Overview

  • Gabon is a central African country rich in natural resources. Located on the Atlantic Ocean, it borders Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and the Republic of Congo. With a population of 2 million (2017), Gabon is a sparsely populated country with forests covering 85% of its territory.

    Gabon has one of the highest urbanization rates in Africa; more than four in five Gabonese citizens live in urban areas. The capital, Libreville, and Port Gentil—the economic capital of the country—are home to 59% of the population. One in two Gabonese citizens is under the age of 20, with the fertility rate in urban areas at almost four children per woman against six in rural areas, according to the 2012 Second Demographic and Health Survey.

    Political Context

    The Gabonese Democratic Party (Parti démocratique gabonais PDG) dominates the political landscape: Omar Bongo held the presidency for 41 years (1968–2009), and his son, Ali Bongo Ondimba, won the presidential elections in August 2009, against the backdrop of social crisis.

    The opposition boycotted legislative elections in 2011, but later competed in municipal and departmental elections in December 2013 and in the Senate election in December 2014. Still, all these elections were won by the party in power. On August 31, 2016, the incumbent president, Ali Bongo, was re-elected in controversial elections marked by a fairly low voter turnout of 59%.

    Legislative and municipal elections were held in October 2018. The ruling party—despite losing 15 seats—maintained its two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, winning 98 of 143 seats. The elections followed an April 2018 constitutional court ruling that dissolved parliament (because elections had been postponed for too long) and forced the government’s resignation in May. A caretaker government has taken measures (contained in an amended 2008 Finance Law) to address slippage in Gabon’s macroeconomic performance and contain Its bloated wage bill.

    Economic Overview

    Gabon is an upper-middle-income country. The fifth largest oil producer in Africa, it has had strong economic growth over the past decade, driven by its production of oil and manganese. The oil sector has accounted for 80% of exports, 45% of GDP, and 60% of fiscal revenue on average over the past five years. However, as the country is facing a decline in its oil reserves, the Gabonese government has based a new economic strategy on diversification.

    Gabon’s fiscal position worsened in 2015, with the country recording a fiscal deficit for the first time since 1998. Despite the government’s attempts to rein in expenditure and offset the decline in oil revenue, Gabon’s economy stalled in 2017 and was projected to grow by 0.6% compared to 2.1% in 2016.

    This trend is attributable to limited expansion of the secondary and tertiary sectors, impacted by the decline in public expenditure. However, higher prices for crude oil, manganese, and rubber—exported by the country—contributed to growth in the primary sector. Growth could rebound to 2.6% in 2018, driven by non-extractive sectors like agribusiness and upgraded transport and communication networks.

    A more favorable trade balance has facilitated ongoing balance of payments improvements. Debt is projected to remain steady and sustainable in 2018 (59.1% of GDP excluding payment arrears) before declining in 2019.

    The government has launched an audit of the public service payroll: its initial steps included the decision to pay civil servants with vouchers and to carry out physical-presence checks to identify ghost workers. The cabinets of the President and the Prime Minister have reduced their staff by 40%. The government also extended the hiring freeze for another three years—except for social sectors. 

    Development Challenges

    The poor quality of Gabon’s business climate is a major barrier to the diversification of its economy. Gabon ranked 167 out of 190 countries in the 2018 Doing Business report: The government’s strategy for the promotion of non-oil sectors has so far been based on the granting of specific incentives to foreign investors. A recent World Bank policy note highlighted the importance of improving human capital, building a fair and transparent business environment, and improving the quality and cost of core infrastructure—three critical building blocks for economic and export diversification. Recent measures to improve the business climate include a one-stop shop for investors; a public-private partnership (PPP) framework; a domestic arbitration court; and codes for hydrocarbons and mining.

    Gabon must also boost its social expenditure: A 2013 McKinsey report suggests that about 30% of the population remains vulnerable, living with monthly incomes below the guaranteed minimum wage of CFAF 80,000 (approximately $150). The study states the social situation has deteriorated in access to basic social services (health care, drinking water, and electricity) in 60% of the regions. In 2016, Gabon ranked 109 out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index developed by the United Nations Development Programme.

