Return to: Index of "1996 Country Commercial Guides" || Index of "Economic and Business Issues" || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage

U.S. Department of State 
1996 Gabon Country Commercial Guide 
Office of the Coordinator for Business Affairs 
 
 
 
                 1996 COUNTRY COMMERCIAL GUIDE 
                              GABON 
 
This Country Commercial Guide (CCG) presents a comprehensive look at 
Gabon's commercial environment through economic, political and market 
analyses.   
 
The CCGs were established by recommendation of the Trade Promotion 
Coordinating Committee (TPCC), a multi-agency task force, to consolidate 
various reporting documents prepared for the U.S. business community.  
Country Commercial Guides are prepared annualy at U.S. Embassies through 
the combined efforts of several U.S. governement agencies.   
 
 
 
                   CHAPTER I - EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 
 
THIS SMALL EQUATORIAL COUNTRY OF ABOUT 1 MILLION PEOPLE IS ON THE 
ATLANTIC COAST OF AFRICA. IT BECAME INDEPENDENT IN 1960. REFLECTING ITS 
COLONIAL HERITAGE, GABON'S ECONOMIC, LINGUISTIC AND CULTURAL TIES WITH 
FRANCE REMAIN STRONG. THE HEAD OF STATE IS PRESIDENT OMAR BONGO (IN 
OFFICE SINCE 1967 AND RE-ELECTED IN 1993). THE GOVERNMENT IS HEADED BY A 
PRIME MINISTER. 
 
THERE IS A NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ELECTED EACH 5 YEARS AND A CONSTITUTIONAL 
(SUPREME) COURT. PRESIDENT BONGO'S PARTY AND COALITION PARTNERS HOLD A 
LARGE PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY. BY AGREEMENT ENSHRINED IN THE "PARIS 
ACCORDS" OF SEPTEMBER 1994, THE GOVERNMENT FORMED IN OCTOBER 1994 
INCLUDES 6 MINISTERS FROM PARTIES FORMERLY IN THE OPPOSITION. MUNICIPAL 
ELECTIONS ARE SCHEDULED FOR OCTOBER 1995 WITH LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS 6 
MONTHS LATER. 
 
GABON HAS ONE OF AFRICA'S HIGHEST PER CAPITA INCOME FIGURES -- ALMOST 
USDOLS 4,000 -- BUT THE INCOME DISTRIBUTION IS EXTREMELY SKEWED. THE 
ECONOMY IS HEAVILY DEPENDENT ON OIL, WHICH ACCOUNTS FOR MORE THAN 60 
PERCENT OF GDP AND 90 PERCENT OF EXPORTS. GABON ALSO EXPLOITS TIMBER 
FROM ITS EXTENSIVE FORESTS AND MANGANESE AND URANIUM FROM ITS MINES. 
FOLLOWING THE JANUARY 1994 DEVALUATION OF THE THE CFA FRANC, USED BY 
GABON AND 12 OTHER FRENCH-SPEAKING AFRICAN COUNTRIES, GABON QUALIFIED 
FOR AN IMF STANDBY ARRANGEMENT AND RESCHEDULINGS AT THE PARIS AND LONDON 
CLUBS. GABON SUCCESSFULLY MET IMF CONDITIONS AND HAS BEEN DISCUSSING A 
RENEWED IMF LONGER TERM EXTENDED FUND FACILITY SINCE MARCH OF 1995. 
LIKELY CONDITIONS WILL BE REDUCTION OF THE GOVERNMENT'S LARGE INTERNAL 
ARREARS, THE RESTRUCTURING (AND POSSIBLE PRIVATIZING) OF LARGE 
PARASTATAL ENTERPRISES AND CONTAINMENT OF CIVIL SERVICE WAGES.   
 
CRUDE OIL PRODUCTION IN 1995 IS ABOUT 330,000 BPD -- A 10 PERCENT 
INCREASE OVER THE PREVIOUS YEAR. EXPLORATION IS CONTINUING BOTH ON AND 
OFF SHORE. IN 1993 GABON EXPORTED PETROLEUM WORTH APPROXIMATELY USDOLS 
1.7 BILLION. TIMBER EXPORTS WERE USDOLS 162 MILLION AND MANGANESE 
EXPORTS WERE USDOLS 90 MILLION. FRANCE HAS TRADITIONALLY BEEN ITS 
LEADING SUPPLIER, BUT THE FRENCH SHARE OF GABON'S IMPORTS BY VALUE HAS 
TENDED TO FALL (FROM 37 PERCENT IN 1989 TO 26 PERCENT IN 1992) WHILE THE 
U.S. IS GENERALLY THE SECOND SUPPLIER WITH 27 TO 30 PERCENT OF THE 
MARKET BY VALUE. 
 
THE GABONESE INVESTMENT CODE WAS ADOPTED IN 1989 AND CONTAINS THE SAME 
SORTS OF INCENTIVES AS THOSE OF OTHER FRANCOPHONE COUNTRIES. IN THEORY 
THE CODE SHOULD BE IN HARMONY WITH THOSE OF THE OTHER MEMBERS OF THE 
CENTRAL AFRICAN CUSTOMS UNION (UDEAC), BUT COORDINATION HAS NOT BEEN 
ENTIRELY SUCCESSFUL. THERE ARE NO RESTRICTIONS ON INTRODUCING FOREIGN 
CAPITAL INTO GABON, AND FUNDS MAY BE FREELY TRANSFERRED FOR COMMERCIAL 
TRANSACTIONS WITHIN THE FRANC ZONE AND ABROAD THROUGH REGULAR BANKING 
CHANNELS OVERSEEN BY THE REGIONAL CENTRAL BANK. LARGE FOREIGN FIRMS 
OPERATE ON THE SAME BASIS AS NATIONAL FIRMS. GABON RESERVES THE RIGHT TO 
FAVOR LOCAL FIRMS. 
 
GABON SUFFERED A SEVERE ECONOMIC SHOCK IN 1986 WHEN THE WORLD PRICE OF 
OIL FELL DRAMATICALLY AND GDP WAS ALMOST CUT IN HALF. IN 1994 GABON WAS 
SUBJECT TO A SECOND ECONOMIC SHOCK IN THE FORM OF OF A FIFTY PERCENT 
DEVALUATION OF THE CFA FRANC. THIS WAS THE FIRST CHANGE IN THE CFA 
PARITY TO THE FRENCH FRANC IN NEARLY FIFTY YEARS. THE DEVALUATION 
RESULTED IN A ONE HUNDRED PERCENT INCREASE IN IMPORT PRICES IN CFA 
TERMS. REAL GDP INCREASED BY ONLY ONE PERCENT IN 1994. THE DEVALUATION 
SHIFTED THE COMPOSITION OF IMPORTS AWAY FROM CONSUMER GOODS IN FAVOR OF 
INVESTMENT GOODS. IMPORT FIGURES FOR 1994 SHOWED A 14 PERCENT DECREASE 
IN THE VALUE OF IMPORTS AS GABONESE CONSUMERS RAPIDLY SHIFTED AWAY FROM 
TRADITIONAL SOURCES IN FAVOR OF LOWER COST GOODS FROM SPAIN, NORTH 
AFRICA, AND ASIA. FRENCH FIRMS AND SUBSIDIARIES CONTINUE TO BE 
SIGNIFICANT COMMERCIAL PLAYERS IN GABON. HISTORICAL AND LINGUISTIC TIES 
ARE STRONG. THERE IS A RELATIVELY LARGE RESIDENT FRENCH COMMUNITY 
ENGAGED IN ALL SECTORS OF BUSINESS. FRENCH FIRMS OFTEN BENEFIT FROM 
CONCESSIONAL FINANCING AND MIXED CREDITS FROM THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT. 
  
GABON'S SMALL MARKET PROVIDES LIMITED OPPORTUNITIES FOR U.S. FIRMS. 
ALTHOUGH ALMOST HALF OF THE POPULATION OF 1 MILLION IS BETWEEN THE AGES 
OF 18 AND 55, THE FORMAL ECONOMY EMPLOYS ONLY 100,000 REGULAR WAGE 
EARNERS: 50,000 IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR, 20,000 IN THE PARAPUBLIC SECTOR 
AND 30,000 IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR. THE GABONESE ECONOMY IS ALSO BURDENED 
BY AN INEFFICIENT SYSTEM OF STATE-OWNED ENTERPRISES. THE GOVERNMENT IS 
RELUCTANT TO DOWNSIZE OR PRIVATIZE THESE PARASTATALS AS THIS WOULD RISK 
INCREASING UNEMPLOYMENT. LABOR COSTS ARE HIGH, AND THE LABOR CODE TENDS 
TO FAVOR THE NATIONAL EMPLOYEE OVER THE EMPLOYER. 
 
DESPITE SUCH DISINCENTIVES, GABON IS RICH IN NATURAL RESOURCES AND 
UNTAPPED POTENTIAL. U.S. CULTURE IS WIDELY APPRECIATED AND U.S. CONSUMER 
GOODS ENJOY A FAVORABLE REPUTATION. THESE POSTIVE SIGNS MAY WELL PAVE 
THE WAY FOR FUTURE MARKET OPPORTUNITIES. AT PRESENT, THE PETROLEUM 
SECTOR REMAINS THE MOST ATTRACTIVE PROSPECT FOR U.S. COMPANIES, 
PARTICULARLY IN OIL FIELDS SERVICES AND DRILLING. THE GOVERNMENT HAS 
OPENLY DECLARED THAT IT WOULD LIKE TO MOVE THE COUNTRY "FROM AN ECONOMY 
OF RENT TO AN ECONOMY OF PRODUCTION" AND ENCOURAGES INVESTMENT IN 
FISHERIES, WOOD PROCESSING, PORT DEVELOPMENT AND LIGHT INDUSTRY. 
 
