Gabon is a historically stable country in a volatile region and has significant economic advantages: a small population (roughly 2 million), an abundance of natural resources, and a strategic location in the Gulf of Guinea. After taking office in 2009, President Ali Bongo Ondimba (ABO) introduced reforms to diversify Gabon’s economy away from oil and traditional investment partners, and to position Gabon as an emerging economy. Gabon promotes foreign investment across a range of sectors, particularly in oil and gas, infrastructure, timber, ecotourism, and mining. Gabon remains dependent on revenue from hydrocarbons.
The Gabonese investment climate is marked by hurdles related to establishing a new business, connecting to utilities, such as electricity and water, and transferring company ownership. Many companies also report difficulties in obtaining loans. Banks and other financiers struggle to release funds, especially to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), due to a lack of guarantees and missing documentation. However, several business incubators active in the country are attempting to facilitate business activities. Gabon ranks 38th in Africa for the protection of minority investors and 43rd for the payment of taxes.
Gabon adopted a new hydrocarbon code and a new mining code in July 2019, to provide a modernized basis for the legal, institutional, technical, economic, customs, and tax regimes governing these sectors and to spur investment through a more stable business climate.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused two shocks to the Gabonese economy, forcing it into a recession. First, the decline in global demand and corresponding collapse in oil prices hit the country’s ledgers hard. Second, domestic demand plummeted under the government’s actions taken to halt the virus, such as border closures and a national curfew. A renewed wave of illness that began in January 2021 has compounded this situation.
Economic conditions in Gabon continued to weaken throughout 2020. Corruption and lack of transparency, including by inconsistently applying customs regulations, remain impediments to investment. Many international companies, including U.S. firms, continued to report difficulties in collecting timely payments from the government, and some oil companies have closed down operations altogether. Gabon is expected to call on the IMF in 2021 to help address its fiscal imbalances with a three-year extension to a previous Extended Fund Facility arrangement that was worth USD 642 million.
Historically, the mining, oil and petroleum, and wood sectors have attracted the most investment in Gabon. To attract more investors in those key sectors Gabon created a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Nkok near Libreville in 2010. This 1,350 hectare SEZ targets local and foreign investors, provides priority access to electricity and water and on-site legal and financial services, and is near the deep-sea port of Owendo. Originally set up through a partnership between Olam International Ltd, the Gabonese government, and the Africa Finance Corporation, it operates with a mandate to develop infrastructure, enhance industrial competitiveness, and build a business-friendly ecosystem.
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2020||129 of 175||http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview|
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2019||169 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings|
|Global Innovation Index||2020||N/A||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions)||2019||-172.0||https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2019||7,170||http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD|