Gabon

Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
Report
July 19, 2018

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Executive SummaryShare    

Gabon is a historically stable country located in a volatile region of the world and has significant economic advantages: a small population (roughly 1.98 million), an abundance of natural resources, and a strategic location along the Gulf of Guinea. After taking office in 2009, President Ali Bongo Ondimba introduced reforms to diversify Gabon’s economy away from oil and from traditional investment partners and to position Gabon as an emerging economy. In his “Emerging Gabon” strategic plan, he laid out a vision for sustainable development by 2025 through creating domestic industrial capacity to process primary materials and by becoming a regional leader in service industries, including financial services, information and communication technologies (ICT), education, and healthcare. Gabon is also promoting foreign investment across a range of sectors, particularly in the oil and gas, infrastructure, timber, ecotourism, and mining sectors. Despite these efforts, Gabon’s economy remains dependent on revenue generated by the exportation of hydrocarbons. Gabon’s commercial ties with France remain very strong, but the government continues to seek to diversify its sources by courting investors from the rest of the world. Signs of its long relationship with France abound, and often bespeak preferential treatment (such as French citizens maintaining an exemption from some exit visa requirements.)

Although Gabon is taking steps towards making the country a more attractive destination for foreign investment, it remains a difficult place to do business, especially without in-country or francophone experience. Foreign firms are active in the country, particularly in the extractive industries, but the difficulty involved in establishing a new business and the time it takes many new entrants to finalize deals are impediments to increased U.S. private sector investment. Although the Gabonese government is taking a more active role to ensure transparency in extractive industries, investors are still waiting for key reforms to be established in law and in practice. Gabon enacted a new mining code in 2015 and is currently revising its 2014 hydrocarbon code. A Special Economic Zone (SEZ) located at Nkok became operational in 2014. Increased investment is constrained due to limited bureaucratic capacity, unclear lines of decision-making authority, a lack of a clearly-established and consistent process for companies to enter the market, lengthy bureaucratic delays, high production costs, a small domestic market, rigid labor laws, limited and poor infrastructure, a cumbersome judicial system, and inconsistent application of customs regulations.

Economic conditions in Gabon weakened throughout 2017 and into 2018. In addition to budget constraints due to low oil prices, the government lacks fiscal transparency. Many international companies, including U.S. firms, continue to have difficulties collecting timely payments from the Gabonese government, and some companies in the oil sector have closed down operations. To address fiscal imbalances, Gabon signed in June of 2017 a three-year Extended Fund Facility arrangement of USD 642 million with the IMF and there are already some repayment issues. While opportunities exist, the investment climate in Gabon will remain difficult until the government resolves its budgetary problems.

Table 1

Measure

Year

Index/Rank

Website Address

TI Corruption Perceptions Index

2017

117 of 180

http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview

World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business”

2017

167 of 190

www.doingbusiness.org/rankings

Global Innovation Index

2017

N/A

https://www.globalinnovation
index.org/analysis-indicator

U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD, stock positions)

2016

USD 146

http://www.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/

World Bank GNI per capita

2016

USD 7,210

http://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign InvestmentShare    

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

To attract foreign direct investment, Gabon released President Ali Bongo Ondimba's Strategic Plan for an Emerging Gabon (Plan Strategique Gabon Emergent, or PSGE) in July 2012. The strategy aims to enable Gabon to become an emerging economy by 2025 by diversifying the country away from its reliance on energy exports and transforming Gabon into an internationally competitive investment destination. The plan outlines ways to increase public and private investment, modernize infrastructure, and improve human capital. The government hopes to achieve its developmental goals through domestic and foreign direct investments.

Gabon’s 1998 investment code conforms to Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) investment regulations and provides the same rights to foreign companies operating in Gabon as to domestic firms. Businesses are protected from expropriation or nationalization without appropriate compensation, as determined by an independent third party. Certain sectors, such as mining, forestry, petroleum, agriculture, and tourism have special specific investment codes, which encourage investment through customs and tax incentives.

Gabon established the Investment Promotion Agency (ANPI-Gabon) with the assistance of the World Bank in April 2014. The ANPI-Gabon’s mission is to promote investments and exports, support small and medium-sized enterprises, manage public-private partnerships, and help companies to get established. The agency is supposed to act as the gateway for investment into the country and reduce administrative procedures, costs, and waiting periods. In January 2018, President Ali Bongo inaugurated the new headquarters of the ANPI-Gabon, which is now fully operational.

Gabonese authorities have made efforts to prioritize investment. On March 7, 2017, the High Council for Investment was established to promote investment and boost the economy. This body provides a platform for dialogue between the public and private sectors, and its main objectives are to improve the economy and create jobs.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no limits on foreign ownership or control, except for discrete activities customarily reserved for the state, including military and paramilitary activities.

Foreign investors are largely treated in the same manner as their Gabonese counterparts with regard to the purchase of real estate, negotiation of licenses, and entering into commercial agreements. There is no general requirement for local participation in investments (see local labor requirements below). Many businesses find it useful to have a local partner who can help navigate the subjective factors in the business environment.

Gabon Oil Company, a state-owned enterprise created in 2011, has an automatic right to purchase up to a 15 percent share in any hydrocarbon contract at market price.

The standard practice is for the Gabonese Presidency to review foreign investment contracts after ministerial-level negotiations are completed. There are instances where the Presidency gets involved to push negotiations stalled at the ministerial level. The Presidency takes a very active role in meeting with investors, with the aim of ensuring that investments are in line with the government’s “Emerging Gabon” initiative. The lack of a standardized procedure for new entrants to negotiate deals with the government can lead to confusion and time-consuming negotiations. Moreover, the centralization of decision-making by a few senior officials who are exceedingly busy can delay the process. As a result, new entrants often find the process of finalizing deals time-consuming and difficult to navigate.

U.S. investors are not disadvantaged by ownership or control mechanisms, sector restrictions, or investment screening mechanisms. However, French companies continue to dominate major sectors in Gabon. Lack of French language skills can put American or non-Francophone firms at a disadvantage. As mentioned above, French residents are exempt from some exit visa fees.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Gabon has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 1995. In June 2013, Gabon conducted an investment policy review with the WTO. The government has not conducted any investment policy reviews through the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) or the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in the past three years.

Business Facilitation

The government encourages investments in some of Gabon's main industries (oil and gas, mining, and timber) through customs and tax incentives. For example, oil and mining companies are exempt from customs duties on imported working equipment. The Tourism Investment Code, enacted in 2000, provides tax incentives to foreign tourism investors during the first eight years of operation. A SEZ located at Nkok offers tax incentives to industrial investors.

ANPI-Gabon houses more than 20 public and private agencies, including the Chamber of Commerce, National Social Security Fund (CNSS), and National Health Insurance and Social Security (CNAMGS). ANPI-Gabon aims to attract domestic and international investors through improved methods of approving and licensing procedures and support for public-private dialogue. It has a single window registration process that allows domestic and foreign investors to register their business in 48 hours. The agency began full operations in January 2018. There are no special mechanisms for equitable treatment of women and underrepresented minorities in Gabon.

ANPI-Gabon’s website address is:

https://www.gaboninvest.org/index.php/fr/
https://fr-fr.facebook.com/anpigabon/

Outward Investment

One of ANPI-Gabon’s primary goals is to promote outward investments and exports.

The Gabonese government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation TreatiesShare    

Gabon has bilateral investment treaties (BITs) in force with the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union, China, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Morocco, Romania, and Spain. Additionally, although not in force, Gabon has signed BITs with Lebanon, Mali, Mauritius, Portugal, South Africa, and Turkey. Gabon has not signed a BIT or Bilateral Taxation Treaty with the United States.

3. Legal RegimeShare    

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Government policies and laws often do not establish clear rules of the game, and foreign firms can have difficulty navigating the bureaucracy. Despite reform efforts, hurdles and red tape remain, especially at the lower and mid-levels of the ministries. Lack of transparency in administrative processes and lengthy bureaucratic delays occasionally raise questions for companies about fair treatment and the sanctity of contracts.

Formal Regulatory Authority and Processes

Rule-making and regulatory authority sits at the ministerial level.

Informal Regulatory Processes

There are no nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations that manage informal regulatory processes. The government of Gabon has not exhibited any recent tendency to discriminate against U.S. investments, companies, or representatives.

Accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures

Gabon is affiliated with the Organization for Business Law Harmonization in Africa (OHADA).

Draft Legislation

The government does not publish proposed laws and regulations in draft form for public comment. There are no centralized online locations where key regulatory actions or their summaries are published. Key regulatory actions are published in the government’s printed Official Journal. It is not uncommon for legislative proposals to be provided “off the record” to the press.

Online Regulatory Disclosure

In 2015, Gabon implemented a recommendation from CEMAC to program its budget by objectives. This was implemented to enhance financial efficiency and transparency. No new regulatory systems have been announced in the last year, and no new reforms have been implemented in the last year. Regulations are developed by the relevant ministry concerned, and regulatory enforcement is controlled by individual ministries. There are no instances of regulations being reviewed on the basis of scientific or data-driven assessments.

Transparency Enforcement Mechanisms

Gabon does not have transparency enforcement mechanisms at this moment.

International Regulatory Considerations

Gabon is a member of CEMAC, along with Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Chad. Gabon is also member of a larger economic community, Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). Headquartered in Gabon, ECCAS has 10 members: Gabon, Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and São Tomé and Príncipe. Both CEMAC and ECCAS work to promote economic cooperation among members.

Gabon is affiliated with OHADA and has been a WTO member since January 1, 1995.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Gabon’s legal system is based on French Civil Law. Regular courts handle commercial disputes in compliance with OHADA. Courts do not apply the law consistently, and delays are frequent in the judicial system. Lack of transparency in administrative processes and lengthy bureaucratic delays occasionally raise questions about fair treatment and the sanctity of contracts. Judicial capacity is weak, and many government contacts underscore the need for specialized training in technical issues such as money laundering and environmental crimes. Foreign court and international arbitration decisions are accepted, but enforcement may be difficult.

Gabon has a written code of commercial law.

The judicial system is not independent from the executive branch. Gabon’s judicial bodies are subject to political influence, creating uncertainty concerning fair treatment and the sanctity of contracts.

Regulations or enforcement actions are appealable and are adjudicated in the national court system.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Gabon’s 1998 investment code, which gives foreign companies operating in Gabon the same rights as domestic firms, allows foreign investors to choose freely from a wide selection of legal business structures, such as a private limited liability company or public limited liability company. The distinctions arise primarily from the minimum capital requirements and the conditions under which shares may be re-sold. Foreign investment in Gabon is subject to local law that is in many instances unsettled or unclear, and in certain cases, Gabonese law may require local majority ownership of businesses. The state reserves the right to invest in the equity capital of ventures established in certain sectors (e.g., petroleum and mining). There are no known systemic practices by private firms to restrict foreign investment, participation, or control.

ANPI-Gabon’s website contains some information on investing in Gabon: http://www.gaboninvest.org/.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

Gabonese Law No. 5/89 of July 6, 1989 on Competition (http://www.wipo.int/wipolex/en/details.jsp?id=8814) covers all aspects of competition and anti-trust. The relevant ministry for a given dispute reviews transactions for competition-related concerns.

Expropriation and Compensation

Foreign firms established in Gabon operate on an equal legal basis with national companies. Businesses are protected from expropriation or nationalization without appropriate compensation, as determined by an independent third party. The Gabonese government has not exhibited any tendency to discriminate against U.S. investments, companies, or representatives, nor have there been any indications or reports of incidences of indirect expropriation, such as through confiscatory tax regimes.

Gabon does not have a history of expropriations.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Gabon is a member state of the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and a signatory to the 1958 Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention).

The 1965 Code of Civil Procedure provides for various means of enforcement of judgments (both foreign and domestic), depending on the nature of the decree or decision.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The Gabonese government is a signatory to investment agreements in which international arbitration under those investment agreements is recognized.

Gabon does not have a BIT with the United States.

There is no pattern of investment disputes involving U.S. companies.

There are no recent cases of foreign arbitral awards issued against the government, or instances of local courts enforcing such awards.

There is no history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

No alternative dispute resolution options exist within Gabon. Investment disputes are generally negotiated directly with the governmental entity involved, without the parties having to resort to legal action.

There is no domestic arbitration body within the country.

