Gabon is revitalising its economy by focusing its sectors under three major pillars of development: industry, forestry and services.
Gabon has been undergoing a transition since 2009 with the implementation of its Strategic Plan for an Emerging Gabon (PSGE) which is focused on diversification to revitalise and empower its economy. This will be accomplished through the strengthening of three major pillars: Industrial Gabon, Green Gabon and Services Gabon. Prime Minister Julien Nkoghe Bekale says, “We have embarked on a significant effort to modernise and diversify the economy through the PSGE. We intend to put Gabon on a sustainable path with the establishment of these foundations for sustainable development.”
Gabon has also established an open investment climate for investors through the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) that have been established in the country, such as the one in Nkok. ANPI-Gabon, the National Agency for Investment Promotion, has created a single space that is conducive for prospective investors and businesses. Gabriel Ntougou, CEO of ANPI-Gabon, knows the potential that SEZs bring to Gabon for investors: “What do investors look for? Infrastructure, land, a facilitating administration. We have worked hard to set up those fundamental elements to bring investors to the country. We have a one-stop shop here. It is the right time, the grounds are there. Gabon is a land of opportunity.” The expansive acreage, modern port and tax breaks are attractive to foreign investors and creating favourable circumstances across all sectors.
In terms of mining, Gabon is seeing impressive growth as well. As the country focuses on the plentiful resources of manganese and other minerals, there are opportunities for mining support companies to provide heavy equipment to aid in mining processes. Firms have also obtained exploration licenses for iron ore, copper, gold and even diamonds. Gabon has also invested in the construction of a hydroelectric barrier designed for supplying energy in two transformation factories of manganese which generate 10% of the annual production. Moreover, Gabon has reinforced the governance of its mining sectors, namely by the revision of the Mining Code in order to change the business sector to attract more investors. Gabon is developing the sector thanks to the diversification of mining and local transformation.
The forestry industry especially is seeing huge industrial growth, which began in 2009 when the government illegalised the export of untreated and raw wood in support of local wood production to encourage a wood-based manufacturing sector. Prof. Lee White, Minister of Forestry, says, “The fact that we banned the export of raw wood means that all timber has to be transformed. We shifted from an exporting industry to a transformation industry.” As a result, new opportunities are born for timber processing companies. Gabon has an ambitious vision to widen exports in the forest-wood products sector with the help of the Olam Corporation in Gabon, which runs the SEZ.
Forests cover 80% of Gabon, placing conservation efforts at the forefront of the PSGE’s goals. The country is attempting to increase the revenue of the forestry sector while keeping practices environmentally sustainable and avoiding species destruction. The sector creates 17,000 jobs and more than 60% of output–excluding oil. Prof. White says, “The vision is to increase the contribution of the forestry sector to the Gabonese economy, yet preserving the forests. We have made a commitment with the Paris Agreement to reduce our CO2 emissions, and forests play a critical role as an absorber of CO2. To achieve that ambition, we have to give value to the forests.”
The success of the PSGE and the diversification of the economy is a time of exciting transformation for the country and movements which have created a varied and sustainable economy in many sectors, such as wood, digital, agriculture and mines. Fabrice Bonatti, Director General of SOBRAGA, sees progress in the future: “Few countries match so many favourable assets to investment. We have a stable legal and fiscal framework, an efficient banking system and a growing population with one of the highest GDP per capita on the continent.” These advantages and the initiatives of the PSGE will take Gabon to the forefront of a more prosperous tomorrow.