Interview: Magloire Ngambia
How is the Gabonese government encouraging growth throughout the country and tackling the specific challenge of decentralising investments?
MAGLOIRE NGAMBIA: In 2014 Gabon adopted the Law of Decentralisation. The roll out of this legislation should be promulgated shortly. Once implemented, we expect gradual and sustained development of the whole country, taking into account the idiosyncrasies of each individual region.
Once the whole country has achieved the required level of decentralisation, local communities will be able to manage and increase their own resources, and retain and attract investments by themselves. This process of decentralisation will initiate and foster the development of each region, with a particular focus on the country’s centre.
Which specific measures are currently being adopted to help improve the business environment in Gabon?
NGAMBIA: By adopting new measures in our legislative framework, we intend not only to improve the country’s business climate, but also to increase its attractiveness for international investors. To this end, we have focused on three main areas: institutional, regulatory and general measures.
At an institutional level, we have created a High Council for Investments, which provides centralised import and export operations from a single window in order to facilitate and expedite processes, and also established other bodies such as an arbitrage centre and a commercial court.
Among the regulatory measures we have adopted is a new Hydrocarbons Code, while revisions to the Labour Code and the Mining Code will be approved shortly. Furthermore, the Investment Charter has also been modified in an attempt to enhance the relationship with the private sector, attract larger investments, strengthen the rights of foreign investors and adopt a more transparent framework in accordance with the Organisation for the Harmonisation of Business Law in Africa.
The general measures concern the establishment of the National Agency for the Promotion of Investments, which will act as the primary gateway for investors, including the implementation of platforms enabling companies to access public and private markets and increase their customer portfolios; the raising of capital to finance major projects; the promotion of and participation in events showcasing the “Made in Gabon” brand; and the creation of special economic zones that will offer specific fiscal and administrative incentives.
What are the main constraints limiting increased foreign direct investment, and what is the government doing to address them?
NGAMBIA: The current investment framework has its limitations, not only in the structure of the entities in charge of accompanying investors and investments, but also in the duplication of their functions and the obsolete investment chart. However, the government has embarked on a restructuring of its entities involved in the promotion of investments.
We could also consider the high cost of production, especially for labour. Gabon has the most expensive workforce in Central Africa, with a minimum salary of CFA150,000 (€225) per month.
To address some of the challenges faced by businesses, the country’s highest authorities are undertaking a number of reforms aimed at reducing the time required to create a company, as well as streamlining the bureaucratic processes related to accessing land through the National Agency of Urbanism, Topography and Cadastre. These include general and sector-specific fiscal incentives that are mainly aimed at tourism and agriculture investors. In the short term, the measures are expected to have a positive impact on the real economy and eventually build the foundations for strong sustainable growth.
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