Gabon’s 2012 CAN effect

By Stéphane Ballong

Posted on Wednesday, 7 December 2011 16:30

With less than two months before kick-off, construction sites in Gabon are less hectic as workers put finishing touches to some of the country’s biggest sporting projects. And Libreville’s €370 million investment has benefited both local and foreign businesses.

Construction workers are moving to and fro, flattening pavements of future parking lots while tractors weave through mazes of equipment to provide the site with needed material. Work is in overdrive at the Stade de l’Amitié-Sino-Gabonaise, where the final of the joint Gabon-Equatorial Guinea African Cup of Nations will be played.

About 150 Chinese and 50 Gabonese workers are working day and night shifts at construction sites in Gabon’s biggest stadium. At the height of works, at the now 22 month old construction site, there were close to a thousand workers- about 750 Chinese and 250 Gabonese. Built by Shanghai Construction Group, the stadium’s construction saw the use of local labour instead of Small or Medium size enterprises.

The infrastructure was expected to be fully operational at the beginning of this month.

“The biggest projects have been completed, all that’s left are the parking lots, press boxes, electronic systems, ticket booths, and the landscaping,” said Thierry Boussillon, project director for the African Cup of Nations (CAN).

In other words, despite the delay, everything will be ready for the beginning of the competition.

This architectural jewel, capable of seating 40,000 people is, “a gift from the Chinese government to Gabon in the name of friendship that ties the two countries,” affirmed Henri Ohayon, the General Director of the National Agency of Major Construction (ANGT). A gift that will, nonetheless, cost Libreville some €37 million by the end of the competition.

That amount, financed by the ANGT, will essentially go into the polishing of the project. Libreville has called upon Evergreen, a South African company that worked on the stadiums for the 2010 World Cup, to beat the project into shape.

After holding its first match – a friendly match on November 10, 2011, between Gabon and Brazil where the Panthers lost 0-2 to the South Americans, the stadium’s lighting has been changed to conform to Fifa regulations. The stadium’s grass, which was much cause for concern during the match, will also be completely redone.

Created in February 2010 in partnership with American engineering company Bechtel, ANGT is charged with ensuring the smooth advancement of infrastructural projects ahead of CAN 2012.

Currently benefitting from good oil prices, Gabon is believed to have invested €370 million in equipment for the CAN through the agency.

“Globally, the initial budget was respected. Going over the budget in some areas has balanced out by saving in others,” explained Henri Ohayon.

Among the construction projects that overshot their targeted budgets was the €10.7 million refurbishment of the Leconi Palace Hotel in Franceville, which cost 2.3 million more.

Post CAN management of facilities

These massive investments have stimulated growth. From minus 1.4 percent in 2009, it shot to 5.5, percent last year, and should reach 4.2 percent this year. According to the African Development Bank growth is expected to reach 4.8 percent in 2012.

While everything is seemingly in place for the competition, the question of the infrastructure’s post CAN use lurks

They have benefitted from both Gabonese and Foreign businesses. Socoba, one of the main building and engineering companies in the country, won contracts alongside foreign companies like Colas and Ramez, to construct access roads to the Libreville stadium, as well as hotels and hospitals close by.

The whole neighborhood of Angondjé (north of Libreville) where the stadium is located is a construction site. The redevelopment is part of an infrastructure development programme planned for the next five years, for which the government intends to invest €8.7 billion. Socoba, created and ran by Gabonese-French Jean-Claude Baloche, was

put in charge of the construction of another big project ahead of the games- a second host stadium in Franceville (Upper- Ogooué Province in the south east).

Having received a near total make-over with a €76.2 million investment, the stadium can now hold up to 22,000 people as opposed to 8,000 before works began. The project was designed by 2G, a Gabonese law firm created in 2003 and directed by Serbian, Goran Gogov.

The two year Franceville Stadium project is more advanced than the work in Libreville. Works are almost done.

At that construction site, Socoba worked alongside with ETDE, a French local subsidiary, which is in charge of electricity, and Serbian company Amiga, which was charged with the installation of metal structures.

Kabi Group, another Gabonese business that benefited from the infrastructure programme, landed a 100 bed hotel construction deal as well as the building of numerous houses of over 50 rooms for the participating national teams.

Renovation and modernisation works have not been left out. The Omar-Bongo de Mvengué International Airport, 25km from Franceville, is being fully renovated with an additional presidential pavilion. The renovation, which also includes the extension and modernisation of the terminal as well as the landing strip, was co-financed by Gabon and the Islamic Development Bank. About €15 million was spent on this project.

While everything is seemingly in place for the competition, the question of the infrastructure’s post CAN use lurks. According to Henri Ohayon, contracts are being finalised to manage the projects and make sure they’re profitable. He also said that part of the Amitié stadium, which was supposed to be turned into offices has been converted into a three-star hotel and should be handed-over to a specialist.

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