 
*** NOTE: COUNTRY COMMERCIAL GUIDES ARE AVAILABLE ON THE NATIONAL TRADE 
DATA BANK ON CD-ROM OR THROUGH THE INTERNET. PLEASE CONTACT STAT-USA AT 
1-800-STAT-USA FOR MORE INFORMATION. TO LOCATE COUNTRY COMMERCIAL GUIDES 
VIA THE INTERNET, PLEASE USE THE FOLLOWING WORLD WIDE WEB ADDRESS: 
WWW.STAT-USA.GOV. CCGS CAN ALSO BE ORDERED IN HARD COPY OR ON DISKETTE 
FROM THE NATIONAL TECHNICAL INFORMATION SERVICE (NTIS) AT  
1-800-553-NTIS. 
 
 
 
              CHAPTER II - ECONOMIC TRENDS AND OUTLOOK 
 
A - MAJOR TRENDS AND OUTLOOK 
 
GABON'S ECONOMY IS CHARACTERIZED BY THE DISTORTIONS TYPICAL OF MANY 
RESOURCE RICH COUNTRIES, IN WHICH EXCESSIVE DEMAND FOR NON-TRADABLE 
GOODS RAISES FACTOR COSTS, MAKING DIVERSIFICATION INTO NON-RESOURCE 
INTENSIVE TRADABLE PRODUCTS DIFFICULT. AS A RESULT, THE FOUNDATION FOR 
DIVERSIFIED GROWTH IN GABON HAS YET TO BE BUILT. THE ECONOMY IS 
DOMINATED BY THE OIL SECTOR, WHICH ACCOUNTS FOR HALF OF GDP, CLOSE TO 
HALF OF GOVERNMENT REVENUE, 50 TO 60 PERCENT OF GROSS INVESTMENT, AND 
OVER THREE QUARTERS OF MERCHANDISE EXPORTS. IN THE PAST, THE COUNTRY 
RELIED ON OIL REVENUES TO FINANCE PUBLIC INVESTMENT PROJECTS WITH POOR 
RATES OF RETURN AND IN EXCESS OF THE ECONOMY'S ABSORPTIVE CAPACITY. THIS 
UNDERMINED GABON'S COMPETIVENESS AND EXACERBATED ITS DEPENDENCE ON OIL. 
THE MODERN SECTOR IS DOMINATED BY INEFFICIENT PARAPUBLIC ENTERPRISES IN 
WHICH THE PRIVATE SECTOR IS STIFLED. A STRONG GABONESE ENTREPRENEURIAL 
CLASS HAS YET TO EMERGE. BUSINESS, COMMERCE AND VOCATIONAL TRAINING HAVE 
NOT BEEN TARGETED AS HIGH PRIORITY EDUCATIONAL GOALS. 
 
THE DEVELOPMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND SMALL AND MEDIUM SIZED ENTERPRISES, 
WHICH OUGHT TO PROVIDE EMPLOYMENT AND INCOME OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE BULK 
OF THE LABOR FORCE, HAS BEEN HINDERED BY A LOSS OF COMPETITIVENESS. THE 
UNDERDEVELOPMENT AND INADEQUATE MAINTENANCE OF THE TRANSPORT SECTOR, 
COMBINED WITH EXCESSIVE PUMP PRICES FOR GASOLINE, CAUSE A SIGNIFICANT 
BOTTLENECK IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF OTHER SECTORS, PARTICULARLY AGRICULTURE 
AND FORESTRY, AND RAISE TRANSACTION COSTS THROUGHOUT THE ECONOMY. THE 
DEPENDENCE ON OIL IS FURTHER AMPLIFIED BY THE GOVERNMENT'S 
OVERINDEBTEDNESS, WHICH PREVENTS IT FROM STABILIZING THE ECONOMY THROUGH 
COUNTERCYCLICAL BUDGETARY POLICIES. 
 
B - PRINCIPAL GROWTH SECTORS 
 
1.  PETROLEUM:  OIL AND ITS RELATED INDUSTRIES ARE THE KEY SECTORS OF 
THE GABONESE ECONOMY. IN 1994, PETROLEUM ACTIVITIES GENERATED 50 PERCENT 
OF GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT, AND OIL PRODUCTION REACHED 16 MILLION TONS, 
DUPLICATING 1993 PERFORMANCE LEVELS. MUCH OF THE OIL CAME FROM THE 
ONSHORE ZONES, ESPECIALLY THE RABI KOUNGA OILFIELD IN SOUTHWESTERN 
GABON. THIS FIELD WAS BROUGHT INTO PRODUCTION IN 1989 AND LATER 
DEVELOPED TO ITS CURRENT CAPACITY OF 200,000 BARRELS/DAY. THE RABI YIELD 
HAS OFFSET FALLING OUTPUT ON THE MANDJI, GAMBA, AND LUCINA FIELDS. GABON 
HAS THE TECHNICAL CAPABILITY TO CONTINUE TO INCREASE OUTPUT IN THE NEXT 
FIVE YEARS BUT FACES TWO LIMITING FACTORS:  
 
-  FURTHER EXPANSION OF RABI KOUNGA'S CAPACITY IS CONTINGENT ON AN 
INCREASE IN OIL PRICES. CURRENT LEVELS ON THE PRICE OF CRUDE OIL DO NOT 
JUSTIFY ADDITIONAL INVESTMENT. 
 
-  GABON HAS CUT ITS OUTPUT MARGINALLY IN RESPONSE TO OPEC MARKETING 
POLICY GUIDELINES. 
 
2. FORESTRY SECTOR: THE YIELD ON FORESTRY PRODUCTS IS EXPECTED TO 
REGISTER MEASURABLE IMPROVEMENT IN THE NEAR FUTURE AS THE RESULT OF A 
REORGANIZATION OF THE STATE COMPANY SNBG, THE DECREASE IN EXPORTS OF 
SOUTH EAST ASIAN TROPICAL TIMBER AND IMPROVING PRICE COMPETITIVENESS DUE 
TO THE CURRENCY DEVALUATION. A POSITIVE DEVELOPMENT SHOULD BE EXPECTED 
FROM THIS SECTOR SINCE 80 PERCENT OF THE COUNTRY IS COVERED BY DENSE 
FOREST, AND THE GABONESE GOVERNMENT IS ACTIVELY TRYING TO DIVERSIFY 
EXPORT EARNINGS. GABON'S FORESTRY SECTOR IS THE COUNTRY'S THIRD LARGEST 
INDUSTRY, PRODUCING ABOUT ONE MILLION CUBIC METERS OF WOOD ANNUALLY, OF 
WHICH APPROXIMATELY 75 PERCENT IS EXPORTED. FORESTS COVER 80 PERCENT OF 
THE LAND SURFACE. COMMERCIAL WOOD RESERVES COVER AN AREA OF 50 MILLION 
ACRES AND ARE ESTIMATED TO BE 300 MILLION CUBIC METERS (M3). OKOUME 
REPRESENTS 72 PERCENT OF WOOD PRODUCTION; OZIGO REPRESENTS THREE 
PERCENT; BOTH ARE FAST GROWING, SOFT MAHOGANIES WHICH ARE PRIMARILY USED 
FOR PLYWOOD. THE REMAINING 25 PERCENT ARE SPREAD OVER A WIDE VARIETY OF 
EXOTIC HARD WOODS WHICH HAVE NOT BEEN EXTENSIVELY LOGGED. THE GABONESE 
GOVERNMENT HAS A MONOPOLY OVER THE MARKETING OF OKOUME AND OZIGO. 
 
3. TELECOMMUNICATION SECTOR: THE OFFICE DES POSTES ET TELECOMMUNICATIONS 
DU GABON (OPT), A PARASTATAL, HAS A MONOPOLY ON THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS 
NETWORK AND MOST SERVICES IN GABON. SCIENTIFIC ATLANTA SUCCESSFULLY 
INSTALLED 13 EARTH STATIONS FOR THE DOMESTIC NETWORK CALLED DOMSAT 
(DOMESTIC SATELLITE NETWORK). THE CELLULAR COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM FROM 
MOTOROLA IS IN OPERATION IN LIBREVILLE AND PORT GENTIL; THE SYSTEM WILL 
ALSO BE EXTENDED TO OTHER MAJOR CITIES. HUGHES NETWORK SYSTEMS 
SUCCESSFULLY INSTALLED A VSAT (VERY SMALL APERTURE TERMINAL) NETWORK 
USING SMALL ANTENNA FOR RURAL TELEPHONE AND DATA COMMUNICATION. THERE 
ARE PLANS TO UPGRADE AND EXPAND THE PUBLIC SWITCH TELEPHONE NETWORK 
(PSTN) TO MAKE IT INTEGRATED SERVICE DIGITAL NETWORK (ISDN) COMPATIBLE, 
WHICH WILL REQUIRE SEVERAL NEW SWITCHING CENTERS. CONNECTIONS BETWEEN 
SUB-SWITCHES TO REDUCE DEMANDS ON THE CENTRAL SWITCH WILL NECESSITATE 
EXTENSIVE NEW CABLE AND AMPLIFICATION INSTALLATIONS. THE EXPANSION WILL 
INCLUDE SUBURBS NORTH OF LIBREVILLE, WHICH ARE THE SITE OF NEW HOUSING 
CONSTRUCTION, AS WELL AS A FEW OTHER CITIES. 
 
