Population: 1,300,000 (1995)
Area: 267,667 Km²
Currency: 1 CFA Franc (CFAF) = 100 centimes
Time Zone: GMT+1h00
ISO Code: GA
Dialing Code: +241
Gabon is an independent republic which lies in the bight of Africa and forms part of the West Central Region of Africa. The capital city is Libreville. Other major towns are Franceville and Lambarene and Port-Gentil. The official language is French.
The country is one of the world’s upper-middle-income countries with the highest GDP per capita in Africa, and an economy based on oil and minerals. It has a free-market economy in which the dominant sector is private. It maintains favourable laws towards foreign investment. The local currency is the CFA-franc. (US$ / CFA Franc – current exchange rate).
Despite its natural wealth, poor fiscal management hinders the economy of Gabon. Income inequality is a severe problem. The economy is dependent on oil and thus affected by price fluctuations. Diversification of products as well as the restructuring and reducing of the civil service and a privatisation program are ways in which the government hope to improve economic growth.
The Gabon oil industry is key to the economy of the country and is its most important natural resource. In particular the upstream oil industry is its major source of foreign exchange, accounting for the majority of all exports.
The downstream oil industry is also well-developed with an oil refinery at Port Gentil and a number of international oil companies active in the distribution and marketing of petroleum products. The mining industry in Gabon is another key industry.
Electricity is provided by the parastatal utility Societe d’Electricite et d’Eau du Gabon (SEEG).
The agricultural sector in Gabon has been neglected, forcing the importation of a large percentage of the country’s food needs. Tsetse fly and a lack of cultivated lands have been the major problems facing the agricultural sector which supports a large portion of the population, mostly through subsistence farming.
Gabon has rich forestry resources that enable the country to commercially exploit and export both soft and hard woods. The forestry industry is the second major industry of Gabon and provides employment for many. However, deforestation is becoming a concern.
The international time zone for Gabon is GMT +1. The international dialling code for Gabon is +241. The principal airlines that fly to Gabon are Air Afrique, Air Gabon and Sabena. Gabon has an international airport at Libreville as well as 5 domestic airports and over 100 smaller public and private airfields. All visitors require visas in order to visit Gabon except for nationals of Francophone African states, France and West Germany.
The country has one railway, the Trans-Gabon line. The essentially poor road network is being improved and Gabon benefits from its ports and harbours which are central to the country’s oil industry.
International banking transactions can be carried out through the Banque des Etats de l’Afrique Centrale, the Banque Nationale de Paris affiliate BICIG, the Banque Parisbas – Gabon, Barclays, Citibank and others. Ernst & Young and representatives of other international accounting firms provide consulting and accounting services and should also be able to advise on appropriate local legal and other service providers.
There are no restrictions on foreign investment in Gabon, but the State reserves the right to invest in the equity capital of ventures established in strategic sectors such as the oil and mining industries.
The state of health, the current immunisation status, location and the local disease situation lead to the risk of contraction of cholera, hepatitis A, malaria, schistosomiasis, typhoid fever and yellow fever in Gabon.
Gabon’s main export commodities include chemical products, cocoa beans and products, machinery, manganese, edible oils, petroleum products, plastic products, tea and coffee, timber and uranium. Import commodities include chemical products, construction equipment, food ingredients, machinery, metal & metal products and petroleum products.
Exchange control is governed by the Minister of Finance, Budget and Participation’s, who has partly allotted approval authority for current payments to authorised banks and that with respect to the external position of the banks to the BEAC. All exchange transactions relating to foreign countries must be affected through authorised intermediaries such as the Postal Administration and banks. All imports whose value exceeds CFAF 500,000 from countries outside the UDEAC (Central African Customs and Economic Union) are subject to authorisation which is available from the Directorate of External Trade of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Members of UDEAC are exempt from formalities, only imports of refined vegetable oil from these countries are subject to prior approval and imports from countries outside of the UDEAC and whose products bear similarity to and compete with domestic goods are subject to licensing.