Located in Central Africa, Gabon boasts a wealth of natural resources. With a coastline on the Atlantic Ocean, it is bordered by Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Congo. Despite its vast, mainly forested surface area, Gabon only had 2.3 million inhabitants in 2021.
Gabon's level of urbanization is one of the highest in Africa, with over 80% of its population living in urban areas. The two main cities, Libreville and Port-Gentil are home to almost 59% of the population. Youth is a distinctive feature of its demography: half the population is under 20, and while the fertility rate in urban areas is four children per woman, it climbs to six in rural areas.
An ecological pioneer, Gabon actively protects its tropical forest, making it a net carbon absorber and championing carbon neutrality initiatives. Its diverse ecosystem offers fertile soils, abundant coastal resources, and fisheries. However, despite its economic potential, the country is struggling to translate its wealth of resources into sustainable, inclusive growth.
Gabon has a rich and varied political history. Under the leadership of Omar Bongo, who became president in 1967, Gabon developed into a one-party state dominated by the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG).
The 1990s marked a decisive turning point for the nation, with the transition to a multi-party system. This transition was marked by numerous political reforms. Despite these upheavals, the Bongo family has retained a dominant position in Gabonese politics.
President Ali Bongo Ondimba succeeded his father Omar Bongo Ondimba in 2009 and was re-elected in August 2016 in a highly controversial election marked by a relatively low turnout (59%). Legislative and municipal elections held in 2018 saw a large victory for the PDG, which retained its two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.
Despite winning a third term in the presidential election, Ali Bongo was deposed on August 30, 2023, following a military intervention orchestrated by the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions (CTRI).
Brigadier General Brice Oligui Nguema was appointed President of the Gabonese Transition. At the start of this period, several institutions, including the Senate, the National Assembly and the Constitutional Court, were temporarily suspended, then reorganized around a charter drawn up with the Transition President. One of the objectives of this phase is to revise the constitution by means of a referendum, with a view to holding elections under a new constitution at the end of the transition. The precise duration of this transition remains to be determined.
In 2022, Gabon's economy benefited from higher oil prices and solid commodity production. Growth reached 3.1%, reflecting a significant recovery from the 2020 recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and fluctuations in oil prices. The rise in oil prices, combined with increased production, generated substantial revenues for the country, transforming a budget deficit of 1.9% of GDP in 2021 into a surplus of 3.0% of GDP in 2022.
Economic recovery in 2022 reduced the ratio of public debt to GDP from 60.7% in 2021 to 52% in 2022. Although export performance has improved the trade balance, challenges such as cash management problems and the accumulation of arrears persist, posing risks for future debt management. In addition, high world food and energy prices have led to inflation, rising from 1.1% in 2021 to 4.3% in 2022. This inflation has impacted living conditions, despite an overall reduction in poverty thanks to the economic recovery.
The recent coup d'état has introduced uncertainty into the country's economic outlook. Prior to this event, growth of 2.8% was expected for 2023-2025, driven by several sectors, including manganese, timber and oil palm. Gabon, recently dependent on regional financial markets, could see its growth and financing capacities affected. Repayment of arrears and sound reforms could nevertheless ease the country's financing costs.
Last Updated: Oct 12, 2023