Local courts recognize foreign arbitral awards, but enforcement may be difficult.

There are no cases of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) being involved in investment disputes in the court system.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Gabon has a bankruptcy law, but it is not well developed. In the World Bank's Doing Business Report, Gabon ranks 167 out of 189 economies on the ease of resolving insolvency.

Gabon’s bankruptcy law is based on OHADA regulations. According to Section 3: Art 234-239 of OHADA’s Uniform Insolvency Act, creditors and equity shareholders, collectively or individually, may designate trustees to lodge complaints or claims to the commercial court. These laws criminalize bankruptcy, and the OHADA regulations grant Gabon the discretion to apply its own sentences.

4. Industrial PoliciesShare    

Investment Incentives

Some of Gabon's main industries (oil and gas, mining, and timber) encourage investment through customs and tax incentives. For example, oil and mining companies are exempt from customs duties on imported working equipment. The government has attempted to promote tourism by instituting the Tourism Investment Code of 2000, which provides tax exemptions to foreign tourism investors during the first eight years of operation.

President Ali Bongo Ondimba outlawed the export of unprocessed wood in 2009 to boost Gabon's value-added wood products and increase domestic consumption. The government and Singaporean-based firm Olam partnered to set up the SEZ at Nkok to process timber, and later expanded the mandate of the SEZ to open it to a broader range of businesses. The SEZ provides a single-window business service to participants and provides new investors with beneficial fiscal incentives, including tax-free operation for 25 years, no customs duties on imported machinery and parts, and 100 percent repatriation of funds.

Gabon’s agriculture code of 2008 gives tax and customs incentives to agricultural operators, with a particular focus on small and medium-sized enterprises. Land used for agriculture and farm exploitation is exonerated from fiscal tax. All imported fertilizers and food for ranch exploitation are additionally exempt from customs duties.

As a member of CEMAC, Gabon's trade with other member countries (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, and Equatorial Guinea) is subject to low or no customs duties.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Inaugurated in 2011, the SEZ at Nkok is a public-private partnership between the government of Gabon and Olam, a Singapore-based corporation with interests in Gabonese timber, palm oil, and rubber. Olam has completed the infrastructure phase for the Nkok SEZ, and multiple companies are actively operating there. Olam has plans to build two more SEZs: one in Port Gentil focused on chemical engineering and another in Franceville for agriculture products. All SEZs will offer tax and customs incentives to attract foreign investors.

In October 2017, the Gabon Special Economic Zone (GSEZ) inaugurated the New Owendo International Port (NOIP). The project was the result of a public private partnership between Olam International Ltd, Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), and Gabon. The new port intends to facilitate imports and exports by reducing offloading costs by 30 percent. With a surface area of 18 hectares, the terminal has annual capacity of three million tons. A subcontracting agreement was signed between Olam and Bolloré for container management to mark the end of the disagreements between the Gabonese state and the French Bolloré group. While Olam invested almost USD 300 million in the construction of the terminal, the giant Bolloré, a specialist in port logistics, took over container management in October 2017.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Employment and Investor Requirements

Firms are required to obtain authorization from the Ministry of Labor before hiring foreigners. Foreign workers must obtain permits before working in Gabon, and the availability of a permit for a job depends on the availability of Gabonese nationals to fill the job in question. Quotas for the number of foreign workers may be set. When hiring workers, firms must give priority to Gabonese nationals. If no Gabonese worker with the appropriate qualifications can be found, a firm is expected to hire a Gabonese to work along with the foreigner and, within a reasonable time, the Gabonese worker should replace that foreigner. In late 2010, the Gabonese government agreed to National Organization of Petroleum Workers demands to limit foreign workers in the oil sector to 10 percent of a company’s workforce and to require that Gabonese occupy all executive posts. Foreign firms maintain there is a lack of qualified Gabonese workers, requiring companies to often request authorization to hire foreigners. Non-Gabonese Africans find it increasingly difficult to obtain employment authorization; non-African expatriates have less difficulty. Chinese industry in Gabon historically imports its labor force and management. However, these rules do not apply in the Gabon’s SEZ at Nkok, a free trade zone, where investors can bring foreign workers.

