Interview: Madeleine Berre
Which niche markets do you think should be developed in Gabon to diversify its economy?
MADELEINE BERRE: In a context of economic transformation, every sector except oil and gas has strong potential for growth. Internet services, new technologies, business services, agriculture, education and health are priorities. Gabon must adapt its development plan by taking into account the necessity to anticipate needs as well as create new value chains.
How can qualifications be more closely matched with the needs of the job market?
BERRE: It would be useful to establish a joint platform where companies could express their human resources needs. This will serve as a basis for the development of new pedagogic content in our training programmes. This approach has not been applied, which has hampered the employability of young people as most of the content of guidance programmes does not take this economic reality into account. This effort will create a better match between qualifications and companies’ needs. We have two issues: the mismatch between the qualifications of the young and the needs of companies, and the need to improve our overall level of skills. Hence the necessity to implement a new system that facilitates their integration without raising employers’ contribution.
In a bid to curb unemployment, improving youth employability should be at the heart of the public sector, which remains the main employer. For example, the construction of hospitals should be accompanied by training with an eye towards their management. A hospital needs human resources ranging from doctors, nurses and paramedics to computer scientists, plumbers and caterers. Synergies between the public and private sectors can serve as a strong lever to identify areas for improvement and thus contribute to better youth employability. We must be in complete agreement about these training programmes.
Should any additional measures be implemented to make the labour market more flexible?
BERRE: We have to modernise the framework by implementing a new system dedicated to employability that complements our social system with apprenticeship contracts and youth employment programmes. This should include a system of incentives in terms of social and employment costs.
For us, flexibility does not mean giving full power to the employer against the employee. Flexibility must be understood in three ways: simplification through the reduction of bureaucratic procedures related to the Labour Code; adequacy of the Labour Code to today’s realities; and modernisation, including the need to create a new framework geared towards employment in major projects. This evolution must be backed by a reform of all administrative organisations related to the implementation of Gabon’s employment policy, including special work inspections, labour administrative services and all the consultative organisms included in the Labour Code.
In what ways can the government support the process of economic diversification?
BERRE: Gabon is paving the way for the diversification of its economy. A new fiscal framework must be put in place to encourage this transformation. Entrepreneurship and investment in education, innovation, agriculture and health have to be stimulated. The main challenge is to carry out bold and modern reforms. The diversification of Gabon’s economy has to succeed to offset the drop in oil prices. The state must accompany the diversification process by enhancing investment and facilitating the financing of the economy through incentives that mobilise the savings of employees, companies and households. Fiscal reform is fundamental. We have to innovate and bet on a widened tax base thanks to economic growth. This reform must stand as a role model within the region.
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