Facts for first-time visitors in Gabon

Visas

Most visitors are required to obtain a visa in advance, and this is best done in the visitor’s country of residence. The process can often be a lengthy one, and business visas require an invitation from a Gabon-based entity; in some cases proof of employment may also be required.

Business visas can last for periods of two weeks, 30 days, 90 days and longer, even up to five years with multiple entries. Most foreigners residing in the country are generally required to obtain a residence permit (permis de séjour), which can be provided by their employer. A new e-online procedure is available since July 2015 to speed up the visa application process.

Language

French is the official language in the business area. The most spoken local language is Fang, mainly used in northern Gabon. One-third of the population speaks Fang fluently, and the country is also home to around 40 other indigenous languages.

Etiquette

Business etiquette in Gabon is similar to that in Europe. A handshake is appropriate for both men and women upon first meeting someone. Once a woman meets someone for the second time, two kisses on the cheek, just as in France, is the norm.

Dress Code

Similarly to many Western countries, business attire consists of the traditional suit and tie combination for men and varies among women. Men occasionally wear traditionally patterned shirts, while some Gabonese women prefer to wear traditional long-flowing robes of all colours.

Electricity

Gabon uses a 220-V, 50-Hz electricity network. European two-pin plugs, without ground pin, are most widely used. Modern buildings are equipped with European three-pin plugs.

Media

The most prominent newspaper is L’Union, an independent publication. The main TV channel is the publicly owned Gabon Télévision, and a variety of private operators also operate. In addition, French and other international channels are available by satellite.

Tipping

Although in general around 7% is considered fair, there are no strict rules for tipping. Tipping CFA1000-2000 (€1.50-3.00) for an expensive meal is perfectly acceptable, and generally there is no need to tip for inexpensive meals or drinks on a night out.

Health

The best place to receive medical treatment is most likely the El Rafa clinic and the military hospital in Libreville. This later is considered a model in the region, with standards in line with those in the developed world. For blood screening tests and common health issues like malaria, the Cabinet de Groupe, located in the Montagne-Sainte neighbourhood, is officially approved by the French Embassy.

Business Hours

Gabon put a “continuous working day” policy in place in 2010, which means that business hours run from 7.30am to 3.30pm. In the private sector, especially foreign firms, working days follow regular European hours with later closing times.

Transport

While privately owned cars remain the most common means of transportation, taxis are ubiquitous at both day and night. They are easy to flag down and are often shared with others, although it is possible to rent them for individual rides by specifying this beforehand. Rates range from CFA150 (€0.15) for a 1-km journey, to CFA2000 (€3.00) for a longer night time trip. A new luxury fleet of taxis (taxi compteur) can be found at high-end hotels.

Communications

The international country code for Gabon is +241. The country currently has four mobile operators. Interconnection rates are often expensive, and many people use two or three different SIM cards to avoid these costs.

Currency

Like other members of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa, Gabon uses the Central African Franc (CFA).

The CFA is linked directly to the French Treasury and is pegged to the euro at a fixed rate of €1:CFA655.957. Old or torn notes can be exchanged for new ones at the Bank of Central African States.

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Cover of The Report: Gabon 2015

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