Following, independence from France in 1960, El Hadj Omar BONGO Ondimba - one of the longest-ruling heads of state in the world - dominated the country's political scene for four decades (1967-2009). President BONGO introduced a nominal multiparty system and a new constitution in the early 1990s. However, allegations of electoral fraud during local elections in December 2002 and the presidential election in 2005 exposed the weaknesses of formal political structures in Gabon. Following President BONGO's death in 2009, a new election brought his son, Ali BONGO Ondimba, to power. Despite constrained political conditions, Gabon's small population, abundant natural resources, and considerable foreign support have helped make it one of the more stable African countries.
Central Africa, bordering the Atlantic Ocean at the Equator, between Republic of the Congo and Equatorial Guinea
petroleum, natural gas, diamond, niobium, manganese, uranium, gold, timber, iron ore, hydropower
Population - distribution
the relatively small population is spread in pockets throughout the country; the largest urban center is the capital of Libreville, located along the Atlantic coast in the northwest
French (official), Fang, Myene, Nzebi, Bapounou/Eschira, Bandjabi
LIBREVILLE (capital) 707,000 (2015)
- Conventional long form
- Gabonese Republic
- Conventional short form
- Local long form
- Republique Gabonaise
- Local short form
- Geographic coordinates
- 0 23 N, 9 27 E
- Time difference
- UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
Gabon enjoys a per capita income four times that of most sub-Saharan African nations, but because of high income inequality, a large proportion of the population remains poor. Gabon relied on timber and manganese exports until oil was discovered offshore in the early 1970s. From 2010 to 2016, oil accounted for approximately 80% of Gabon’s exports, 45% of its GDP, and 60% of its state budget revenues.
- External debt stocks
- US$ 5,097,295,000
- Total tax rate (% of commercial profits)
- Real Interest Rate
- Manufacturing, value added (% of GDP)
- Current Account Balance
- US$ 1,982,970,942
- Labor Force, Total
- Employment in Agriculture
- Employment in Industry
- Employment in Services
- Unemployment Rate
- Imports of goods and services
- US$ 3,849,574,079
- Exports of goods and services
- US$ 5,837,511,878
- Total Merchandise Trade
- FDI, net inflows
- US$ 623,890,439
- Commercial Service Exports
- US$ 119,518,118
cocoa, coffee, sugar, palm oil, rubber; cattle; okoume (a tropical softwood); fish
petroleum extraction and refining; manganese, gold; chemicals, ship repair, food and beverages, textiles, lumbering and plywood, cement
- crude oil, timber, manganese, uranium
- China 15.6%, Italy 7.4%, Trinidad and Tobago 7.2%, Australia 7.1%, Spain 6.4%, South Korea 5.5%, Netherlands 5%, US 4.8% (2015)
- machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, construction materials
- China 21.5%, France 19.7%, US 6.6%, Benin 4.7%, Netherlands 4% (2015)
- Country Risk Rating
- A very uncertain political and economic outlook and a business environment with many troublesome weaknesses can have a significant impact on corporate payment behavior. Corporate default probability is high.
- Business Climate Rating
- The business environment is difficult. Corporate financial information is often unavailable and when available often unreliable. Debt collection is unpredictable. The institutional framework has many troublesome weaknesses. Intercompany transactions run major risks in the difficult environments rated C.
- 5th largest oil producer in Sub-Saharan Africa: 2nd largest African timber producer; aiming to be the world’s leading manganese
- Work on economic diversification as part of the Emerging Gabon Strategic Plan
- Economy highly dependent on the oil sector
- Re-emergence of budget and current account deficits
- High costs of factors of production, linked with inadequate infrastructure (transport and electricity)
- High unemployment and endemic poverty
- Worsening political context
Activity continued to slow in 2016 under the impact of low oil prices, but increased spending aimed at alleviating social tensions ahead of the presidential election and foreign finance helped to some extent sustain consumption and investment. Investment levels however may have suffered as a result of the disturbances following the announcement, at the end of August 2016, of the re-election, disputed, of President Ali Bongo. Investments already made in the mineral ore and wood processing industries as well as those in the agriculture sector (palm oil and rubber) should however give a boost to growth as of 2017. Inflation moved higher in 2016, reflecting wage rises, but should remain under control in 2017.
The country is facing a gradual decline in its oil production as crude oil reserves are being depleted. Output has been in decline for almost twenty years and this is expected to continue into the foreseeable future, although improvements in extraction technologies and the discovery of smaller deposits are likely to slow the rate of decline. The collapse in oil prices and lower production have limited the government’s ability to invest and slowed the effort to diversify and modernize the economy undertaken by the government as part of the Emerging Gabon Strategic Plan (PSGE) launched in 2010.
There is work needed concerning the effectiveness of investments, together with a number of obstacles to growth that need to be cleared (unreliable electricity supply, inflexible job market and shortage of skilled and trained workers, and concerns around the security of contracts). Finally, the benefits of growth are far from being shared across all layers of society. Despite abundant natural resources and per capita income amongst the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, poverty remains endemic and unemployment high.
The public account surplus started to dwindle as of 2010 following the huge public investments made with the implementation of the PSGE. The budget fell into the red in 2015 as a result of the collapse in oil revenues, which forced the government to cut public spending. The continuing plunge in oil receipts in 2016, at the same time as spending was increased for the elections and the preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations (2017), led to a further deepening of the deficit. This should however stabilize against GDP in 2017 thanks to the slight recovery in oil prices. The public debt, whilst still at a moderate level, increased rapidly in recent years, rising from 19.7% in 2012 to 44% of GDP in 2015 as a result of a Eurobond issue and the depreciation of the CFA franc. There has also been a rise in its borrowing costs on the financial markets for Gabon.
In 2015, the country also recorded its first current account deficit in seventeen years following the collapse in oil exports (down to 77% of total exports) and this despite the contraction in imports linked with falling domestic demand and world commodity prices. Exports continued to fall in 2016, still suffering from lower oil sales which largely offset the increase in manganese and wood sales. In 2017, the current account deficit is likely to shrink slightly thanks to the slow rise in crude oil prices and the continuing expansion in non-oil exports.
The disputed re-election of Ali Bongo in August 2016 triggered violent confrontations between the supporters of the opposition candidate, Jean Ping, and security forces (two days of riots, deaths and hundreds of arrests). The Constitutional Court confirmed the victory of the outgoing president in September, which did not stop the European Union observers continuing to denounce the failings of the Gabonese electoral system. Calm has since returned to the country but its political landscape needs to be rebuilt as legislative elections planned for December 2016 have been postponed until July 2017. There is enduring social unrest, further fostered by the level of inequality and failings in terms of basic services. Finally, the long-term development of the country remains limited by governance shortcomings.