Goods, Technology, and Data Treatment

There is no known forced localization requirement. There is no specific performance requirement imposed as a condition for establishing, maintaining, or expanding investment. There are no performance requirements for investors, nor are there any requirements for foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption. There are no measurements that prevent or unduly impede companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside the economy/country’s territory. No mechanisms exist to enforce rules on local data storage.

Performance Requirements

There is no performance requirement imposed as a condition for establishing, maintaining, or expanding investment. There is no requirement for investors to buy local products, to export a certain percentage of output, or to invest in a specific geographical area. There is no blanket requirement that nationals own shares in foreign investments in Gabon or that the share of foreign equity be reduced over time, or that technology be transferred on certain terms. Nonetheless, many investors find it useful to have a local partner who can help navigate the business environment.

5. Protection of Property RightsShare    

Real Property

Secured interest in property is recognized, and the recording system is relatively reliable.

There are no specific regulations for foreign and/or non-resident investors regarding land lease or acquisition. Laws in Gabon for private and commercial property do not provide any restrictions on nationality for the possession and ownership of property in Gabon.

Almost 85 percent of Gabon’s area (and possibly 95 percent or more) is legally owned by the State. Only 14,000 private land titles appear to have been registered in Gabon (according to a 2012 report (latest available data) by land tenure specialist Liz Alden Wily funded by the DG Environment of the European Commission. Most refer to tiny urban parcels. Urban area constitutes no more than one percent of total land area. Very few titles exist in rural areas. In an effort to register land titles, in 2011, the government created the National Agency for Urban Planning, Surveys and the Land Registry.

If property legally purchased is unoccupied, property ownership can revert to others owners.

Gabonese government retains a strong role in the financial sector, as owner and as client, through public enterprises. Solvency levels in some of the banks are close to the forthcoming regulatory minimum of eight percent (effective in 2004). This risk is enhanced by the banking sector's portfolio concentration. Moreover, fiscal problems have in the past had direct and indirect negative repercussions on the performance of the financial sector.

Intellectual Property Rights

As a member of CEMAC and ECCAS, Gabon adheres to the laws of the African Intellectual Property Office (OAPI). Based in Yaoundé, Cameroon, OAPI aims to ensure the publication and protection of patent rights, encourage creativity and transfer of technology, and create favorable conditions for research. As a member of OAPI, Gabon acceded to a number of international agreements on patents and intellectual property (IP), including the Paris Convention, the Berne Convention and the Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). As a member of the WTO, Gabon is also a signatory of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. U.S. companies have not raised IP rights (IPR) concerns with the Embassy.

During the past year, no IP related laws or regulations were enacted concerning IPR protection.

Gabon does not report on seizures of counterfeit goods.

Gabon is not in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report.

Gabon is not listed in USTR’s notorious market report.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see the WIPO country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.

Resources for Rights Holder:

Diana Costa
Political/Economic Officer
U.S. Embassy Libreville
+241 0145 7000
CostaDL@state.gov

For a list of local attorneys visit: https://ga.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/

6. Financial SectorShare    

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The Gabonese government encourages and supports foreign portfolio investment, but Gabon's capital markets are poorly developed.

Gabon is home to the Central Africa Regional Stock Exchange, which began operation in August 2008.

There are no existing policies that facilitate the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets.

On June 25, 1996, Gabon formally notified the IMF that they accepted the obligations of Article VIII, Sections 2, 3, and 4 of the IMF Articles of Agreement. Article VIII, Sections 2 and 3 provides that members shall not impose or engage in certain measures, namely restrictions on making payments and transfers for current international transactions, discriminatory currency arrangements, or multiple currency practices, without the approval of the Fund.

Foreign investors are authorized to get credit on the local market and have access to all the variety of credits instruments offered by the local banks, without any restrictions.

Money and Banking System

The banking sector is composed of eighteen commercial banks and is open to foreign institutions. It is highly concentrated, with three of the largest banks accounting for 77 percent of all loans and deposits. The lack of diversified economy has constrained bank growth in the country, given that the financing of the oil sector is largely undertaken by foreign international banks.