A FIBER OPTIC SYSTEM WILL BE INSTALLED TO EASE ELECTRONIC DATA TRANSFER 
AND TO REPLACE THE PRESENT MICROWAVE LINK SYSTEM. OTHER PRIORITIES 
INCLUDE DIGITIZING THE CURRENT SCIENTIFIC ATLANTA DOMSAT, EXPANDING THE 
HUGHES NETWORK SYSTEMS VSAT NETWORK, AND EXPANDING MICROWAVE LINKS. OPT 
INDICATES THAT BEST PROSPECTS INCLUDE DIGITAL EQUIPMENT FOR THE PUBLIC 
EXCHANGE AND FIBER OPTICS FOR TRANSMISSION EQUIPMENT TO BE USED WITH 
GROUND-BASED MICROWAVE LINKED TO DIGITAL EQUIPMENT (THE FRENCH FIRMS 
ALCATEL AND JEUMONT SCHNEIDER HAVE A STRONG INFLUENCE IN THAT MARKET). 
FOR CELLULAR SERVICE, OPT INDICATES THAT THEY WILL CONTINUE TO USE 
MOTOROLA EQUIPMENT.   
 
4. MINING SECTOR: MINING POTENTIAL IS SIGNIFICANT, THOUGH IN 1994 THE 
MINING SECTOR ACCOUNTED FOR ONLY 8 PERCENT OF TOTAL EXPORTS AND ONLY TWO 
MAJOR MINES ARE CURRENTLY IN OPERATION. MOST OF THE MINING INDUSTRY IS 
CENTERED IN THE HAUT OGOOUE AREA: COMILOG'S MANGANESE OPERATIONS IN 
MOANDA AND COMUF'S URANIUM MINE IN MOUNANA. BOTH COMPANIES ARE EFFICIENT 
AND HAVE IMPORTANT RESERVES BUT HAVE HAD TO RESTRICT OUTPUT IN RESPONSE 
TO WEAK WORLD MARKET DEMAND. ESTIMATED MANGANESE RESERVES IN THE MOUNANA 
OPERATION REPRESENT 200 MILLION TONS OR ABOUT 25 PERCENT OF THE WORLD 
RESERVES OF HIGH CONCENTRATE MANGANESE ORE. THE MINE IS AN OPEN PIT, AND 
THE HIGH CONCENTRATE ORE IS ENRICHED ON SITE BY MECHANICAL OPERATION, 
YIELDING THE MAIN PRODUCT WHICH CONTAINS 51 PERCENT OF MANGANESE. 
COMILOG'S OUTPUT POTENTIAL IS 2.5 MILLION METRIC TONS PER YEAR OF 
FINISHED PRODUCT, BUT THE COMPANY IS SHIPPING ONLY 1.6 MILLION METRIC 
TONS A YEAR BECAUSE OF LOW DEMAND IN THE STEEL INDUSTRY.THE MANGANESE 
ORE IS SHIPPED TO LIBREVILLE (APPROX. 650 KMS) VIA THE TRANSGABONESE 
RAILROAD. 
  
PROVEN URANIUM RESERVES IN THE MOUNANA MINE ARE AROUND 35,000 TONS OF 
URANIUM METAL.THE ORE, WHICH HAS A HIGH URANIUM CONTENT OF 3.6 PER 
THOUSAND, IS PROCESSED AT THE SITE TO PRODUCE A SEMI-FINISHED PRODUCT 
CALLED "YELLOW CAKE", WHICH CONTAINS AROUND 73.5 PERCENT URANIUM AND IS 
SHIPPED TO LIBREVILLE VIA THE TRANSGABON RAILROAD.COMUF'S PRODUCTIVE 
CAPACITY PER YEAR IS 1,500 TONS OF URANIUM METAL. 1993 COMUF PRODUCTION 
WAS AROUND 550 TONS. 
 
IN ADDITION TO THESE TWO WELL-ESTABLISHED MINING OPERATIONS, GABON HAS 
CONSIDERABLE OTHER POTENTIAL FOR MINING PROSPECTS SUCH AS IRON ORE, WITH 
OVERALL RESERVES ESTIMATED AT 850 MILLION TONS. THE BELINGA HIGH GRADE 
IRON ORE DEPOSITS ARE LOCATED IN THE SOUTH OF THE HAUT IVINDO REGION ON 
THE BORDER BETWEEN GABON AND CONGO. THE MAIN OBSTACLE TO OPERATING A 
MINE AT BELINGA IS THE NEED FOR A 200 KMS RAIL SPUR LINK TO THE 
TRANSGABONESE. 
 
GOLD PRODUCTION IS ARTISANAL, BUT THE PROSPECTS ARE PROMISING.  THESE 
GOLD RESOURCES ARE FOUND IN FOUR MAIN DEPOSITS. DANGUI CONTAINS 14 TONS 
OF GOLD IN FOUR MINERALIZED STRUCTURES, OVALA CONTAINS 2 TONS OF GOLD, 
AND TWO OTHER SMALL DEPOSITS CONTAIN EACH 700 KGS OF GOLD. SUPPLIERS OF 
GOLD RECOVERY EQUIPMENT MAY FIND OPPORTUNITIES IN GABON. 
 
AN INCREASING NUMBER OF GEM-QUALITY DIAMONDS, SOME AS LARGE AS THREE 
CARATS, ARE BEING COLLECTED BY ARTISANAL MINERS NEAR MAKONGONIO IN 
SOUTHERN GABON. 
 
BARYTES RESERVES OF AROUND 1.2 MILLION TONS HAVE BEEN FOUND NEAR 
MAYUMBA. ANNUAL DEMAND OF BARYTES (USED FOR DRILLING MUD) IN THE AREA 
SOUTH OF THE GULF OF GUINEA IS ABOUT 50,000 TONS. 
 
A MINERAL INVENTORY OF THE ZONE SERVED BY THE TRANSGABONESE RAILWAY LED 
TO THE DISCOVERY (NEAR LAMBARENE) OF A BED OF NIOBIUM AND ASSOCIATED 
DEPOSITS OF PHOSPHATE, RARE EARTHS AND TITANIUM.  THIS PROSPECT HAS THE 
ADVANTAGE OF BEING WITHIN 10 KMS OF A RIVER TRANSPORT ON THE OGOOUE. A 
TALC DEPOSIT OF AROUND 2 MILLION TONS IS LOCATED IN THE NYANGA AREA. 
 
C - GOVERNMENT ROLE IN THE ECONOMY 
 
RECOGNIZING THE NEED TO ATTRACT FOREIGN SKILLS AND TECHNOLOGY TO ASSIST 
IN THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF THE COUNTRY, THE GOVERNMENT OF GABON 
ACTIVELY PURSUES FOREIGN INVESTMENT.   
 
THE GOVERNMENT MONITORS THE ECONOMY THROUGH THE GABONESE MINISTRY OF 
PLANNING AND OTHER MINISTRIES. THE MINISTRY OF PLANNING IS RESPONSIBLE 
FOR ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT IN GABON'S NINE PROVINCES.  A 
DOCUMENT PUBLISHED EVERY FIVE YEARS BY THE MINISTRY ENTITLED "LE PLAN 
QUINQUENNAL," SUMMARIZES INVESTMENTS MADE DURING THE LAST FIVE YEARS AND 
PROSPECTS FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS FOR ALL SECTORS OF THE NATIONAL 
ECONOMY.  
 
PRICING AND SALARY DECISIONS TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONSTRAINTS OF 
GABON'S STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT PROGRAM. CURRENTLY, THE GOVERNMENT'S 
INTERPRETATION OF THE SAP IMPLIES SALARY CAPS AND, IN SOME CASES, PRICE 
FREEZES WHICH CAN AFFECT THE OPERATIONS OF FOREIGN INVESTORS. AN 18 
PERCENT VALUE ADDED TAX, REPLACING 3 OTHER TAXES, WAS RECENTLY 
INTRODUCED. 
 
ECONOMIC REALITIES, BROUGHT INTO FOCUS BY THE DEVALUATION, PROMPTED THE 
GOVERNMENT TO DEVELOP A NEW STRATEGY BASED ON A REDEFINITION OF THE 
ROLES OF THE STATE AND THE PRIVATE SECTOR IN THE ECONOMY. THE GOALS OF 
THIS STRATEGY INCLUDE: 
 
- A DISENGAGEMENT OF THE STATE FROM DIRECT INTERVENTION IN PRODUCTIVE 
SECTORS; 
 
- A RE-ENGAGEMENT OF THE STATE IN THE PROVISION OF PUBLIC GOODS, 
INCLUDING PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT AND BIODIVERSITY, AND ENSURING 
ADEQUATE AND EFFICIENT SERVICES IN HEALTH AND EDUCATION; 
 
- THE REINFORCEMENT OF GABON'S INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK SO AS TO BE 
CONDUCIVE TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF EFFICIENT MARKETS; AND 
 
- A GREATER ROLE FOR COMPETITION AND MARKET MECHANISMS AS THE MAIN 
REGULATORS OF PRIVATE SECTOR ACTIVITY.  THIS EFFORT IS TO BE THE 
BEGINNING OF A MAJOR REFORM AIMED AT RESTORING FINANCIAL BALANCE IN A 
SUSTAINABLE MANNER AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF CONDITIONS FOR A LASTING AND 
EQUITABLE DEVELOPMENT PATTERN. THE FOLLOWING ARE STRUCTURAL REFORMS 
BEING CONSIDERED FOR THIS AIM: 
 
