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Gabon

Gabon

Gabon is a country in west central Africa sharing borders with Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Republic of the Congo and the Gulf of Guinea.

Background History

Until recently, only two autocratic presidents had ruled Gabon since its independence from France in 1960. The recent president of Gabon, El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba - one of the longest-serving heads of state in the world - had dominated the country's political scene for four decades. President Bongo introduced a nominal multiparty system and a new constitution in the early 1990s. However, allegations of electoral fraud during local elections in 2002-03 and the presidential elections in 2005 exposed the weaknesses of formal political structures in Gabon. President Bongo died in June 2009. New elections in August 2009 brought Ali Ben Bongo, son of the former president, to power. Despite political conditions, a small population, abundant natural resources, and considerable foreign support have helped make Gabon one of the more prosperous and stable African countries.

Government

Country Name:

  • conventional long form: Gabonese Republic
  • conventional short form: Gabon
  • local long form: Republique Gabonaise
  • local short form: Gabon

Capital:

  • name: Libreville
  • population: 619,000
  • geographic coordinates: 0 23 N, 9 27 E
  • time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Independence:

  • 17 August 1960 (from France)

Government Type:

  • republic; multiparty presidential regime

Executive Branch:

  • chief of state: President Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba (since 16 October 2009)
  • head of government: Prime Minister Raymond Ndong Sima (since 27 February 2012)
  • cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the prime minister in consultation with the president
  • elections: president elected by popular vote for a seven-year term (no term limits); election last held on 30 August 2009 (next to be held in 2016); prime minister appointed by the president

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: bicameral legislature consists of the Senate and the National Assembly

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: Supreme Court consisting of three chambers - Judicial, Administrative, and Accounts

People & Society

Population:

  • 1,608,321 (global rank: 153)
  • growth rate: 1.977% (global rank: 53)

Nationality:

  • noun: Gabonese (singular and plural)
  • adjective: Gabonese

Major Cities:

  • Libreville (capital): 619,000

Ethnic Groups:

  • Bantu tribes, including four major tribal groupings (Fang, Bapounou, Nzebi, Obamba); other Africans and Europeans, 154,000, including 10,700 French and 11,000 persons of dual nationality

Religions:

  • Christian 55%-75%, animist, Muslim less than 1%

Languages:

  • French (official), Fang, Myene, Nzebi, Bapounou/Eschira, Bandjabi

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 52.29 years (global rank: 209)
  • male: 51.65 years
  • female: 52.93 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 49 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 46)
  • male: 56.68 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 41.09 deaths/1,000 live births

HIV/AIDS:

  • adult prevalence rate: 5.2% (2009 est.) (global rank: 14)
  • people living with AIDS: 46,000 (2009 est.) (global rank: 59)

Literacy:

  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 63.2%
  • male: 73.7%
  • female: 53.3%

Economy

Gabon enjoys a per capita income four times that of most sub-Saharan African nations, but because of high income inequality, a large proportion of the population remains poor. Gabon depended on timber and manganese until oil was discovered offshore in the early 1970s. The economy was reliant on oil for about 50% of its GDP, about 70% of revenues, and 87% of goods exports for 2010,although some fields have passed their peak production. A rebound of oil prices from 1999 to 2008 helped growth, but declining production has hampered Gabon from fully realizing potential gains. Gabon signed a 14-month Stand-By Arrangement with the IMF in May 2007, and later that year issued a $1 billion sovereign bond to buy back a sizable portion of its Paris Club debt. Gabon continues to face fluctuating prices for its oil, timber, and manganese exports. Despite the abundance of natural wealth, poor fiscal management has stifled the economy. However, President Bongo has made efforts to increase transparency and is taking steps to make Gabon a more attractive investment destination to diversify the economy. Bongo intends to boost growth by increasing government investment in human resources and infrastructure.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $24.28 billion (global rank: 118)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $16,000 (global rank: 75)
  • real growth rate: 5.6% (global rank: 54)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 5.1%, industry: 53.9%, services: 41%

Currency:

  • currency: Cooperation Financiere en Afrique Centrale Francs
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 465.2

Poverty:

  • population below poverty line: NA
  • unemployment rate: 21%

Agricultural Products:

  • cocoa, coffee, sugar, palm oil, rubber; cattle; okoume (a tropical softwood); fish

Industries:

  • petroleum extraction and refining; manganese, gold; chemicals, ship repair, food and beverages, textiles, lumbering and plywood, cement

Exports Commodities:

  • crude oil 70%, timber, manganese, uranium

Imports Commodities:

  • machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, construction materials

Geography

Location:

  • Central Africa, bordering the Atlantic Ocean at the Equator, between Republic of the Congo and Equatorial Guinea

Area:

  • total: 267,667 sq km (global rank: 77)
  • land: 257,667 sq km
  • water: 10,000 sq km
  • comparative: slightly smaller than Colorado

Climate:

  • tropical; always hot, humid

Land Use:

  • arable land: 1.21%
  • permanent crops: 0.64%
  • other: 98.15%

Natural Resources:

  • petroleum, natural gas, diamond, niobium, manganese, uranium, gold, timber, iron ore, hydropower

Current Environmental Issues:

  • deforestation; poaching

Transnational Issues

  • international disputes: UN urges Equatorial Guinea and Gabon to resolve the sovereignty dispute over Gabon-occupied Mbane Island and lesser islands and to establish a maritime boundary in hydrocarbon-rich Corisco Bay
  • refugees (country of origin):  7,178 (Republic of Congo)

Updated: March 2012

Source: CIA World Factbook

For more info please contact:
African Studies
(310) 825-3686
africa@international.ucla.edu

African Studies Center