on Portuguese-speaking countries is also seen by analysts as a way of dealing with excess liquidity, particularly of those in the oil sector.

Angolan state oil company Sonangol is particularly doing this, with expensive acquisitions in Portugal – first of all a stake in its counterpart Galp, after a 5 percent stake in private bank, Millennium BCP.

Last week, during a visit by Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos to Mozambique agreements were also signed in the areas of science and technology, higher education, energy, geology and mining, media, fishing, public works and corporate development.

President dos Santos publicly stated Angola’s availability to provide all of its “experience and knowledge” in the oil sector to Maputo, where exploration work is underway, and a new round of license concessions is being prepared. (macauhub)