- CONTROL OF INFLATION FOLLOWING THE RECENT CHANGE IN THE PARITY  
  OF THE CFA FRANCS AGAINST THE FRENCH FRANC; 
- IMPROVED PUBLIC RESOURCE MANAGEMENT 
- STABILIZATION OF THE DEBT LEVEL 
- REFORM OF THE TAX CUSTOMS FRAMEWORK 
- FULL LIBERALIZATION OF THE ECONOMY 
- BUSINESS INCENTIVES 
 
D -  BALANCE OF PAYMENTS SITUATION 
 
IN 1991 THERE WAS AN IMF AGREEMENT FOLLOWED BY A PARIS CLUB DEBT 
RESCHEDULING PROGRAM FOR 1991 AND 1992. IN 1992, THE PROGRAM FELL APART, 
AND ALL PAYMENTS NEGOTIATED UNDER ITS AUSPICES CAME DUE, RESULTING IN 
OUTSTANDING PAYMENTS IN 1992. IN 1993, RUMORS OF CURRENCY DEVALUATION 
SPARKED A CAPITAL OUTFLOW. FOLLOWING THE DEVALUATION IN 1994, A WORLD 
BANK/IMF DEBT RESCHEDULING PROGRAM WAS ADOPTED FOR A ONE YEAR PERIOD, 
FROM JANUARY 1994 TO MARCH 1995. SINCE APRIL 1995, GABON HAS BEEN 
NEGOTIATING A THREE-YEAR ARRANGEMENT WITH THE IMF UNDER THE EXTENDED 
FINANCING FACILITY.  SUCH AN AGREEMENT WOULD SEEK TO SUPPORT THE 
GOVERNMENT'S ONGOING REFORM EFFORTS TO INVIGORATE THE ECONOMIC 
STRUCTURE, DEVELOP THE PRIVATE SECTOR AND PRIVATIZE STATE-OWNED 
COMPANIES.  BECAUSE OF THE DIFFERENT RESCHEDULING, GABON NOW HAS A LARGE 
OVERHANG OF EXTERNAL AND DOMESTIC PAYMENT ARREARS. GABON'S EXTERNAL DEBT 
IS APPROX. US DOLS 3,574 MILLION. 
 
THE GABONESE GOVERNMENT CONSIDERS THE IMF PROGRAM NEGOTIATED AFTER THE 
JANUARY 1994 CFA DEVALUATION TO HAVE BEEN A SUCCESS. THE ECONOMY'S 
MEDIUM TERM PROSPECTS INDICATE THAT IT IS PROGRESSING FROM A DIFFICULT 
SITUATION IN 1993 TO ECONOMIC RECOVERY BEGINNING IN 1995. REAL GDP 
GROWTH RATE SHOULD INCREASE SLIGHTLY IN 1995 AND 1996. IN 1994 DOMESTIC 
ARREARS WERE REDUCED BY US DOLS 109 MILLION. A SHORTFALL IN NON-OIL 
REVENUES WAS OFFSET BY HIGHER OIL REVENUES THAN EXPECTED AND BY LOWER 
INVESTMENT EXPENDITURES THAN ANTICIPATED. INFLATION FOR 1994 WAS 35 
PERCENT, AND PRIVATE SECTOR WAGE INCREASES DID NOT EXCEED 20 PERCENT. 
IMPORT VOLUME WAS DOWN BY MORE THAN 10 PERCENT AND EXPORT VOLUME ROSE BY 
OVER 7 PERCENT. THE 1994 DEVALUATION HAD A CONTRACTIONARY EFFECT ON 
PRIVATE DEMAND. CONTRACTIONS IN AGRICULTURE, SERVICES AND MANUFACTURING 
WERE SOMEWHAT OFFSET BY GROWTH IN OTHER INDUSTRIAL SECTORS, BUOYED BY 
IMPROVED EXPORTS OF OIL AND TIMBER. THE IMPACT OF THE 23 PERCENT DROP IN 
CONSUMPTION THAT FOLLOWED THE DEVALUATION WAS SOMEWHAT ALLEVIATED BY AN 
8.5 PERCENT RISE IN INVESTMENT EXPENDITURES AND A 3 PERCENT INCREASE IN 
GOVERNMENT SPENDING.  
 
IF FULLY IMPLEMENTED, THE GOVERNMENT'S PROGRAM OF ECONOMIC REFORMS IS 
EXPECTED TO GENERATE NON-OIL GDP GROWTH OF 3.5 PERCENT A YEAR OVER THE 
MEDIUM TERM.  IN THE LONG TERM, GROWTH OF NON-OIL GDP IS EXPECTED TO 
ACCELERATE TO ABOUT 6 PERCENT A YEAR AS STRUCTURAL REFORMS BEAR FRUIT 
AND INCREASE THE AGGREGATE PRODUCTIVITY OF INVESTMENT.  NON-TRADITIONAL 
EXPORTS ARE PROJECTED TO INCREASE AT ABOUT 10 PERCENT A YEAR AS REFORMS 
PROGRESS, BUT GROWTH OF OVERALL EXPORTS, STILL DOMINATED BY PETROLEUM, 
IS PROJECTED  TO REMAIN BELOW 1 PERCENT PER YEAR. 
 
E - INFRASTRUCTURE  
 
THE 433-MILE TRANSGABONESE RAILWAY, LINKING LIBREVILLE WITH FRANCEVILLE 
IN THE FAR SOUTHEAST, WAS COMPLETED IN 1986. THE LINE IS USED TO 
TRANSPORT MANGANESE, URANIUM, TIMBER, CONSUMER GOODS AND PASSENGERS.  
THE MINERALS PORT OF OWENDO OPENED IN 1988 AND 1.6  MILLION TONS OF 
MANGANESE ORE WERE SHIPPED IN 1993.  THE CAPACITY OF THE MINERAL PORT IS 
AROUND 2.0 MILLION TONS OF MANGANESE PER YEAR. GABON HAS ONLY 460 MILES 
OF PAVED ROADS IN ITS 4,300-MILE ROAD NETWORK, BUT THIS IS SCHEDULED TO 
BE UPGRADED AND EXTENDED WITH INTERNATIONAL LOANS FROM THE AFRICAN 
DEVELOPMENT BANK AND THE WORLD BANK. TWO LOANS WERE GRANTED TO GABON FOR 
ROAD CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS IN 1993-1994. THESE COVERED THE US DOLS 131.7 
MILLION FRANCEVILLE - KELLE - LECONI ROAD PROJECT, FINANCED BY THE 
AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK AND THE WORLD BANK, AND THE US DOLS 70 MILLION 
BIFOUN NDJOLE - BIFOUN LAMBARENE- NSILE BIFOUN ROAD PROJECT, FINANCED BY 
THE WORLD BANK.  ALL CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS ARE PROMOTED AND CONTROLLED 
BY THE MINISTRY OF EQUIPMENT AND CONSTRUCTION, B.P. 49; LIBREVILLE; 
GABON - TELEPHONE: (241) 763856 - TELEFAX: (241) 748092. 
 
GABON'S TWO MODERN PORTS, OWENDO AND PORT-GENTIL, HANDLED OVER 7.6 
MILLION TONS OF CARGO IN 1993, WITH PORT-GENTIL MOVING ABOUT 85 PERCENT 
OF THE TRAFFIC BY VOLUME.  GABON IS A FREQUENT PORT OF CALL FOR MAJOR 
SHIPPING LINES, PARTICULARLY THOSE PLYING THE WEST COAST OF AFRICA TO 
AND FROM EUROPE. 
 
GABON'S TELECOMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM IS ONE OF THE MOST ADVANCED IN AFRICA, 
WITH DIRECT DIAL SERVICES FROM LIBREVILLE TO ALMOST ANYWHERE IN GABON 
AND THE REST OF THE WORLD.  GABON HAS MORE THAN 30 PUBLIC AIRFIELDS, AN 
ESTIMATED 100 PRIVATE LANDING STRIPS, AND ONE OF THE LARGEST CIVIL 
AVIATION FLEETS IN AFRICA.  WITH MORE THAN TEN INTERNATIONAL AIR 
CARRIERS SERVING LIBREVILLE, THERE ARE DAILY AIR CONNECTIONS TO EUROPE 
AND ELSEWHERE IN AFRICA. 
 
 
 
                 CHAPTER III - POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT 
 
A - NATURE OF POLITICAL RELATIONSHIP WITH THE U.S. 
 
THE U.S. AND GABON ENJOY A GOOD BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP.  SINCE 
INDEPENDENCE, GABON HAS HAD A PRO-WESTERN ORIENTATION IN ITS FOREIGN 
POLICY AND HAS SUPPORTED THE U.S. IN THE UNITED NATIONS AND IN OTHER 
INTERNATIONAL FORA. PRESIDENT BONGO HAS OFTEN BEEN HELPFUL IN ATTEMPTING 
TO RESOLVE REGIONAL CONFLICTS.  THE U.S. HAS ENCOURAGED THE PROCESS OF 
DEMOCRATIZATION IN GABON AND HAS URGED THE GOVERNMENT TO RESPECT HUMAN 
RIGHTS.  POLITICAL ISSUES HAVE NOT AFFECTED THE BUSINESS CLIMATE EITHER 
FOR U.S. INVESTORS OR FOR AMERICAN COMPANIES WISHING TO SELL IN GABON. 
 