The banking sector is healthy, although protracted low oil prices have had an impact on banking activities. Over the longer term, the banking authorities’ plans to establish a credit bureau and payment incidents registry are set to boost lending levels. Banking penetration and financial inclusion indicators should also grow as banks’ branch networks expand, the government widens its program of payments via banks, and new modes of access such as mobile banking begin to take off. Corporate and government business are expected to remain the mainstays of the industry for the coming years.

The estimated total assets of all bank deposits in Gabon were USD 1.126 billion in 2014 (latest data from the Central African States Central Bank).

Gabon shares a common Central Bank (Bank of Central African States) and a common currency, the Communauté Financière Africaine (CFA) Franc, which is pegged to the Euro, with the other countries of CEMAC.

Foreign banks are allowed to establish operations in the country. There is one U.S. bank (Citigroup) present in Gabon.

There are no restrictions on a foreigner’s ability to establish a bank account.

Gabon has not shown interest in the implementation of blockchain technology.

Gabon's financial system is shallow and financial intermediation levels remain low compared to other developing countries. The government plays an important role in the financial sector. It controls two of the nine banks and has a stake in most of the others. Domestic credit is limited and expensive in Gabon. The microfinance sector is only just starting to emerge in the country with few regulated microfinance institutions (MFIs) registered, covering only a limited segment of the population. However, a substantial number of informal, unregulated MFIs are believed to operate in the country. Banks, even though highly liquid, are extremely prudent in providing credit. The majority of the population lacks access to any type of financial services, as even traditional informal mechanisms, prevalent in other African economies, are scarce. In efforts to increase access to finance, Gabon has recently supported the establishment of a development and growth fund to support small and medium enterprises, as well as the creation of a specialized agency to promote private investment.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange Policies

There are no restrictions or limitations placed on foreign investors in converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with an investment (e.g., remittances of investment capital, earnings, loan or lease payments, or royalties).

Foreign investors have the option of opening local bank accounts in CFA, U.S. dollars, or euros.

Gabon’s currency is CFA, which is convertible and tied to the Euro (EUR 1 equals CFA 656). As of April 2018, 1 U.S. dollar is roughly equivalent to CFA 549.

Remittance Policies

There are no recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies that either tighten or relax access to foreign exchange for investment remittances.

There is no limitation on capital inflows or outflows. Investors may remit on a legal parallel market, so long as they justify the reasons for the transaction and respect the signed contract.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Gabon created a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) in 2008. Initially called the Fund for Future Generations (Fonds des Génerations Futures) and later the Sovereign Funds of the Gabonese Republic (Fonds Souverain de la République Gabonaise), the current iteration of Gabon’s SWF is referred to as Gabon’s Strategic Investment Funds (Fonds Gabonaise d’Investissements Stratégiques, or FGIS). As of September 2013, the most recent FGIS report, the FGIS had a reported USD 2.4 billion in assets and was actively making investments. The FGIS has the goals of allowing future generations to share income derived from the exploitation of Gabon’s natural resources, diversifying risk by investing surplus revenue, contributing to economic development, and encouraging investment in strategic sectors of Gabon’s economy. Officially, 10 percent of Gabon’s oil revenues are dedicated to the sovereign wealth fund. Details regarding the FGIS' assets and investments are not publicly available.

Gabon’s sovereign wealth fund does not respect Santiago principles.

Assets and investments of Gabon’s SWF are not publicly available.

7. State-Owned EnterprisesShare    

Government-appointed civil servants manage Gabonese state-owned enterprises (SOEs), which work primarily in energy, extractive industries, and public utilities. SOEs generally follow OECD guidelines on corporate governance. Corporate governance of SOEs usually consists of a board of directors under the authority of the related ministry. Each ministry chooses the members of the board. The ministry does not allocate board seats specifically to government officials and may choose members from the general public. The SOEs often consult with their ministry before undertaking any important business decisions. The corresponding ministry in each sector prepares and submits the budget of each SOE each year. Independent auditors such as PricewaterhouseCoopers or Ernest and Young examine the activities of SOEs each year, conducting the audit according to international standards. Auditors do not publish their reports, but rather, submit them to the relevant ministry. There is no published list of SOEs.

There are no specific laws or rules that offer preferential treatment to SOEs. However, although private enterprises may compete with public enterprises under open market access conditions, SOEs often have a competitive advantage in the industries in which they operate.