    On the basis of this, Gabon undertook to improve its social policy by focusing on the following:

    • assist the most vulnerable (the elderly, orphans, the disabled), through integrated social programs;
    • help low-income people develop income-generating activities; and
    • reduce inequalities in access to basic public services. Although the enrollment rate of 96.4% is one of the highest in Africa, the Gabonese education system continues to have a high repetition rate and a low primary completion rate (37.2%).

    The weakness of the national statistical system is another challenge Gabon needs to address, especially in the context of lower oil prices, where an understanding of the social impact of adjustments in the public sector is critical. Reliable data on poverty and income distribution are not available; the most recent date back to 2010. The consumer price index is still based on household consumption from a 2003 survey.

    Last Updated: Dec 03, 2018

  • World Bank Group Engagement in Gabon

    A New Country Partnership Framework is in its initial stages of preparation. Two key pillars were: promoting diversified growth and competitiveness; increasing the efficiency of social programs; and strengthening social protection. The Bank is currently preparing the Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD) that will provide the foundation for the CPF in FY19. Broad consultations took place in September. The SCD will be finalized by November 2018 and the CPF CN Review is planned for December. Gabon is an IBRD country and its recently updated exposure limit is $570 million. The DPO series cannot be accommodated under the current limit, and the team intends to request a reallocation.

    The World Bank is financing 10 projects, representing a net commitment of $681 million as of September 2018:

    • The regional Central Africa fiber optic Backbone project (CAB 4);
    • The Investment Promotion Competitiveness Project (PPIC);
    • The Infrastructure and Local Development Project II (PDIL);
    • The E-Gabon project;
    • The Gabon Statistical Development Project;
    • The Access to Basic Services in Rural Areas and Capacity Building project;
    • The Skills Development and Employability Project;
    • The Sustainable Management of Critical Wetlands Ecosystems Project (PAZH);
    • The Wildlife and Human-Elephant Conflicts Management in the south of Gabon project (geFaCHE[A1] ).
    • Fiscal Consolidation and Inclusive Growth

    The World Bank regularly reviews progress made and lessons learned to assess project implementation and propose adjustments to the World Bank Group’s program and engagement in Gabon. This review aims to readjust the strategy in accordance with changes in the country context, draw lessons from programs that have been implemented, and reaffirm the World Bank’s stated goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

    Last Updated: Dec 03, 2018

  • The World Bank Group contributes to Gabon’s development in the following sectors:

    Promote investment and competitiveness

    An $18 million loan from IBRD was approved in March 2014 to help the Gabonese government promote its country as a sound destination for foreign investors. The project supports key reforms to improve the business climate and stimulate the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

    Improve local infrastructure

    The local infrastructure project is a $100 million-funded project that seeks primarily to increase access to basic urban services for people living in poor neighborhoods. The project will enhance the management capabilities of municipalities and develop local private SMEs.

    Support sustainable management of critical wetlands ecosystems

    An $8.47 million grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) aims to increase the protection of biodiversity in selected forested wetlands on the Ramsar list, through knowledge creation and the development of conservation measures for sustainable wetlands management.

    Modernize Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

    The $58 million Central Africa fiber optic Backbone Project became effective on March 6, 2013. It supports the expansion of Gabon’s broadband network, helps reduce the cost of communications throughout Central Africa, and facilitates access to ICT.

    Last Updated: Dec 03, 2018

  • With a resident mission in Libreville, the World Bank Group is one of Gabon’s leading development partners. The country’s other main partners are China, the European Union, the African Development Bank, and the UN.

    Last Updated: Dec 03, 2018

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LENDING

Gabon: Commitments by Fiscal Year (in millions of dollars)*

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments


PHOTO GALLERY

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Additional Resources

Country Office Contacts

Main Office Contact
Immeuble Libreville Business Square (LBS) ex GML
BP 4027
Libreville, Gabon
+241 01 79 49 00
+241 01 74 96 05
For general information and inquiries
Odilia R. Hebga
Communications Officer
Yaoundé, Cameroon
+237-2-22-50-80-45
ohebga@worldbank.org
For project-related issues and complaints
gabonalert@worldbank.org