B - MAJOR POLITICAL ISSUES AFFECTING BUSINESS CLIMATE 
 
IN DECEMBER 1993, PRESIDENT BONGO WAS REELECTED TO A FIVE YEAR TERM IN A 
DISPUTED MULTIPARTY ELECTION. THE RULING PARTY, PARTI DEMOCRATIQUE 
GABONAIS, HOLDS A SLIM MAJORITY IN THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY. THE INCLUSION 
OF SIX OPPOSITION MEMBERS IN THE NEW GOVERNMENT (OCTOBER 1994) RESOLVED 
THE CRISIS CAUSED BY THE OPPOSITION'S CHALLENGE TO PRESIDENT BONGO'S 
VICTORY. LOCAL ELECTIONS WHICH WERE TO BE HELD IN AUGUST 1994 WERE 
POSTPONED INDEFINITELY PENDING AGREEMENT AMONG GABON'S POLITICAL PARTIES 
ON NEWLY ELECTED MODALITIES. A REFERENDUM ON LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS IS 
TENTATIVELY SCHEDULED FOR FALL OF 1995. 
 
ALL OF GABON'S MAJOR POLITICAL PARTIES SUPPORT A "MIXED ECONOMY", WITH A 
RELATIVELY LARGE STATE ROLE BUT ALSO WELCOME FOREIGN INVESTMENT, 
PARTICULARLY IN THE MINERALS AND AGRO-INDUSTRIAL SECTORS. THE NATIONAL 
ASSEMBLY HAS REPEATEDLY REJECTED ATTEMPTS TO PRIVATIZE STATE-OWNED 
COMPANIES, ALTHOUGH THERE HAVE BEEN ARRANGEMENTS FOR PRIVATE SECTOR 
MANAGEMENT OF GABONESE PARASTATALS. THE IFIS ARE INCREASINGLY INTERESTED 
IN IMPROVEMENTS IN THE INEFFICIENT PARAPUBLIC SECTOR, HOWEVER. 
 
 
 
          CHAPTER IV - MARKETING U.S. PRODUCTS AND SERVICES 
 
A - DISTRIBUTION AND SALES CHANNEL 
 
MOST U.S. PRODUCTS SOLD IN GABON ARE MARKETED THROUGH GABONESE AGENTS.  
AGENTS OFTEN OPERATE BRANCHES OF MAJOR MULTINATIONAL FIRMS. EXAMPLES 
ARE: AS TRACTAFRIC  (SELLING CATERPILLAR HEAVY EQUIPMENT), MOTOROLA 
(REPRESENTED BY CECA GADIS), AND GENERAL ELECTRIC (REPRESENTED BY 
SOGAFRIC). OTHER U.S PRODUCTS ARE SOLD BY SMALL LOCAL FIRMS WITH A 
SINGLE OUTLET IN LIBREVILLE. 
 
B - USE OF AGENTS/DISTRIBUTORS; FINDING A PARTNER 
 
TO FIND A LOCAL AGENT FOR YOUR COMPANY IN GABON, CONTACT A U.S. 
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE DISTRICT OFFICE AND REQUEST AN ADS 
(AGENTS/DISTRIBUTORS SERVICE). IF COMMERCE RECORDS DO NOT ALREADY 
CONTAIN SUITABLE PROSPECTS, USDOC WILL FORWARD A REQUEST TO THE U.S. 
EMBASSY IN LIBREVILLE. 
 
C. FRANCHISING; JOINT VENTURES/LICENSING  
 
JOINT VENTURES AND LICENSING ARE LIMITED. COCA COLA IS MADE IN GABON 
UNDER LICENSE.  
 
D - DIRECT MARKETING 
 
EXPERIENCE HAS SHOWN THAT THE U.S. FIRMS BEST POSITIONED TO TAKE 
ADVANTAGE OF THE MARKET ARE THOSE THAT SEND TENACIOUS FRENCH-SPEAKING 
REPRESENTATIVES FOR REPEATED VISITS IN ORDER TO ESTABLISH THE KIND OF 
PERSONAL CONTACT NECESSARY TO DO BUSINESS IN GABON. YOU MUST GET TO KNOW 
YOUR TERRITORY.   
 
E - STEPS TO ESTABLISHING AN OFFICE 
 
THE FOLLOWING STEPS ARE NECESSARY TO ESTABLISH AN OFFICE IN GABON: 
 
- AN AGREEMENT FROM THE MINISTRY OF COMMERCE 
- A LISTING IN THE TRADE REGISTER 
- A STATISTICAL NUMBER (DIRECT TAXATION OFFICE, MINISTRY    OF FINANCE) 
- A LICENSE 
 
TO OPEN A BRANCH OF A U.S. COMPANY, THE FOLLOWING STEPS SHOULD BE 
FOLLOWED: 
 
- FILE AN APPLICATION OF AUTHORIZATION WITH THE MINISTRY 
  OF COMMERCE AND ENCLOSE THE BY-LAWS OF THE GABONESE COMPANY 
 
- DECLARE THE EXISTENCE OF THE COMPANY TO THE TAX OFFICE OF 
  THE MINISTRY OF FINANCE 
 
- REGISTER AT CNSS (CAISSE NATIONALE DE SECURITE SOCIALE)  
 
- DEPOSIT THE DOCUMENTS LISTED ABOVE WITH THE CLERK OF THE 
  COMMERCIAL COURT AND ENCLOSE DUPLICATE COPIES OF THE BY-LAWS  
  OF THE PARENT COMPANY AND OF THE MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE 
  BOARD OF DIRECTORS IN WHICH IT ANNOUNCES THE OPENING OF THE 
  GABONESE BRANCH.  IN ADDITION, A CERTIFICATE GIVING POWER TO  
  SOMEONE TO ACT AS THE GENERAL MANAGER IN GABON IS REQUIRED. 
 
- A COPY OF AN AGREEMENT SIGNED WITH A GABONESE COMPANY OR WITH  
  THE GABONESE GOVERNMENT AS WELL AS A COPY IN DUPLICATE OF THE 
  APPLICATION OF AUTHORIZATION SHOULD ALSO BE FILED WITH THE  
  COMMERCIAL COURT ALONG WITH 2 PHOTOGRAPHS AND A COPY OF THE 
  PASSPORT OF THE GENERAL MANAGER. 
 
U.S. FIRMS INTERESTED IN OPENING A BRANCH IN GABON MAY WISH TO CONTACT 
ONE OF THE TWO U.S. FIRMS LISTED BELOW WHICH SPECIALIZE IN THIS PROCESS. 
THE PROCESS ITSELF CAN TAKE UP TO THREE MONTHS. 
 
PRICE WATERHOUSE, B.P. 2164, LIBREVILLE, TELEPHONE: (241) 762371 
ARTHUR YOUNG, B.P 2278, LIBREVILLE, TELEPHONE:  241 (762067)   
 
F - ADVERTISING AND TRADE PROMOTION  
 
COMPANIES CAN ADVERTISE THROUGH THE DAILY NEWSPAPER "L'UNION", ON THE 
RADIO, OR THROUGH TV CHANNELS ONE AND TWO. CONTACT IS PUBLICOM, B.P. 
3875, LIBREVILLE - TELEFAX: 241 -738326. 
 
G - PRICING THE PRODUCT 
 
AN ON SITE SURVEY OF THE MARKET IS SUGGESTED. 
 
H - SALES SERVICE/CUSTOMER SUPPORT 
 
THE FOREIGN FIRMS WHICH HAVE BEEN MOST SUCCESSFUL IN GABON ARE THOSE 
ABLE TO EMPLOY FRENCH-SPEAKING REPRESENTATIVES OR AGENTS AND TO KEEP AN 
INVENTORY OF SPARE PARTS, SINCE GOOD FOLLOW-UP SERVICE AND ADEQUATE 
INVENTORIES CONFER A SIGNIFICANT COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE. 
 
I - SELLING TO THE GOVERNMENT 
 
U.S. FIRMS SELLING TO THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD ENSURE THAT FUNDS HAVE BEEN 
SET ASIDE IN THE GABONESE BUDGET FOR THE EQUIPMENT THEY WISH TO SELL. 
DUE TO NON-PAYMENT OF PAST CREDITS, EXIMBANK CREDITS ARE CURRENTLY NOT 
AVAILABLE FOR TRANSACTIONS WITH THE GABONESE GOVERNMENT.  
 
J - PROTECTING PRODUCT FROM IPR INFRINGMENT 
 
PATENTS AND COPYRIGHTS ARE HANDLED BY THE MINISTRY OF COMMERCE. GABON IS 
A MEMBER OF THE AFRICAN INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OFFICE (OAPI) BASED IN 
YAOUNDE, CAMEROON. GABON ADHERES TO MOST PRINCIPALS OF INTELLECTUAL 
PROPERTY RIGHTS PROTECTION, BUT ENFORCEMENT IS WEAK - IN PART BECAUSE 
LITTLE MANUFACTURING EXISTS.  
 
K - NEED FOR A LOCAL ATTORNEY 
 
HIRING A LOCAL ATTORNEY IS NOT ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY IF BY-LAWS ARE 
OBSERVED OR IF A SPECIALIZED BUSINESS CONSULTING FIRM IS USED. A LIST OF 
ENGLISH-SPEAKING ATTORNEYS IS AVAILABLE IN THE CONSULAR SECTION OF THE 
AMERICAN EMBASSY. 
 
