4. Industrial Policies
Some of Gabon’s main industries (oil and gas, mining, and timber) enjoy investment preferences through customs and tax incentives. For example, oil and mining companies are exempt from customs duties on imported working equipment. The government has implemented a new tourism code passed in February 2019 that 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 special economic zone “SEZ” at Nkok is a public-private partnership between the government of Gabon and Arise, a recently formed company that plans to operate multiple similar industrial facilitation zones in the region based on expected success in Gabon Singapore-based Olam completed the infrastructure phase for the Nkok SEZ, and multiple companies are actively operating there. All SEZs offer tax and customs incentives to attract foreign investors. In 2017, the Gabon Special Economic Zone (GSEZ) inaugurated the New Owendo International Port. With a surface area of 18 hectares, the terminal has annual capacity of three million tons. Gabon has plans to expand the number of SEZ facilities.
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. The government may set quotas for the number of foreign workers. 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 Gabon’s SEZ at Nkok, a free trade zone, where investors can bring foreign workers.
Goods, Technology, and Data Treatment
There is no known policy requiring foreign investors to use domestic content. 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.
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.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.