Privatization Program

Gabon does not have an active privatization program.

8. Responsible Business ConductShare    

There is a general awareness of responsible business conduct (RBC) among both producers and consumers. There are no formal rules or regulations pertaining to RBC in Gabon.

There are no formal rules or regulations pertaining to RBC in Gabon.

There was no high-profile private sector impact on human rights in recent years.

With a push from labor unions, Gabon fairly enforces labor right laws/regulations intended to protect individuals from adverse business impacts. However, Gabon has not effectively enforced consumer protection laws/regulations. While Gabon is widely praised as a leader in environmental protection and has been chosen as a positive example in Africa, there are still significant issues of pollution in-country where prosecution and significant penalties are weak. The President is highly environmentally-minded, and Gabon is known for its beautiful nature parks and beaches.

Gabon has not put in place corporate finance, accounting, and executive compensation standards to protect shareholders.

Labor unions in Gabon have taken the lead in promoting and monitoring RBC.

The Gabonese government encourages adherence to the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Afflicted and High-Risk Areas, but there are no domestic measures requiring supply chain due diligence for companies that source minerals.

Gabonese authorities state that they are committed to Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) principles. Gabon was a candidate for the EITI beginning in 2007. At its meeting in Amsterdam in June 2011, the EITI International Board renewed Gabon's EITI candidate status for 18 months (until December 2012), by which time Gabon was required to have completed an EITI validation that demonstrated compliance with the EITI rules. Gabon did not approve, publish, and submit to the EITI Board a final EITI validation report by the deadline of December 9, 2012. Due to the non-respect of deadlines and the non-performance of Gabon’s National EITI Committee, the International Council of the EITI voted on February 27, 2013, to exclude Gabon from the application process. While Gabon is no longer an EITI candidate country, it has the ability to re-apply in the future and is making progress towards rejoining the EITI. The Gabonese Minister of Industry and Mines announced in 2014 that Gabon would work with the World Bank and KPMG to develop a new action plan to restart the process of joining the EITI. In 2015, the Gabonese government approved the action plan and appointed a president to form a committee to implement the plan.

9. CorruptionShare    

Gabon has established a comprehensive legal framework to fight corruption, yet enforcement remains moderate and official impunity is a problem. Corruption is rarely, if ever, prosecuted in Gabon. To date, CNLCEI has not brought any individuals to trial. Transparency International lists Gabon as 117th of 180 countries. The Gabonese Penal Code criminalizes abuse of office, embezzlement, passive and active bribery, trading in influence, extortion, offering or accepting gifts, and other undue advantages in the public sector. Private sector corruption is criminalized whenever a given company is related to a public entity. Punishments for public officials found guilty of soliciting or accepting bribes include prison sentences ranging from two to 10 years, and a fine of CFA five million (USD 8,572). The government established the Commission to Combat Illicit Enrichment (CNLCEI) in 2004.

The CNLCEI regulations do not extend to family members of civil servants or to political parties.

There are no known laws or regulations to counter conflict of interest in awarding contracts or government procurement.

There is no information about action on the part of the government to encourage or require private companies to establish codes of conduct that prohibit bribery of public officials.

Some private companies use internal controls, ethics, and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials.

Gabon is a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Corruption and is a member of The Task Force on Money Laundering in Central Africa (Groupe d'action contre le blanchiment d'argent en Afrique Centrale, or GABAC).

No international or regional watchdog organizations operate in Gabon. Local civil society lacks the capacity to play a significant role in highlighting cases of corruption.

Companies contend with a high risk of corruption when dealing with the Gabonese extractive industries. Gabon has vast oil, manganese, and timber resources; however, contracting and licensing processes lack transparency.

Resources to Report Corruption

National Financial Investigations Agency
Tel: +241 0176 1773
Agence Nationale d'Investigation Financière
Immeuble Arambo, Boulevard Triomphal
BP:189
Libreville, Gabon
contact@anif.ga

10. Political and Security EnvironmentShare    

Violence related to politics is relatively rare in Gabon. Elections, however, can lead to heightened tensions or erupt in violence. Violence broke out on August 31, 2016, after the National Electoral Commission announced incumbent president Ali Bongo Ondimba defeated opponent Jean Ping in the August 27 presidential election by a margin of less than 2 percent of the vote. Protestors took to the streets, attempting to burn the National Assembly building. There were numerous arrests. There were also reports that the government and its forces committed unlawful killings in the weeks following the controversial election results. Nongovernmental organizations stated the government’s use of excessive force to disperse demonstrators resulted in approximately 20 deaths and over 1000 arrests; the opposition claimed at least 50 persons were killed. By contrast, the 2013 municipal elections, the last elections to take place before the 2016 presidential election, were held without incident.

