Overview

  • Gabon is a central African country rich is natural resources. It is bordered by Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and the Republic of Congo to the east, and by the Atlantic Ocean to the west. With a population of 1.9 million over a surface area of 268,000 square kilometers, Gabon is a sparsely populated country with forests covering 85% of the territory.

    Gabon possesses one of the highest urbanization rates in Africa, with more than four in five Gabonese citizens living in urban areas. The capital, Libreville, along with 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, and the fertility rate in urban areas stands at almost four children per woman, against six in rural areas according to the 2012 Second Demographic and Health Survey conducted in Gabon.

    Political Context

    The Gabonese Democratic Party (Parti démocratique gabonais PDG) dominates the political landscape. Omar Bongo held the presidency from 1968 to 2009, and his son, Ali Bongo Ondimba, won the presidential elections in August 2009, against a backdrop of social crisis. The opposition boycotted the legislative elections in 2011, but competed in both the municipal and departmental elections held in December 2013, and the Senate election held 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 59.26%.

    Economic Overview

    Gabon is an upper-middle-income country. The fifth largest oil producer in Africa, it has experienced strong economic growth over the past decade, driven in particular by oil and manganese production. On average, over the past five years, the oil sector has accounted for 80% of exports, 45% of GDP, and 60% of fiscal revenue. However, as the country is facing a decline in its oil reserves, the Gabonese Government has based its new strategy on economic 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 – three products exported by the country – contributed to growth in the primary sector. Growth could rebound to 2.6% in 2018, driven by the non-extractive sectors, in particular agribusiness and the upgraded transportation 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.

    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 has 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 adopted by the Government to improve the business climate include the creation of a one-stop shop for investors; the adoption of a public-private partnership (PPP) framework, the creation of a domestic arbitration court, and the adoption of codes for hydrocarbons and mining.

    Moreover, Gabon must 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 further states that the social situation has deteriorated in terms of access to basic social services (e.g. health care, drinking water, and electricity) in 60% of the regions. In 2016, Gabon ranked 109 out of 188 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index developed by the United Nations Development Programme. On the basis of this report, Gabon undertook to improve its social policy by focusing on the following three objectives:

    • assist the most vulnerable populations (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 that Gabon needs to address, especially in the current context of lower oil prices, where an understanding of the social impact of the ongoing adjustments in the public sector is critical. Reliable data on poverty and income distribution are not available and the most recent national accounts date back to 2010.  Furthermore, the consumer price index is still based on a household consumption structure from a 2003 survey.

    Last Updated: Jun 01, 2018

  • World Bank Group Engagement in Gabon

    The Gabon Country Partnership Strategy (CPS), a joint International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and International Finance Corporation (IFC) strategy that is currently being implemented, was approved in 2012 and revised by the Board of Directors on April 4, 2016. The CPS and the proposed adjustments are aligned with the country’s strategic development plans, including the Plan Stratégique Gabon Emergent (PSGE). The strategy is based on three pillars:

    • governance and public sector capacity;
    • competitiveness and employment;
    • human development and a sustainable environmental policy.

    The World Bank will conduct another Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD) of the economic and social situation in Gabon in early FY19, with a view to preparing a new CPS.

    The World Bank is financing nine projects and a technical assistance mission in the forest sector, representing a net commitment of $480 million as of February 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).

    The World Bank regularly reviews progress made and lessons learned in order to assess project implementation progress 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 priority goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

    Last Updated: Jun 01, 2018

  • The World Bank Group contributes to Gabon’s development performance 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 the implementation of key reforms to improve the business climate and stimulate the development of small and medium enterprises.

    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 also 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 at enhancing the protection of biodiversity in selected forested wetlands on the Ramsar list, through increased 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 costs of communications services throughout Central Africa, and facilitates access to ICT.

    Last Updated: Jun 01, 2018

  • With a resident mission in the capital, 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: Jun 01, 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