 
 
        CHAPTER V - LEADING SECTORS FOR U.S. EXPORTS 
                     AND INVESTMENT 
 
LEADING TRADE PROSPECTS FOR U.S. BUSINESS 
 
A - BEST PROSPECTS FOR NON-AGRICULTURAL GOODS AND SERVICES 
 
MEDIUM AND LONG TERM PROSPECTS IN GABON MUST BE JUDGED 
FAVORABLE FOR THE OIL, MINING AND TELECOMMUNICATION SECTORS.   
 
A) RANK OF SECTOR: 1 
B) NAME OF SECTOR: PETROLEUM 
C) ITA INDUSTRY SECTOR CODE: OGM/OGS 
D) 1994 ESTIMATED MARKET SIZE: US DOLS 350 MILLION 
E) THERE IS NO LOCAL PRODUCTION OF EQUIPMENT FOR THE CRUDE OIL SECTOR 
F) TOTAL EXPORTS OF CRUDE OIL PRODUCTS IN 1994 WERE U.S. DOLS 
   2.0 BILLION 
G) TOTAL IMPORTS OF EQUIPMENT FOR THE OIL SECTOR WERE U.S. DOLS  
   350 MILLION.   THE AVERAGE ANNUAL GROWTH RATE OF IMPORTS FOR 
   THE NEXT FIVE YEARS ESTIMATED TO BE AROUND 15 PERCENT. 
H) ESTIMATED IMPORTS FROM THE U.S. IN 1994 WERE US DOLS 60 MILLION. 
I) US DOLS 1 EQUALED CFA FRANCS 540 IN 1994 
 
THE PETROLEUM SECTOR WILL CONTINUE TO DOMINATE GABONESE EXPORTS SINCE 
GABON'S TOTAL OIL PRODUCTION IS EXPECTED TO REACH 17 MILLION TONS IN THE 
NEXT FIVE YEARS.  THE GOG WOULD LIKE TO ATTRACT MORE U.S. FIRMS TO THE 
GABONESE OIL SECTOR; U.S. FIRMS ARE HIGHLY SOUGHT AFTER IN THE 
EXPLORATION AREAS. 
 
U.S. COMPANIES ARE FACING COMPETITION FROM EUROPEAN FIRMS. SECONDARY 
PETROLEUM ACTIVITY FOR SPECIALIZED WORK, ESPECIALLY FOR U.S. SEISMIC AND 
DRILLING FIRMS, SEEMS PROMISING. 
 
A) RANK OF SECTOR: 2 
B) NAME OF SECTOR: MINING 
C) ITA INDUSTRY SECTOR CODE: MIN 
D) 1994 ESTIMATED TOTAL IMPORTS: APPROX. US DOLS 40 MILLION. 
E) THERE IS NO LOCAL PRODUCTION OF HEAVY EQUIPMENT FOR THE 
   MINING SECTOR. 
F) ESTIMATED TOTAL EXPORTS OF MANGANESE AND URANIUM IN 1994 WAS  
   US DOLS 120 MILLION  
G) ESTIMATED TOTAL IMPORTS OF EQUIPMENT IN 1994 WAS US DOLS 40 MILLION 
H) ESTIMATED IMPORTS FROM THE U.S.: N/A. 
I) IN 1994, US DOLS 1 EQUALED CFA FRANCS 540. 
 
THE TWO MAJOR MINING ACTIVITIES HAVE LARGE INVENTORIES OF U.S. EQUIPMENT 
SUCH AS CRANES, DRAGLINES, TRUCKS AND TRACTORS.  U.S. EQUIPMENT IS 
HIGHLY APPRECIATED AND, AS THE MINING INDUSTRY EXPANDS TO OTHER 
MINERALS, NEW MARKETS WILL BE OPEN TO U.S. HEAVY EQUIPMENT.  PRODUCTS 
COMING FROM JAPAN AND EUROPE HAVE BEGUN TO APPEAR ON THE MARKET, 
ESPECIALLY IN THE TRANSPORTATION FIELD. LOCAL SUPPLIERS OF U.S. FIRMS 
HAVE DONE WELL DURING THE PAST YEARS, RELYING ON QUALITY AND PRICE OF 
PRODUCTS. GABON'S IMPORTS FOR THE MINING SECTOR INCLUDE PARTS FOR THE 
MANGANESE INSTALLATION, THE RAILROAD AND THE MINERAL PORT AS WELL AS 
SPARE PARTS AND EQUIPMENT FOR THE URANIUM FACTORY. GABONESE MINING 
SECTOR RESOURCES ARE EXPLOITED BY TWO COMPANIES, COMILOG FOR THE 
MANGANESE AND COMUF FOR THE URANIUM. 
 
A) RANK OF SECTOR: 3 
B) NAME OF SECTOR: TELECOMMUNICATION EQUIPMENT 
C) ITA INDUSTRY SECTOR CODE: TEL 
D) ESTIMATED TOTAL SALES: US DOLS 40 MILLION 
E) THERE IS NO LOCAL PRODUCTION OF TELECOMMUNICATION EQUIPMENT.  
F) 1994 TURNOVER OF THE TELECOMMUNICATION OFFICE (OPT) IS UNKNOWN. 
   OPT IS A PARASTATAL COMPANY. 
G) TOTAL IMPORTS: US DOLS 40 MILLION 
H) TOTAL IMPORTS FROM THE U.S. U.S. DOLS 10 MILLION  
I) IN 1994 US DOLS 1 EQUALED CFA FRANCS 540 
 
U.S. EQUIPMENT IN THE TELECOMMUNICATION FIELD IS WELL REGARDED IN GABON. 
U.S. EQUIPMENT FACED COMPETITION WITH JAPANESE AND EUROPEAN PRODUCTS. 
LOCAL SUPPLIERS OF U.S. FIRMS WILL HAVE TO PROMOTE U.S. EQUIPMENT AND 
DEVELOP CONTACTS WITH THE PARASTATAL OPT (OFFICE DES POSTES ET 
TELECOMMUNICATIONS), THE ONLY ACTIVE COMPANY IN THE TELECOMMUNICATION 
FIELD WHICH HAS A MONOPOLY ON THE NETWORK IN GABON.  THE BEST PROSPECTS 
WILL CONCERN TRANSMITTER RECEIVER, MICROWAVE EQUIPMENT, MULTIPLEX 
EQUIPMENT, SWITCHING BOARD FOR HIGH TENSION, TELEPHONE CABLES, TELEPHONE 
POLES, HEAVY EQUIPMENT TRUCKS USED IN TELECOM, TELECOM PARTS AND TELECOM 
PRECISION INSTRUMENTS. 
 
B - BEST PROSPECTS FOR AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS 
 
GABON IS A NET FOOD IMPORTER BUT HAS UNTAPPED POTENTIAL TO GROW ITS OWN 
FOOD. FISHING ALSO OFFERS GREAT POTENTIAL. STUDIES ARE NOT COMPLETED ON 
THESE SECTORS. 
 
C - BEST PROSPECTS FOR INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES(SEE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY) 
 
 
 
               CHAPTER  VI - TRADE REGULATIONS AND STANDARDS 
 
A - TRADE BARRIERS, INCLUDING TARIFFS, NON-TARIFF BARRIERS AND IMPORT 
TAXES 
 
ALL PRODUCTS CAN BE IMPORTED EXCEPT SUGAR, TO PROTECT THE GABONESE 
INDUSTRY SOSUHO. THERE ARE FEW BARRIERS IN THE CRUDE OIL SECTOR, WHERE 
U.S. FIRMS ARE INVOLVED.  HOWEVER, THERE HAVE BEEN PROBLEMS RELATING TO 
CUSTOMS PAYMENT OF EXPLORATION EQUIPMENT. BARRIERS FROM OTHER SUPPLIERS 
OF SERVICES ARE HIGH, SINCE ESTABLISHED COMPANIES TRY TO PRESERVE THEIR 
POSITIONS. 
 
CUSTOMS TAXES ARE APPLIED TO ALL GOODS IMPORTED INTO GABON.  CUSTOMS 
APPLIES FOUR CATEGORIES OF TAXATION: 
 
CATEGORY 1: BASIC PRODUCTS - THIS LIST INCLUDES MEDICINES, VACCINES, AND 
OTHER MEDICAL SUPPLIES, AS WELL AS RICE AND WHEAT. THE CUSTOMS TAX LEVEL 
FOR CATEGORY 1 IS 5 PERCENT OF CIF (COST INSURANCE AND FREIGHT) PRICE. 
 
CATEGORY 2: RAW MATERIALS - THIS CATEGORY COVERS RAW MATERIALS USED IN 
THE INDUSTRIAL SECTOR. THE CUSTOMS TAX LEVEL USED IS 10 PERCENT OF CIF 
PRICE. 
 
CATEGORY 3: INTERMEDIATE PRODUCTS - THIS CATEGORY INCLUDES MOST FOOD 
PRODUCTS IMPORTED INTO GABON.  THE CUSTOMS TAX LEVEL ON CATEGORY 3 IS 20 
PERCENT OF CIF PRICE 
 
CATEGORY 4: USUAL CONSUMER GOODS SUCH AS ALCOHOLIC DRINKS, PERFUMES ETC. 
THE CUSTOMS TAX LEVEL ON CATEGORY 4 IS 30 PERCENT OF CIF PRICE. 
 
THERE IS NO EXPORT TAX. AN 18 PERCENT VALUE ADDED TAX WAS PUT INTO 
EFFECT IN APRIL 1994 FOR ALL CCOMPANIES WHOSE TURNOVER EXCEEDS USDOLS 
400,000. THE FOLLOWING PRODUCTS ARE EXEMPT FROM THE VAT: NEWSPAPERS, 
EGGS, MILK, FRESH FISH, COOKING OIL,SUGAR, RICE AND BREAD.   
 
