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Gabon's Economic Potential

Keith Boyfield - November 2011

Gabon: 50 years after independence from France will its market orientated strategy to achieve emerging nation status be realised?

Gabon is not well known in the Anglo Saxon investment community but this Francophone central African country, which bestrides the equator, is important for a host of reasons, and it is likely to exert an even stronger economic influence in the years ahead. Measured in terms of income per head it was ranked ninth in Africa in 2010 with a level of GDP per capita of US$6,997 measured at Purchasing Power Parity, sandwiched between Algeria above and Namibia below. Real GDP bounced back to an annual growth rate of 5.7% in 2010, compared to 5.6% in 2007. The slow-down was mainly attributable to the global financial crisis.     

Like many African economies, Gabon is resource rich, which explains its recent growth and future economic potential. Gabon has oil: indeed, quite a lot of it. In January 2011, it is estimated that Gabon had proven reserves of 2 billion barrels, which equates to nearly six times more than Nigeria – measured in terms of per head of population. The country has the second largest reserves of  manganese ore in the world. Furthermore, there have been recent discoveries of iron ore and total deposits now amount to nearly one billion tons; there are also reserves of gold, diamonds, lead, zinc, niobium and phosphates. Gabon has turned out to be a cornucopia of mineral wealth and the government reckon that over 900 sites offer the potential for mineral extraction. 

Until the discovery of oil, with a small population but with over 22 million hectares of rain forest, the main export earner for the country was timber.&nb...

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