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 85% of its territory.
Gabon has one of the highest urbanization rates in Africa: 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 54 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 fairly 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 a year before the end of the presidential term, Gabon is preparing for several milestones, in particular the presidential and legislative elections, scheduled for 2023.
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 growth of -1.8% 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. According to the United Nations, over 104,000 jobs were lost in 2020.
Despite the impact of the war in Ukraine, Gabon’s economy is gradually recovering, supported by stronger external demand and higher oil prices. The fiscal balance is expected to increase gradually over the medium term, but the rising cost of living could increase household vulnerability. According to the latest estimates, growth is projected to reach 2.7% in 2022 driven by the sound performance of the oil, mining, and wood sectors. In addition, public debt is expected to stand at 58.3% of GDP in 2022.
Economic diversification and human capital building are priorities for the authorities, which have adopted a series of measures to improve the business climate. Faced with a poverty rate of 33%, the government has decided to focus its social policy on the following three pillars:
- Establishing integrated social programs for the most vulnerable;
- Creating income-generating activities for the poorest population groups; and
- Reducing inequalities in access to basic public services.
Last Updated: Oct 26, 2022