B - CUSTOMS VALUATION 
 
THIS LEVEL IS BASED ON CIF VALUE STIPULATED ON THE BILL OF LADING. 
 
C - IMPORT AND EXPORT LICENSES AND DOCUMENTATION 
 
AN IMPORT LICENSE IS REQUIRED FOR ALL IMPORTS EXCEEDING 500,000 CFA 
FRANCS.  AN EXPORT LICENSE IS ALSO REQUIRED. ALL GOODS ENTERING GABON 
MUST HAVE A BILL OF LADING.  
 
D - TEMPORARY ENTRY 
 
SOME GOODS ENTER GABON DUTY FREE ON A TEMPORARY BASIS. EXAMPLES INCLUDE 
EQUIPMENT USED IN THE CRUDE OIL SECTOR SUCH AS SEISMIC BOATS AND 
DRILLING EQUIPMENT. 
 
E - LABELING, MARKETING REQUIREMENTS 
 
ALL GOODS ENTERING GABON SHOULD BE LABELED IN FRENCH IF POSSIBLE. 
 
F - PROHIBITED IMPORTS 
 
SUGAR IS PROTECTED. THE MINISTRY OF INTERIOR ISSUED A DECREE BANNING THE 
PRIVATE IMPORT OF ALL FIREARMS AND MUNITIONS. 
 
G - STANDARDS 
 
GABON GENERALLY USES FRENCH STANDARDS. 
 
 
H - FREE TRADE ZONES 
 
THERE IS NO FREE TRADE ZONE IN GABON, BUT THE CONCEPT IS UNDER 
CONSIDERATION. 
 
I - SPECIAL IMPORT PROVISIONS 
 
J - MEMBERSHIP IN FREE TRADE ARRANGEMENTS 
 
GABON IS NOT A MEMBER OF ANY FREE TRADE ARRANGEMENT. 
 
 
 
                 CHAPTER VII - INVESTMENT CLIMATE 
 
DESPITE ITS SMALL POPULATION AND ITS FINANCIAL DIFFICULTIES, GABON 
CONTINUES TO BE ONE OF THE RICHEST COUNTRIES IN AFRICA WITH A PER CAPITA 
INCOME OF APPROXIMATELY USD 4,000 AND 1994 CRUDE OIL PRODUCTION OF 
APPROXIMATELY 16.4 MILLION TONS. CURRENT PRODUCTION  AVERAGES 330,000 
BPD. GABON'S ECONOMY IS HEAVILY DEPENDENT ON OIL, WHICH ACCOUNTS FOR 
ALMOST 55 PERCENT OF GDP, ABOUT 65 PERCENT OF GOVERNMENT REVENUE, AND 90 
PERCENT OF EXPORTS. THE ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL DIFFICULTIES ENCOUNTERED 
DURING THE PAST YEARS HAVE ROCKED THE ECONOMY AND FORCED THE GOVERNMENT 
TO RESCHEDULE ITS EXTERNAL DEBT REPEATEDLY. SINCE 1990, STABILIZATION 
EFFORTS HAVE BEEN IMPEDED BY POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS AS GABON MOVED 
TOWARD MULTIPARTY DEMOCRACY.  
 
THE GABONESE ECONOMY IS HEAVILY DEPENDENT ON PETROLEUM EXPORTS AND WORLD 
PETROLEUM PRICES.  OIL PRODUCTION INCREASED IN 1991 FROM 13 MILLION TONS 
TO 16.4 MILLION TONS IN 1994, STIMULATING A MINOR ECONOMIC REBOUND AND 
OFFSETTING DECLINES IN OTHER SECTORS OF THE GABONESE ECONOMY. ALTHOUGH 
GABON IS ALSO A PRODUCER OF TIMBER, MANGANESE, AND URANIUM, THE 
PETROLEUM SECTOR WILL CONTINUE TO DOMINATE GABONESE EXPORTS AND FOREIGN, 
ESPECIALLY U.S., INTERESTS OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS. 
 
DESPITE THIS GENERALLY PROMISING ECONOMIC BACKGROUND, A NUMBER OF 
FACTORS INHIBIT BROADER DEVELOPMENT IN GENERAL AND BROADER U.S. 
INVOLVEMENT IN PARTICULAR. GABON'S STRONG TIES WITH FRANCE ARE AN 
IMPORTANT ELEMENT OF THE COMMERCIAL SETTING.  FRANCE FURNISHES HALF OF 
GABON'S IMPORTS, FRENCH FIRMS AND SUBSIDIARIES DOMINATE THE LOCAL FORMAL 
PRIVATE SECTOR, AND OVER 12,000 FRENCH CITIZENS LIVE IN THE COUNTRY.  
FRANCE'S ABILITY TO OFFER CONCESSIONAL FINANCING THROUGH THE CAISSE 
FRANCAISE DE DEVELOPPEMENT (C.F.D.), AND THE FONDS D'AIDE ET DE 
COOPERATION (F.A.C.), IS A SERIOUS HURDLE TO U.S. COMPETITORS.  OTHER 
KEY FACTORS OF THE ECONOMY WHICH HAVE LIMITED BROAD-BASED DEVELOPMENT 
INCLUDE A LACK OF INFRASTRUCTURE AND COMMUNICATIONS OUTSIDE LIBREVILLE 
AND PORT GENTIL, GABON'S SMALL MARKET (AROUND ONE MILLION INHABITANTS), 
AND HIGH LABOR COSTS (AND A LABOR CODE  WHICH HEAVILY FAVORS THE 
EMPLOYEE). THESE MAKE THE MANUFACTURING SECTOR NOT VERY COMPETITIVE 
COMPARED WITH OTHER AFRICAN STATES. 
 
A  HOST COUNTRY POLICIES ON FOREIGN INVESTMENT 
 
A1  OPENNESS TO FOREIGN INVESTMENT 
 
THE GABONESE INVESTMENT CODE FOLLOWS A GENERAL MODEL USED IN FRENCH 
SPEAKING AFRICA BUT PROVIDES MORE LIBERAL TERMS THAN THOSE OFFERED IN 
OTHER FRANCOPHONE AFRICAN COUNTRIES.  HOWEVER, GABON DOES NOT FORMALLY 
RECOGNIZE THE PRINCIPLE OF EQUAL NATIONAL TREATMENT BECAUSE IT RESERVES 
THE RIGHT TO FAVOR GABONESE FIRMS.  THERE ARE, FOR EXAMPLE, PREFERENCES 
IN PLACE IN FAVOR OF GABONESE-OWNED SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED BUSINESSES. 
 
IN PRACTICE, GABONESE LAW ALLOWS FOREIGN AND LOCAL FIRMS TO OPERATE AS 
BRANCHES - SOCIETES A RESPONSABILITE LIMITEE (SARL) OR SOCIETES ANONYMES 
(SA).  EACH MAY BE WHOLLY OWNED BY FOREIGN INVESTORS;  THE DISTINCTIONS 
ARISE PRIMARILY FROM THE MINIMUM CAPITAL REQUIREMENTS AND THE CONDITIONS 
UNDER WHICH SHARES MAY BE RESOLD. 
 
THERE IS NO REQUIREMENT FOR GOVERNMENT OR OTHER LOCAL PARTICIPATION IN 
THE CAPITAL OF LOCAL CORPORATE ENTITIES. 
 
A2  TRANSFER POLICIES  
 
THERE ARE NO RESTRICTIONS ON INTRODUCING FOREIGN CAPITAL INTO GABON, AND 
FUNDS MAY BE FREELY TRANSFERRED WITHIN THE FRANC ZONE.  ONCE PROOF IS 
FURNISHED TO THE MINISTRY OF FINANCE THAT THE FUNDS TO BE REPATRIATED 
COME FROM EITHER WAGES, SALARIES OR PROFITS AND THAT ALL LOCAL TAXES 
HAVE BEEN PAID, FUNDS MAY BE TRANSFERRED OUTSIDE THE FRANC ZONE. 
 
A3  EXPROPRIATION AND COMPENSATION 
 
LARGE FOREIGN FIRMS ESTABLISHED IN GABON THEORETICALLY OPERATE ON AN 
EQUAL BASIS WITH NATIONAL FIRMS. THERE HAVE BEEN NO KNOWN CASES OF 
EXPROPRIATION AGAINST FOREIGN FIRMS, BUT CONTACT IRREGULARITIES HAVE 
OCCURRED. 
 
A4  DISPUTE SETTLEMENT 
 
IN THE ABSENCE OF ACTUAL CASES OF EXPROPRIATION OR NATIONALIZATION, THE 
GOVERNMENT OF GABON HAS NOT ESTABLISHED A TRACK RECORD FOR ITS HANDLING 
OF INVESTMENT DISPUTES. A RECENT CASE IN WHICH A DISGRUNTLED LOCAL 
EMPLOYEE SUED A U.S. COMPANY OVER THE TERMS OF HER SEPARATION WENT TO 
THE GABONESE SUPREME COURT AND WAS DECIDED IN FAVOR OF THE PLAINTIFF, 
WITH A HEAVY SETTLEMENT LEVIED AGAINST THE U.S. FIRM.  NONETHELESS, THE 
MATTER WAS ULTIMATELY RESOLVED THROUGH NEGOTIATION WHEN THE U.S. COMPANY 
REFUSED TO PAY AND APPEALED TO THE PRESIDENT.  
 
