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Country Profile

Area: 267,667 sq km (103,347 sq miles)
Population: 1.545 million (2010 est)
Capital City: Libreville (population: 675,000)
People: Fang (largest), Myene, Bapounou, Eschira, Bandjabi, Bateke/Obamba
Language(s): French (official), Fang, Myene, Bateke, Bapounou / Eschira, Badjabi
Religion(s): Christian (over 55%), indigenous, Muslim (5%-10%)
Currency: CFA Franc (fixed to euro).
Major political parties: Parti Democratique Gabonais (PDG), Parti Gabonais du Progres (PGP), Rassemblement National Des Bucherons (RNB), Union du Peuple Gabonais (UPG)
Head of State: President Ali Bongo Ondimba
Prime Minister, Head of Government: Paul Biyoghe Mba
Membership of international groupings/organisations: African Development Bank (AFDB), African Union (AU), Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), non-permanent seat on UN Security Council (2010-2011).

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GDP: US$14 bn (2010 est)
GDP growth rate: 5.4% (2010 est)
Inflation: 5.0% (2010 est)
Major Industries: Petroleum, mining, forestry
Major trading partners: US, China, EU, France
Exchange rate: Pegged at FCFA 655.957 = euro 1.00
Gabon has a relatively high per capita income, largely due to oil revenues and a small population. Oil accounted for roughly 50% of GDP in 2008, as well as 65% of government revenue and over 80% of total exports. However, despite new investment in technology and exploration of marginal wells, oil revenue is projected to fall further in the long term due to declining output in ageing fields. Gabon’s oil fields are now declining in production from a peak in 1997 of 370,000 bpd, and some estimates suggest they could be expended within the next 15 years. Gabon’s economic performance was adversely affected during the global economic recession but the economy is still very strong for the region.

Timber is Gabon's second largest export, and the forestry sector has been worst hit during the economic crisis. The mining sector in Gabon is, however, growing quickly, as companies seek to exploit known reserves of manganese, niobium and the world’s largest unexploited iron ore deposit. Agriculture has been limited due to forest cover and a lack of suitable land. More than half the food needs of the country are imported. Ten per cent of Gabon's area was designated in 2002 as National Park – the highest proportion of any state in the world – in recognition of Gabon's enormous potential as a destination for eco-tourism.

Contraction of the oil sector makes diversification of the economy a priority. A National Diversification Commission has been created, with a CFA 100bn available for investments and building infrastructure.

A three-year stand-by agreement between Gabon and the IMF was officially approved in May 2007. Gabon was unable to meet its economic goals under this agreement in 2009 and negotiations between the Gabonese government and IMF are ongoing.

International Monetary Fund - Gabon (

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France ruled what was to become Gabon from 1839. In 1849 slaves freed by the French founded the Gabonese capital Libreville (Free Town). In 1910 Gabon became one of the 4 territories of the Federation of French Equatorial Africa (AEF) along with Chad, Congo (Brazzaville), and the Central African Republic. Gabon achieved independence in 1960, with Leon Mba elected President in 1961. He was deposed in the only coup in Gabon's history in 1964, but was restored after French intervention. His Vice-President and hand-picked successor, Albert-Bernard Bongo, took over on his death in 1967 and declared Gabon a one-party state, which it remained until 1990. President Bongo converted to Islam in 1973, taking the name Omar el-Hadj.

Gabon enjoyed political stability throughout the 1970s, due largely to the rapid oil-driven economic growth that has given Gabon one of the largest per capita incomes in sub-Saharan Africa. But by the 1980s the oil boom was over and opposition grew. A government-in-exile was formed in Paris, and in response to a number of strikes, continued deterioration of the economy, and continued pressure for greater democracy, President Bongo convened a National Conference in March 1990 to establish the principles for change.

The country’s long serving President, Omar Bongo, died on 8 June 2009. Following Presidential elections, Omar Bongo’s son, Ali Bongo, was inaugurated as the new President of Gabon on 16 October 2009.

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Former President Omar Bongo often acted as a mediator in regional disputes, and enjoyed a high degree of influence on regional issues. It remains to be seen whether Gabon will continue to maintain such regional influence under the new government. Gabon currently has a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council (2010-2011).

Gabon has traditional ties with Congo-Brazzaville, which has a number of ethnic groups in common with Gabon.

In February 2003, tensions resurfaced between Gabon and neighbouring Equatorial Guinea over sovereignty of islands in the oil-rich off-shore waters, a source of friction between them since 1972. Although a UN-brokered settlement was agreed in January 2004, which provided for joint exploitation of the disputed area, the delineation of the maritime boundary has not yet been settled.

Gabon is a member of the Franc Zone, and its currency is tied to the Euro. Relations with the former colonial power France remain close although strained by several financial corruption scandals that have been highlighted by the French media. There are some 10,700 French permanent residents in Gabon. France also maintains a long-standing sovereign military base in Gabon.

