Interview: Daniel Ona Ondo
How can the development of basic infrastructure boost economic growth and reduce poverty?
DANIEL ONA ONDO: Basic infrastructure is crucial in fostering economic growth and reducing poverty in our country. A serious lack of infrastructure is a source of weak performance, and countries that invest in infrastructure certainly experience better growth rates and social indicators. The authorities in Gabon have understood this and thus launched the National Infrastructure Master Plan, which underlines the impact of infrastructure on economic development and on the standard of living, especially in rural areas. Ongoing projects aim to create industrial and economic development sites nationwide and integrate the needs of rural populations.
The Gabonese government has set targets to fight poverty through the Emerging Gabon strategic plan, and is focusing on developing transport, health, education, and energy and water infrastructure. Transport projects under way are intended to create a modern network of roads that will improve access to rural areas and boost commercial exchanges between villages. Efforts are also being focused on strengthening front-line health care facilities, which will certainly advance local medical care. We are accelerating the construction of power generation infrastructure and building a robust transmission network that will reach everybody. Hydraulic infrastructure is also a priority and we are drilling wells to ensure autonomous water sources for every village. Through these initiatives we expect to create generate more equitable wealth in rural areas.
In what ways can the exploitation of natural resources foster local industry development?
ONDO: Gabon has always worked towards a business climate that is favourable to private sector development. More than ever, the government needs a dynamic private sector, greater investment and more small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) if it is to transform our industrial make-up and take advantage of our natural resources. To ensure the growth of local industries, the government has chosen to encourage education and implement a regulatory framework that protects local SMEs and subcontractors. Several vocational training centres have also opened to provide youth with the skills needed to work in natural resources-related sectors. To this end, the Oil and Gas Institute in Port-Gentil has already graduated its first set of students and a woodworking college will be created at Boué.
What measures are being implemented by the government to promote a diversified economy?
ONDO: The Emerging Gabon strategic plan has diversification as its cornerstone. The government is expediting the implementation of diversification projects, capitalising on natural resources and facilitating foreign investment. The Green Gabon pillar is a strategy for targeting sustainable food production, achieving self-sufficiency in fisheries and becoming a top producer of tropical wood. The Industrial Gabon pillar fosters industrialisation by supporting the local transformation of raw materials in sectors such as mining, forestry, agriculture and building materials. Under the Services Gabon pillar, the National Agency for the Promotion of Tourism and Hotels was recently created to stimulate the tourism sector, especially in the business and eco-tourism segments. The rich flora and fauna and large network of natural parks are valuable assets that could establish Gabon as a top destination.
How can the government enhance the level of collaboration between public and private operators?
ONDO: The Gabonese government needs the private sector to face the challenges in the country, and the private sector needs the government to develop more win-win partnerships. We want to ensure transparent cooperation and establish public-private partnerships. The Gabonese authorities always keep in mind the ongoing dialogue they have with investors. In doing so, the government demonstrates its understanding of the fact that companies create wealth and new jobs.
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