Gabon, a central African country, is rich in natural resources. Located on the Atlantic Ocean, it borders Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and the Republic of Congo. It is sparsely populated, with a population of 2.3 million (2021) and forests covering 88% of its territory.
Gabon has one of the highest urbanization rates in Africa with more than four in five Gabonese citizens live in cities. Libreville and Port-Gentil are home to 59% of the country’s population. One in two Gabonese citizens is under the age of 20 and the fertility rate in urban areas is four children per woman against six in rural areas.
As a result of efforts to reduce emissions and preserve its vast rainforest, Gabon is a net carbon absorber and a leader in net zero emission initiatives. It has a rich ecosystem with extensive endowments of fertile land, coastal resources, and fisheries. However, despite its economic potential, the country is struggling to translate its resource wealth into sustainable and inclusive growth.
The Gabonese Democratic Party (Parti démocratique gabonais, PDG) has dominated the political landscape for 55 years. 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 low turnout (59%). Legislative and municipal elections held in 2018 saw a sweeping victory for the PDG, which retained its two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.
With less than six months before the end of the presidential term, Gabon is preparing for several milestones, the presidential and legislative and local elections, scheduled for 2023. A government reshuffle has taken place in January 2023, whereby President Ali Bongo Ondimba appointed a new Prime Minister.
Political consultations between the PDG and several opposition parties were held in February 2023, culminating in several agreements including on the following issues: (a) reintroduction of single-round ballot for all elections (replacing the two-round system), (b) a five-year term for the president, senators, deputies, and local elected officials (replacing seven-year and six-year terms), and (c) no reelection limitations for all political offices (previously elected officials were limited to two terms).
Gabon, the fourth largest oil producer in Sub-Saharan Africa, posted strong economic growth over the past decade, driven mainly by oil and manganese production. In 2020, the oil sector accounted for 38.5% of GDP and 70.5% of exports despite efforts to diversify the economy.
Forecast at 3.4% before COVID-19, Gabon posted a -1.8% growth in 2020. The restrictive measures adopted to combat the pandemic and address the decline in oil prices in 2020 have resulted in rising unemployment and a sharp drop in domestic revenue mobilization, followed by a decline in exports and foreign direct investment, leading to a significant fiscal deficit.
Economic and social Outlook
Ukraine’s invasion has impeded Gabon's economic growth. Gabonese households have been facing a rise in food price since the beginning of 2022 as the inflation rate reached 4.3% that same year. However, Gabon has taken steps to fight the high cost of living including temporally price caps for 48 imported consumer goods from October 2022 to March 2023. A new ministry devoted to the fight against the high cost of living was created in January 2023.
Gabon’s economy is gradually recovering, supported by good performance in the oil, mining, and wood sectors. The removal of pandemic-related restrictions in March 2022 also contributed to growth in the services sector. GDP is estimated to be 3.1% in 2022, up from 1.5% in 2021. Moreover, the fiscal balance turned into a surplus of 3.0% of GDP in 2022 from a deficit of 1.9% in 2021.
Thanks to the gradual recovery, public debt declined in 2022, down to 52% of GDP against 60.7% in 2021. According to the July 2022 IMF Debt Sustainability Analysis, public debt is deemed sustainable, and risks have moderated.
Last Updated: Mar 30, 2023