Gabon's Relations with the UK

Diplomatic Representation

Gabon enjoys good relations with the UK. The UK is represented by the British High Commission in Yaoundé, Cameroon. HE Mr Bharat Joshi is accredited as non-resident ambassador to Gabon. Gabon has a full Embassy in the UK, represented by HE Mr Omer Piankali.


-- March 2011 President Ali Bongo attended an Africa Business Summit and met with the Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and HRH The Prince of Wales during his visit.

-- November 2009 Ali Bongo visited the UK as President, to attend an event on climate change where he met HRH The Prince of Wales.

-- July 2008 the Gabonese Foreign Minister met with the FCO in London.

-- March 2008 Ali Bongo visited the UK in his capacity as Defence Minister

-- July 2007 the Gabonese Finance Minister visited the UK for meetings with HM Treasury

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Gabon sits on the Equator in western Africa bordered by Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, and the Republic of Congo. About 85% of the country is covered with rainforest. Gabon is one of the most mineral rich countries in Africa.

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Trade and Investment with the UK

UK exports to Gabon were worth £18.3 million in the first half of 2009. UK imports from Gabon in the same period were worth £17.5 million. Although these are the latest figures, UK-Gabon trade is increasing.


Despite relative wealth, the majority of the Gabonese population remains extremely poor and the country has social indicators barely higher than the sub-Saharan average. Gabon was ranked 93 out of 182 states in the 2010 UNDP Human Development Index. Life expectancy at birth is 61 years (2010) and Infant Mortality rate is 55 deaths per 1,000 live births. Adult literacy is 86.2% Gabon's adult HIV/AIDS infection rate is 5.9% (2007 est).

The UK has made £50 million available for forestry projects in the region, through the Congo Basin Forest Fund. Smaller-scale projects also benefit through funding to such NGOs as The Rainforest Foundation.

United Nations Development Programme (
World Bank - Gabon (,,menuPK:352115~pagePK:141159~piPK:141110~theSitePK:352109,00.html)

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Following the recommendations of the National Conference, a new constitution was adopted in March 1991. It provided for a multi-party system, an Executive Presidency, with a limit of 2 terms of 5 years (but allowing Bongo to complete his existing term, which ended in 1994) and a unicameral National Assembly of 119 elected members. A subsequent constitution, adopted in April 1997, made significant changes. It provided for a new post of Vice-President, an Upper House and an extension of the presidential term to 7 years, renewable once. Then, in July 2003, the National Assembly again approved a change in the constitution, which abolished the two-term limit on Presidential office.

The first multi-party elections for nearly 30 years took place in late 1990, followed by presidential elections in December 1993. President Bongo and his Parti Democratique Gabonais (PDG) won both, and Bongo remained in power despite serious civil disturbances between 1991 and 1993, and further electoral and constitutional reform. Presidential elections were then held in November 2005. Bongo was re-elected for a further 7-year term, with 79% of the vote amid allegations of electoral malpractice. But despite continuing industrial action and social unrest over increasing unemployment, his position remained unchallenged. The last full legislative elections were held in December 2006 in which the ruling party, Bongo's PDG, won 85 of the 120 seats. The next legislative elections, on a 5-year cycle, are due in 2011. Indirect elections to the Senate were held in February 2003 in which the PDG also won a majority, taking 60 seats out of 91.

Omar Bongo died on 8 June 2009, aged 73. He had been in power in Gabon since 1967, making him one of the world’s longest serving leaders. His son, Ali Bongo, then Defence Minister, secured the nomination of the PDG party and was announced as the winner of the Presidential elections on 3 September 2009. There was a degree of violence around the elections, particularly in the opposition stronghold of Port Gentil. Opposition figures contested the victory through the Constitutional Court, amid allegations of vote-rigging, but following a recount the Court confirmed Bongo’s victory on 12 October, with a margin of 42%. Since his inauguration on 16 October 2009, Ali Bongo has promised social and economic reform.

BBC News Country Profile: Gabon (
BBC News: Africa (

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Gabon's human rights record is reasonable, and better than many countries in the region. The Gabonese constitution, supplemented by provisions, laws and regulations, formally guarantees a number of rights and fundamental freedoms. There are few restrictions on freedom of association or free speech. The judiciary is relatively independent, though can be inefficient and slow, leaving the system open to corruption. The prison system suffers from overcrowding; for example, Libreville prison, built to hold 400, actually accommodates roughly 1500 inmates. The government is, however, undertaking reform of the prison and justice systems. Gabon formally announced the abolition of the death penalty on 13 September 2007, following a revision of the penal code. Arbitrary arrest and detentions remain problematic, and Gabon has a large number of pre-trial detainees. In January 2009, Gabonese authorities arrested and detained a group of civil society campaigners and journalists. The press is nominally independent, but the majority of the media has political affiliations and can come under government pressure, which may in turn lead to self-censorship. There have also been allegations of opposition politicians being harassed. Minorities, particularly pygmies, can suffer from discrimination.

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Last Updated: April 2011

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