Gabon’s shrunken oil revenues, topped with political shuffling after the 2016 elections, fostered frustration and disappointment within the country in 2017. Several public and private sector employees went on strikes for unpaid salaries, benefits, and worsening work conditions.

11. Labor Policies and PracticesShare    

Gabon's population is approximately 1.98 million, and third country nationals (TCNs) represent one-third of the population. Many young Gabonese are unable to acquire vocational skills and are thus excluded from the labor market. This is due to the low quality of the basic education system, insufficient output of technical and vocational training, and a lack of resources and effectiveness in the education sector.

Foreign firms report a shortage of highly-skilled Gabonese labor. Chinese industry, in particular, imports the majority of its workers from China. Authorization from the Ministry of Labor is required in order to hire foreigners. Reforms adopted in 2010 in the education and research system represent a step towards developing in-service training and encouraging public-private partnerships. For example, the Petroleum and Gas Institute, located in Port Gentil and supported by the Gabonese government and oil industry, has been training engineers specialized in oil-related technical areas since January 2014.

Labor laws differentiate between layoffs and firing. There is no unemployment insurance or other social safety net program for workers laid off for economic reasons.

Gabon’s Special Economic Zone is not subject to the same foreign labor restrictions as the rest of the country.

Collective bargaining is common in Gabon. Gabon's French-inspired labor code recognizes the right of workers to form and join independent unions and bargain collectively, and prohibits antiunion discrimination, but the right to strike is limited or restricted. Strikes may be called only after eight days’ advance notification and only after arbitration fails. Public sector employees are not allowed to strike if public safety could be jeopardized. The law does not define essential services sectors in which workers are prohibited from striking. The Gabonese government strictly enforces the labor code’s mandatory retirement age of 65.

The government observes the resolution of labor disputes and takes an active interest in labor-management relations. Unions in each sector of the economy negotiate with employers over pay scales, working conditions, and benefits.

French firm Maurel and Prom's oil workers went on strike from October 17 to 25, 2016. The strike cut production from 28,000 barrels per day to 10,000. The government took an active role in resolving the strike. The National Organizations of Employees of the Oil (ONEP) organized several small strikes in the oil sector throughout 2017. Most of these strikes lasted two weeks and endorsed the rights of Gabonese employees in the industry.

Gabon has ratified most of the International Labor Organization (ILO) laws and conventions. There are no gaps in compliance in law or practice with international labor standards that may pose a reputational risk to investors.

Gabon has no specific trade agreements with the United States that require the execution of U.S. labor laws.

12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance ProgramsShare    

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation is open to providing services to U.S. investors in Gabon and has done so in the past. Gabon is also a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), which guarantees foreign investment protection in cases of war, strife, disasters, or expropriation. MIGA is a branch of the World Bank Group.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment StatisticsShare    

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

 

Host Country Statistical Source

USG or International Statistical Source

USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other

Economic Data

Year

Amount

Year

Amount

 

Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (M USD)

2016

N/A

2017

USD 15,900

www.worldbank.org/en/country

Foreign Direct Investment

Host Country Statistical Source

USG or International Statistical Source

USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other

U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD, stock positions)

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

BEA data available at
http://bea.gov/international/
direct_investment_multinational_
companies_comprehensive_data.htm

Host country’s FDI in the United States (M USD, stock positions)

N/A

N/A

2014

USD 9.0

BEA data available at
http://bea.gov/international/
direct_investment_multinational_
companies_comprehensive_data.htm

Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A


Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Data not available.
 

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Data not available.

14. Contact for More InformationShare    

Diana Costa
Political/Economic Officer
U.S. Embassy Libreville
+241 0145 7000
CostaDL@state.gov