1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
Gabon’s 1998 investment code conforms to the Central African Economic and Monetary Community’s (CEMAC) investment regulations and provides the same rights to foreign companies operating in Gabon as to domestic firms.
Gabon’s domestic and foreign investors 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 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 2014. Its mission is to promote investment and exports, support SMEs, manage public-private partnerships (PPPs), and help companies establish themselves. It is designed to act as the gateway for investment into the country and to reduce administrative procedures, costs, and waiting periods.
Gabonese authorities have made efforts to prioritize investment. In 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
Foreign investors are largely treated in the same manner as their Gabonese counterparts regarding 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 aspects of the business environment.
There are no limits on foreign ownership or control. However, Gabon Oil Company, a state-owned enterprise (SOE) 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 President to review foreign investment contracts after ministerial-level negotiations are completed. In certain cases, the President has appeared to intervene to keep negotiations stalled at the ministerial level, even when the deal was on track to a mutually satisfactory solution.
The President takes an active interest in meeting with investors. 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.
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) since 2017.
The government encourages investments in those economic sectors that contribute the greatest share to gross national product (GNP), including oil and gas, mining, and wood harvesting and transformation through customs and tax incentives. For example, oil and mining companies are exempt from customs duties on imported machinery and equipment specific to their industries. The Tourism Investment Code, enacted in 2000, provides tax incentives to foreign tourism investors during the first eight years of operation. The SEZ at Nkok offers tax incentives to industrial investors; the government has mused on the possibility of increasing the number of SEZs in a move to attract further investment.
ANPI-Gabon covers 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). It aims to attract domestic and international investors through improved methods of approving and licensing new companies and to support public-private dialogue. It has a single window registration process that allows domestic and foreign investors to register their businesses in 48 hours. There are, however, no special mechanisms for equitable treatment of women and underrepresented minorities in Gabon.
ANPI-Gabon’s website address is: https://www.investingabon.ga/
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.
3. Legal Regime
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.
Rule-making and regulatory authority rests at the ministerial level. 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.
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.
Gabon is affiliated with the Organization for the Harmonization of Corporate Law in Africa (Organisation pour l’harmonisation en Afrique du droit des affaires, OHADA, http://www.ohada.com/).
The Transformation Acceleration Plan (PAT) is a new structure of enforcement of mechanisms to ensure governments follow administrative processes and was launched in January 2021 in response to a request by the IMF for a transparency enforcement mechanism. The PAT will monitor the implementation of administrative processes, and regularly transmit the monitoring information necessary for decision-making to the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister.
No new regulatory systems have been announced in the last year, and no new reforms have been implemented in the last year.
Gabon lacks transparency on public finances and debt obligations or explicit contingent liabilities.
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 a member of the larger Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), which is headquartered in Gabon and has 11 members: Gabon, Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda, and São Tomé and Príncipe. Both CEMAC and ECCAS work to promote economic cooperation among members.
Gabon is a member of OHADA, which includes nine validated Uniform Acts: General Commercial Law, Commercial Companies and Economic Interest Groups, Secured Transactions Law, Debt Resolution Law, Insolvency Law, Arbitration Law, Harmonization of Corporate Accounting, Contracts for the Carriage of Goods, and Cooperatives Companies Law.
Gabon has been a member of the WTO since January 1, 1995. It fulfills its duties on notification of all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Gabon’s legal system is based on French Civil Law. Regular courts handle commercial disputes in compliance with OHADA’s standards. Courts do not apply the law consistently, however, and delays are frequent in the judicial system. A lack of transparency in administrative processes and lengthy bureaucratic delays call into question the country’s commitment to 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.
Gabon’s judicial system is not independent from its executive branch, making them subject to political influence, which creates uncertainty around the 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 a 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.
No major laws have come out this past year.
ANPI-Gabon’s website contains most of the information on investing in Gabon: https://www.investingabon.ga/.
Competition and Antitrust Laws
There are no specific ministries in charge of reviewing transactions and conduct for competition-related concerns. That responsibility lies with the ministry that is party to a contract.
The Gabonese Law No. 14/1998 of July 23, 1998, on the Establishment of the Competition Regime of Gabon on Competition covers all aspects of competition and anti-trust measures.
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 a tendency to expropriate, nor have there been any indications or reports of incidences of indirect expropriation.
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
Gabon does not have a BIT with the United States. Post is not aware of any investment dispute involving a U.S. company. However, in 2018, there was a foreign arbitral award issued against the government. The Société d’Energie et d’Eau du Gabon (SEEG), a subsidiary of the Veolia Group, a French transnational company, filed a request for conciliation against Gabon at ICSID. Veolia and the Gabonese government signed an agreement to settle the case in February 2019. Gabon agreed to buy Veolia’s 51 percent stake in SEEG and Veolia agreed to withdraw its arbitrage case once the agreement is finalized.
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. There is no domestic arbitration body within the country. Local courts recognize foreign arbitral awards, but enforcement may be difficult.
Post is not aware of any cases of SOEs being involved in investment disputes in the court system.
Gabon has a bankruptcy law, but it is not well developed. In the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 (http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/134861574860295761/pdf/Doing-Business-2020-Comparing-Business-Regulation-in-190-Economies-Economy-Profile-of-Gabon.pdf), Gabon ranks 130 out of 190 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 remedies.
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
There is no law prohibiting or limiting foreign investment in Gabon. Aside from the preference in employment given to Gabonese workers, from a general corporate law perspective, there are no specific legislative requirements. Regardless of the type of company, there must be one resident representative on the management board of all Gabonese companies. However, this resident representative can be a non-Gabonese citizen.
