Visit to NKOK GSEZ & Centre D’exposition – Gabon Wood Hub

Gabon Special Economic Zone (GSEZ) SA is a successful Public Private Partnership project between Olam International Ltd (Singapore), Africa Finance Corporation and Gabonese Republic, Africa. Gabon is fast emerging as the West Central Africa’s manufacturing hub and they welcome entrepreneurs from across the globe to benefit from the business opportunities unlocked by SEZ at Nkok. SEZ at Nkok currently has investors from 17 nationalities and foreign direct investment expected is more than USD$ 1.7 billion. Out of the total 146 investors in the SEZ, 54 are from India.

In month of June 2018 GSEZ had organised a successful GABON WOODSHOW in Libreville, Gabon for which our publications Modern Woodwork INDIA & GULF were” International Media Partners”. We, namely the Editor & Publisher availed this fabulous opportunity to visit and cover the very first edition of Gabon Woodshow 2018 , at Libreville , Gabon in June 2018.

On first day of Gabon Woodshow2018 , we were invited to visit the NKOK SEZ, Libreville GABON to study the facilitiesand to observe the business prospects at NKOK that are offered to ease the procedures for the entrepreneurs in Timber based Industries and the various facilities are provided to setup business in Gabon. We were driven to the NKOK SEZ.

We had already read about the economy and the industrial growth of Gabon and we knewGabon is one of the fastest growing economies among all African countries. Still we were amazed to actually witness the infrastructure created in the Gabon Special Economic Zone .

NKOK SEZ – Amazing Infrastructure: One Window Service
The entrance of SEZ is very impressive and Free shuttle buses are available for the workers and staff to reach their respective factories. The roads areof very goodquality,withoutany potholes.

Immediately after the security check there is this building of One Window Service for all the factories, [mentioned by many Gabon Exhibitors in their interviews with Modern Woodwork]. Here all the clearances are done at one place only. The Entrepreneurs who apply to establish factories in GSEZ get all the required information and clearances for exports / imports / container handling and for other Government formalities in very short period and at one place only, under the roof of One Window Servicebuilding.

The factories in NKOK are allotted the required volume of the timber for processing -mostly for peeling veneers and for making furniture. This vast industrial estate is located nearest to the forest from where the timber is sourced. Most of the peeled veneers are exported all over the world. OKOME woodspecies, widely available in Gabon forests , is suitable for making face veneer and is well accepted in the world market. The veneers are peeled in thickness of 0.2 mm to 0.9 mm. Right now few companies are in the installation stage for the manufacturing of Plywood and furniture.

Apart from OKOUME There are other hard wood species like Padook available in Gabon and these are used for making Furniture for local market. At present there are about 105 active factories out of which about 80 factories are producing veneers.

Inauguration Centre D’exposition -Gabon Wood Hub:
Centre D’exposition -Gabon Wood Hub is a huge common display area with halls arranged in attractive fashion was made available by GSEZ for the Furniture factories in NKOK SEZ . They can display their wooden products there which is a sort of permanent Exhibition so that visitors and the overseas clients can have a look at the entire product range easily. This Centre was inaugurated on 10th June by Honorable President of Republic of Gabon H.E Ali Bongo Ondimba. We had the privilege to attend this elaborate opening ceremony on 10th June 2018.

Inauguration Centre D’exposition -Gabon Wood Hub: at NKOK, GSEZ
Inauguration Centre D’exposition -Gabon Wood Hub: at NKOK, GSEZ

Names & Designations of Dignitaries present at the inauguration ceremony:
Left to Right Front row:

  • Gagan Gupta, PDG Olam/GSEZ
  • Ali Bongo Ondimba, Honourable President of the Republic of Gabon
  • On their left side, Investors
  • On their right, Workers of the Special Economic Zone

Left to Right Second Row:

  • Just behind the President, Norman Chng, Director of GWI
  • Emmanuel IssozeNgondet, Prime Minister of Gabon
  • Jacques-Denis Tsanga, Minister of Water and Forestry of Gabon
  • And the other people are workers

Wonderful Display & Variety of Furniture:
The Furniture Display / Exhibition was wonderful with very good wooden furniture products made by several Factories in GSEZ. The use of hardwood gave a rich look and feel to the furniture products. The variety of furniture that was exhibited was quite impressive in quality and was also well designed.

High Quality Furniture from Gabon
High Quality Furniture from Gabon

Our Observations: Furniture displayed in Gabon Wood Hub:
After watching meticulously the furniture displayed, I personally felt that the Gabon high quality timber should fetch premium price in the international market and to achieve it, with due respect to the Gabon furniture makers, I would like to suggest that there is lot of scope for improvement that will add real value to the products.

Measures such as improvement in joinery, avoiding the use of nails, improving quality of surface finishing/ joinery etc will take the furniture to the next level to match with European surface finish and will certainly draw better price also in international market.

High quality furniture in Hardwood
High quality furniture in Hardwood

Avoiding The Use Of Nails: Modern Techniques for nail-free woodworking
The use of nails makes the joinery fast but it also takes the product to a lower level of value addition in spite of using a very rich grained timber. Using metal in joinery is an old technique which is time barred now . Today’s good machines and techniques that are available will totally eliminate the use of nails without affecting the strength if the joinery. Regarding Joinery techniques- the gaps in joinery call for additional putty filling – sanding work which becomes a totally manual work and can easily be avoided by using modern joinery techniques .A perfect joinery without gaps and without nails will take these very beautifully patterned wood products having rich grain patternto a high value addition with just little efforts and precautionsand by adopting modern methods.

Furniture manufacturing for exports using the hard wood species available will be a good business proposition in Gabon. This will value add to the furniture in great measure . Perhaps with design inputs from International designers from Italy this type of furniture will attract a huge demand in the international market.

Nail free joinery
Nail free joinery

Surface Finishing is the only process for imparting the highest value addition to the product. We can adopt various types of finishes like Natural Oils, Natural Waxes, Lacquers, Polyurethane finishes and Polyester finishes etc. With proper procedure for surface finishing and selection of abrasive papers we can get International quality finish that will not only add value to the products but also give a lot of pride and satisfaction to the manufacturer and that is priceless.

Superior Finished Furniture
Superior Finished Furniture

A Million Dollar Opportunity

Lot of waste material is generated in various factories like veneer waste – timber waste – saw dust etc. This timber has taken decades to grow and we should utilize every part of it to justify the harvesting it. We can convert all types of wood waste in beautiful wooden products on very large. So here lies a million dollar opportunity in wood waste conversion. We can produce veneer collage, decorative panels and gift items from veneer waste. We can produce small gift items like key rings- and bigger items such as jewelry boxes, wooden pen-drives, wooden pen sets, toys, laser cut products and decorative wall panels from wood waste.

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