The Report: Gabon 2015

An upper-middle-income country situated on the Gulf of Guinea, Gabon is one of Africa’s leading oil producers. With a population of around 1.7m and a stable political system, it plays a leading role in the region through its membership in the CEMAC economic bloc.

Country Profile

Situated on Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, Gabon is part of a select grouping of upper-middle-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Timber, oil and mineral reserves form the backbone of the economy. The political system is stable and the country plays a leading role in the region through its membership in the CEMAC economic bloc. Gabon has strong ties with Europe, and especially France, for historical reasons, but it has strived in recent years to broaden its economic and diplomatic partners, and several emerging powers from elsewhere in Asia and Africa are playing a bigger role in investment flows. Exogenous pressures, including a drop in commodity prices, especially oil, have presented short-term challenges and prompted budgetary revisions.

This chapter also includes interviews with President Ali Bongo Ondimba and Prime Minister Daniel Ona Ondo, as well as viewpoints from US Vice-President Joe Biden and Pierre Moussa, President, CEMAC Commission.

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Gabon has seen stable growth over the past five years, aided in part by a government drive to promote diversification in line with its Emerging Gabon Strategic Plan. However, its continued dependence on oil has left the country vulnerable to external shocks, and the low-price environment of 2014 and 2015 will likely cause complications for the next two to three years, as the authorities grapple with lower budgets and greater debt challenges.

This chapter includes interviews with Régis Immongault, Minister of Economy; Madeleine Berre, President, Gabonese Employers’ Confederation, and Partner & General Manager, Deloitte Legal and Tax; and Nina Abouna, Director-General, National Investment Promotion Agency (ANPI).

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Oil is the lifeblood of Gabon’s economy, representing half of state revenues and around 80% of export earnings in 2014. The absence of major new discoveries, declining production at mature fields and the halving of oil prices over the past year have dampened the short-term outlook, leading to a push for enhanced oil recovery and new exploration. If confirmed, recent offshore gas discoveries will help to boost output.

This chapter includes interviews with Etienne Dieudonné Ngoubou, Minister of Petroleum and Hydrocarbons; and Serge Toulekima, CEO, Gabon Oil Company.

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Banking & Financial Services

Banking growth is expected to be subdued due to the fall in oil prices, though new developments such as the introduction of mobile money services and increased inter-bank cooperation have served the sector in good stead over the long run. Insurance, meanwhile, grew by 3.3% in 2014, mainly due to the uptick in industry and infrastructure activity.

This chapter includes interviews with Edgar Théophile Anon, Managing Director, BGFIBank Gabon; and Bernard Bartoszek, Former President, Federation of Gabonese Insurance Companies.

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Agriculture & Forestry

The government is aiming to boost agriculture’s contribution to GDP to 20% by 2025 through partnership with international institutions and private enterprises. It also intends to reduce food imports, which reached €523.8m in 2014. Efforts are under way to ensure that sector management is sustainable.

This chapter includes interviews with Gagan Gupta, Country Head, Olam; and Gert Vandersmissen, Group COO, SIAT.

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Industry & Mining

With 5% growth in the secondary sector in 2014, Gabon’s industrialisation continues apace under the Emerging Gabon plan, supported by investors in agro-industry, construction materials, forestry and petrochemicals. Special economic zones are being developed to process raw commodities into products with higher value added, fed partly by new projects in the mining sector.

This chapter includes interviews with Christophe Akagha-Mba, Minister of Mines, Industry and Tourism; and Fabrice Nzé-Békalé, CEO, Société Equatoriale des Mines (SEM).

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With improvements to the road, rail, shipping and aviation networks a key goal, Gabon’s transport sector is undergoing a major transformation. While population pressure is modest, existing links are limited: the two largest cities, Libreville and Port-Gentil, had, until work began on one recently, no road connection. Beyond improving internal connectivity and expanding capacity at international gateways such as the Port of Owendo and Libreville’s airport, the projects are also part of the Emerging Gabon Strategic Plan, which aims to boost activity in the industrial and services sectors. The government’s focus will bring increasing opportunities for private sector involvement, in part due to budgetary constraints following the drop in oil prices.

This chapter includes interviews with Rigobert Ikambouayat Ndeka, Managing Director, Office of Ports and Harbours of Gabon (OPRAG); and Patrick Claes, Managing Director, Setrag.

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Construction & Real Estate

While ongoing infrastructure projects are providing a steady supply of work for construction firms, fiscal constraints have led to a reduction in public investment. Access to land remains a key obstacle for real estate development. To address this, the government has introduced reforms to reduce wait times for land titles from as much as 10 years down to 180 days.

This chapter includes an interview with Paul Mapessi, Managing Director, Société Nationale du Logement Social (SNLS).

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Telecoms & IT

The launch of 3G and 4G in 2014 should provide new revenue streams in the telecoms sector, and the focus in the near term will be on improving data capacity and network quality. Growing demand for digital services and the commercialisation of access to Gabon’s second submarine cable are helping to lay the foundations for a rise in activity in the ICT sector. This chapter includes an interview with Alex Bernard Bongo Ondimba, Managing Director, National Agency for Digital Infrastructure and Frequencies (ANINF).

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The industry’s potential has garnered attention from the government and private operators, with the state aiming to boost visitor numbers to 100,000 per year by 2020. The majority of visitors come for business, but luxury tourism projects are in the works to diversify the offer. Ecotourism and luxury are two promising segments that could help boost the sector’s contribution to GDP.

This chapter includes an interview with Lee White, Managing Director, National Agency for National Parks (Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux, ANPN).

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This chapter covers the ins and outs of the Gabonese tax system, covering areas of particular interest to investors, including recent changes, corporate income tax, capital gains and dividends, deductions and depreciation, taxes on wages and VAT, among other topics. In addition, it also includes an interview with Nicolas Balesme, Associate, Deloitte Gabon.

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Legal Framework

This chapter provides an overview of the Gabonese legal system, including the general legal environment and the legal framework for investment, touching on sector-specific incentives in tourism, agriculture and mining, among other areas.

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Table of Contents

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The Guide

This chapter contains an article on African football, as well as information on hotels, government agencies and other listings, along with useful tips for visitors on a range of topics such as visa requirements, currency, communications, dress codes and business hours, among others.

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