However, in the oil and gas industry, the state is entitled to hold a mandatory participating interest in a petroleum contract of up to 20 percent. Any acquisition by the sate in excess of the 20 percent must be purchased at market price.
In addition to this, the Gabon Oil Company (i.e., the national oil and gas company) is also entitled to acquire at market price a participating interest in any petroleum contract of up to 15 percent.
The contracting company can assign its rights and obligations under any hydrocarbons contracts to a third party, subject to the prior approval of the Ministry of Oil and Hydrocarbons and the Ministry of Economy. The state is entitled to right of first refusal on application to assign these rights to a third party, excluding assignments between the contracting company and its affiliates.The Gabonese government encourages and supports foreign portfolio investment, but Gabon’s capital markets are poorly developed. Gabon has been home to the Central Africa Regional Stock Exchange, which began operation in August 2008. Additionally, the Bank of Central African States is in the process of consolidating the Libreville Stock Exchange into a single CEMAC zone stock exchange to be based in Douala, Cameroon; this process began in July 2019.
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. These sections provide 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 IMF.
Foreign investors are authorized to get credit on the local market and have access to a variety of credit instruments offered by local banks without restriction.
Money and Banking System
The banking sector is composed of seven 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 diversification in the economy has constrained bank growth in the country, given that the financing of the oil sector is largely undertaken by foreign international banks. Access to banking services outside major cities is limited.
According to data from the Gabonese General Directorate for the Economy and Fiscal Policy, the term resources of the banking sector, mainly made up of accounts payable. term, and special regime deposit accounts (cash certificates), fell by 8% in the first half of 2020, due in particular to the negative impact of COVID-19 on economic activity. These resources stood at 552.1 billion FCFA at the end of June 2020, compared to 600 billion a year earlier.
The Gabonese banking sector remains weak due to its difficulty in financing the private sector due to unreliable and often incomplete documentation presented by new companies. In addition, loan rates offered by banks are very high – around 15 percent – discouraging individuals and businesses.
BGFI Bank Gabon is the largest Gabonese bank in both deposits and loans with approximatively 45 percent of the market share and a balance sheet total of over 3,000 billion FCFA, according to the Professional Association of Gabon Credit Institutions (APEC). The Bloomfield Investment Corporation financial rating agency gave the BGFI Bank a mark of A+ in recognition for its financial strength and management system.
Gabon shares a common Central Bank (Bank of Central African States) and a common currency, the Communauté Financière Africaine (CFA) Franc, with the other countries of CEMAC. The CFA is pegged to the euro.
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 in the local economy.
Gabon’s financial system is shallow and financial intermediation levels remain low. Basic documents are required for applying for a residency permit in Gabon.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
The Bank of Central African States’ policy on foreign exchange requirements is in flux. Please contact the Embassy for additional information.
Funds associated with any form of investment to be freely converted into any world currency now have to go through the Bank of Central African States’ new process related to foreign and exchange currency rules.
Gabon’s currency is the FCFA, which is convertible and is tied to the Euro (EUR 1:FCFA 656). As of March 2021, 1 U.S. dollar is roughly equivalent to CFA 535
The Gabonese government recently changed investment remittance policies to tighten access to foreign exchange for investment remittances. There is no time limitation on capital inflows or outflows.
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 changed to the Sovereign Funds of the Gabonese Republic (Fonds Souverains de la République Gabonaise), the current iteration of Gabon’s SWF is referred to as Gabon’s Strategic Investment Funds (Fonds Gabonaises d’Investissements Stratégiques, or FGIS). As of September 2013, the most recent FGIS report, the FGIS had USD 2.4 billion in assets and was actively making investments. Further details are not available.
Gabon’s sovereign wealth fund does not follow the Santiago principles, nor does Gabon participate in the IMF-hosted International Working Group on SWFs.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
Government-appointed civil servants manage Gabonese state-owned enterprises (SOEs), which operate primarily in energy, extractive industries, and public utilities. SOEs generally follow OECD guidelines on corporate governance, which usually consists of a board of directors under the authority of the related ministry. That ministry chooses the board members, who may be government officials or members of 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 examine the SOEs’ activities each year, conducting audits 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.
Gabon does not have an active privatization program. However, when there is a privatization program foreign investors are usually invited to participate. The bidding process for these programs are easy to understand, non-discriminatory, and transparent. No links are available, as there are currently no active privatization programs.
10. Political and Security Environment
Violence related to politics is relatively rare in Gabon. Elections, however, can lead to heightened tensions or violence.
While the 2018 legislative and local elections took place without major incident, violence did break out on August 31, 2016, after the National Electoral Commission announced that the incumbent ABO defeated his opponent Jean Ping in the presidential election by a margin of less than 2%. Protestors took to the streets, attempting to burn the National Assembly building. Non-governmental 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 people were killed.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on Gabon’s economy since March 2020. Measures to contain cases included closing several economic sectors, which increased the unemployment rate, with around 12,500 Gabonese losing their jobs (Minister of Labor announcement, January 2021). The social tension was high in February 2021 when further restrictions were announced, including a 6PM to 5AM curfew; this led to peaceful protests, occasionally marked by riots, during which two people were killed in Libreville and Port-Gentil.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
|Host Country Statistical source*||USG or international statistical source||USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other|
|Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)||2019||$16,85||2019||$16,87||www.worldbank.org/en/country|
|Foreign Direct Investment||Host Country Statistical source*||USG or international statistical source||USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||N/A||N/A||2019||-$172||BEA data available at
|Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions)||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||BEA data available at
|Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP||2018||$9.4||2019||$9.1||UNCTAD data available at
* Source for Host Country Data: Gabon 2021 budget; the World Bank 2019-2020 report; the IMF country report; the website for the Gabonese Ministry of Economy.
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.