Gabon – Home of the Free City

With approximately 85 percent of its total land being covered by rain-forests, Gabon, a Country in Central Africa is strategically nestled on the Gulf of Guinea. It’s home to 80 percent of Africa’s gorilla population; 50 percent of all remaining forest elephants in Africa; and thousands of species of birds, reptiles, mammals and plants that you can’t find elsewhere, indeed Gabon heavily endowed with unique flora and fauna. It’s Capital City Libreville, also known as ‘free city’ was the landing place for a ship of freed slaves in the 1800s. It was later in 1849 declared the city for the freed slaves.

Bordered by Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and The Republic of Congo, there is not much known about Gabon prior to European contact in the late 15th century, and this gives the country and air of mystery. Gabon is known for its beautiful and untouched beaches, which only adds to this fact. The 885 kilometres of Atlantic coastline are truly a sight to behold.

Gabon has a population of 2.1 million, with 86 % of Gabonese living in urban areas, it has one of the lowest population densities in Africa. It has unemployment rate of 19.5%, a risk rating of B and classified as an upper-middle-income country by the World Bank.

Gabon economic growth for past five years has mainly been driven by its heavy production of oil and manganese. It’s the Third largest producer of manganese in the world and the fifth largest oil producer in Africa. The oil sector accounted for 80% of exports, 45 % of GDP and 60% of fiscal revenue on average for the past five years (World Bank 2019). It’s also one of the largest exporters of raw wood in Africa and one of the world’s top 10 producers. Gabon’s cash crops are palm oil, cocoa, coffee, and sugar. They are also major exporters of timber. Its major imports are machinery (14% of total imports), boats (14%), electrical machinery (11%), and Poultry meat (6%) (ITC, 2017).

In 2018 Gabon’s GDP growth reached an estimated 2.0%, up from 0.5% in 2017 with a figure of $17.02 billion (IMF). Industry sector accounted for 45.47%, followed by Service Sector 42.65 %, Manufacturing 17.62% and Agriculture 5.27%. Gabon’s GDP per capita income is over four times that of most sub-Saharan African countries, making it one of the highest in the region. In the quest of diversifying its economy, the government has promoted the local processing of timber, palm oil, and manganese which has resulted in the growth of manufacturing sector, contributing 17.62 % to GDP in 2018 compared with 6% in 2012

Its public debt decreased to 58.4% GDP in 2018 from 62.7% GDP in 2017 mainly due to rapidly increasing of large investments, however, its high proportion of external debt is denominated in foreign currencies which remains a source of concern. Fiscal deficit improved from 3.6% in 2017 to an estimated 0.3% in 2018, largely through fiscal consolidation (AFDB)

On the Neil Economic Scale, the price of a can of Coke in Gabon is 400 XAF (Central African Franc) (R9.96) and the price of a liter of petrol is 693 XAF (R17.29). Inflation rate in Gabon is 2.8%.

For over 50 years Gabon had never experience a coup attempt until January the 7th 2019, when the military tried to overthrow the current President, Ali Bongo Ondimba. Bongo came in power in 2009, after the death of his father Omar Bongo who held the presidency for 41 years. The coup, however, was unsuccessful.

Gabon is currently facing serious challenges; Low reserves, low economic activity, infrastructure impediments, a small and vulnerable banking sector, and insufficient protection of vulnerable groups. However, In the context of the three-year extended arrangement under the Extended Fund Facility signed with the IMF in 2017, the government’s priorities for 2019 remain fiscal consolidation and structural reforms (Societe Generale,2019).