GABON IS A MEMBER OF NEITHER THE INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR THE SETTLEMENT 
OF INVESTMENT DISPUTES NOR OF THE NEW YORK CONVENTION OF 1958. GABON 
BECAME A MEMBER OF THE MULTILATERAL INVESTMENT GUARANTEE AGENCY (MIGA) 
IN 1994. 
 
A5  PERFORMANCE REQUIREMENTS  
 
A KEY PERFORMANCE REQUIREMENT IN EFFECT AT THE TIME OF THIS WRITING IS A 
HEIGHTENED SENSITIVITY TO EMPLOYMENT OF GABONESE NATIONALS. A "NATIONAL 
EMPLOYMENT COMMISSION" HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED, WHICH STRIVES TO REPLACE 
EXPATRIATES WITH GABONESE WHEREVER POSSIBLE.  BEGINNING ITS WORK IN PORT 
GENTIL, THE CENTER OF THE OIL INDUSTRY, THE COMMISSION FOCUSED ITS 
EFFORTS ON REPLACING THE MANY NON-GABONESE AFRICANS IN BLUE-COLLAR AND 
MIDDLE MANAGEMENT POSITIONS WITH GABONESE. HOWEVER, MANY OF THE GABONESE 
HIRED BY THE COMPANIES ULTIMATELY PROVED UNQUALIFIED AND WERE LATER 
TERMINATED. AS A RESULT, THE COMMISSION HAS MODERATED ITS APPROACH AND 
HAS TRIED TO BE MORE CAREFUL IN IDENTIFYING QUALIFIED GABONESE. 
 
PRESSURE, NONETHELESS, REMAINS ON FOREIGN INVESTORS TO HIRE AND TRAIN 
GABONESE.  WHILE NON-AFRICAN EXPATRIATES STILL HAVE LITTLE DIFFICULTY 
OBTAINING WORKING PAPERS, ISSUANCE OF NEW PAPERS (I.E., TO SOMEONE NOT 
ALREADY EMPLOYED) TO NON-GABONESE AFRICANS HAS BECOME EXTREMELY 
DIFFICULT. 
 
A6  RIGHT TO PRIVATE OWNERSHIP AND ESTABLISHMENT 
 
FOREIGN INVESTORS ARE LARGELY UNFETTERED IN THEIR ABILITY TO ESTABLISH 
AND OWN DOMESTIC PRIVATE ENTITIES.  INDEED, THE GOVERNMENT IS 
INCREASINGLY AWARE OF THE NEED FOR FOREIGN INVESTMENT TO DEVELOP THE 
LOCAL ECONOMY IN THE ABSENCE OF LARGE NET FLOWS OF FOREIGN DEVELOPMENT 
ASSISTANCE, TO WHICH GABON HAS RESTRICED ACCESS BECAUSE OF ITS HIGH PER 
CAPITA GDP.  AT PRESENT, EVEN GABON'S MOST SENSITIVE SECTORS - 
PETROLEUM, MANGANESE, URANIUM, AND FORESTRY - ARE CONTROLLED BY FOREIGN 
INTERESTS. 
 
A7  PROTECTION OF PROPERTY RIGHTS 
 
GABON IS A MEMBER OF THE CENTRAL AFRICAN CUSTOMS AND ECONOMIC UNION 
(UDEAC). AS SUCH, IT ADHERES TO AND PARTICIPATES IN THE AFRICAN 
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OFFICE, WHICH IS BASED IN YAOUNDE.  OAPI, WHICH 
HAS BEEN IN OPERATION SINCE 1982, IS CHARGED WITH ISSUING A SINGLE 
COPYRIGHT ACTION WHICH IS ENFORCEABLE IN ALL THE MEMBER STATES OF UDEAC, 
INCLUDING GABON. 
 
A8  REGULATORY SYSTEM:  LAWS AND PROCEDURES 
 
THE LOCAL REGULATORY SYSTEM IS FAR FROM PERFECT, BUT IT DOES NOT TEND TO 
DISCRIMINATE AGAINST FOREIGN OR AMERICAN COMMERCIAL INTERESTS.  TO THE 
CONTRARY, THE GABONESE ECONOMY IS DOMINATED BY FOREIGN INTERESTS IN 
GENERAL (SEE DISCUSSION OF FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT IN SECTION (H) 
BELOW). 
 
A9  EFFICIENT CAPITAL MARKETS AND PORTFOLIO INVESTMENT TO THE EXTENT 
THAT LOCAL CREDIT IS AVAILABLE, IT IS AVAILABLE TO BOTH FOREIGN AND 
LOCAL INVESTORS ON EQUAL TERMS.  THE FRENCH OIL COMPANY ELF AQUITAINE, 
FOR EXAMPLE, HAS RECENTLY FINANCED MOST OF A MAJOR OILFIELD DEVELOPMENT 
PROGRAM ON THE LOCAL MARKET. THE LOCAL BANKING SYSTEM, DOMINATED BY 
FRENCH AND OTHER FOREIGN BANKS, IS RELATIVELY SOPHISTICATED AND OFFERS 
MOST CORPORATE BANKING SERVICES, OR CAN PROCURE THEM IN EUROPE.  LOCAL 
OFFICES OF FOREIGN OIL COMPANIES USED INTEREST RATE SWAPS AND 
EUROCURRENCY BONDS TO FINANCE OILFIELD DEVELOPMENT INVESTMENTS IN THE 
PAST YEAR, FOR EXAMPLE. 
 
A10 - POLITICAL VIOLENCE 
 
CIVIL DISTURBANCES OCCURRED DURING THE TURBULENT ELECTION PERIOD OF 
1993. SINCE THEN, NO VIOLENT PROTESTS HAVE TAKEN PLACE. 
 
B - BILATERAL INVESTMENT AGREEMENTS 
 
IT HAS BEEN DIFFICULT TO UNCOVER HARD DATA ON COUNTRIES WITH WHICH GABON 
HAS BILATERAL INVESTMENT PROTECTION AGREEMENTS. AN AGREEMENT WITH THE 
UNITED STATES WAS NEAR COMPLETION IN 1987, WITH SOME QUESTIONS REMAINING 
CONCERNING RESERVED SECTORS ON THE GABONESE SIDE. AS THE GABONESE SIDE 
PONDERED ITS FINAL POSITION, HOWEVER THE U.S. CONGRESS MANDATED CHANGES 
IN THE U.S. APPROACH TO SUCH AGREEMENTS. AS A RESULT, NEGOTIATIONS 
ENDED.THERE IS SOME INTEREST ON THE GABONESE SIDE FOR RESTARTING 
NEGOTIATIONS FOR A BIT, BUT AS YET NO FORMAL REQUEST HAS BEEN MADE. 
 
C - OPIC AND OTHER INVESTMENT INSURANCE PROGRAMS 
 
AS GABON HAS NO RECORD OF HAVING RESORTED TO EXPROPRIATION, AND SINCE 
THE LOCAL CURRENCY, THE CFA FRANC, IS PEGGED TO THE FRENCH FRANC AND 
BACKED BY THE FRENCH TREASURY, THE SCOPE FOR OPIC PROGRAMS HAS BEEN 
LIMITED.    
 
GABON BECAME A MEMBER OF THE MULTILATERAL INVESTMENT GUARANTEE AGENCY IN 
1994. 
 
D - LABOR 
 
GABON'S LABOR MARKET IS CHARACTERIZED BY THE CONTRASTING PRESENCE OF A 
POOL OF SKILLED WHITE COLLAR WORKERS AND, A PERSISTENTLY HIGH 
UNEMPLOYMENT RATE. GABONESE NATIONALS EXHIBIT A PREFERENCE FOR 
MANAGERIAL AND OFFICE WORK IN CIVIL SERVICE OR THE PARAPUBLIC SECTOR. 
MANY STUDENTS ARE ABLE TO PURSUE MANAGEMENT, LAW, ENGINEERING, AND OTHER 
PROFESSIONS AT PRESTIGIOUS FOREIGN INSTITUTIONS. THE DEMAND FOR BLUE 
COLLAR POSITIONS IS LOWER AMONG GABONESE, ALTHOUGH SUCH POSITIONS ARE 
ESSENTIAL TO THE OIL, TIMBER AND MINING INDUSTRIES WHICH MAKE UP THE 
BACKBONE OF THE GABONESE ECONOMY. THE RESULTING DISCONTINUITY HAS 
TRADITIONALLY BEEN BRIDGED BY EXPATRIATE AFRICANS. BUT POLITICAL 
PRESSURE HAS RECENTLY MOUNTED FOR GABONESE AUTHORITIES TO REDUCE THE 
PRESENCE OF FOREIGNERS IN THE WORKFORCE.  IN EARLY 1995 100,000 
FOREIGENERS WERE FORCIBLY EXPATRIATED FROM GABON, RESULTING IN A DE 
FACTO SHORTAGE OF SKILLED BLUE COLLAR WORKERS OVER THE MEDIUM TERM. 
LABOR UNIONS ARE ACTIVE. 
 
E - FOREIGN TRADE ZONES/FREE PORTS 
 
THERE ARE NO FOREIGN TRADE ZONES OR FREE PORTS IN GABON. 
 
F - CAPITAL OUTFLOW POLICY 
 
AS NOTED ABOVE, FUNDS CAN BE TRANSFERRED WITHIN THE FRANC ZONE 
(INCLUDING TO FRANCE) WITH MINIMAL FORMALITIES - IN MOST CASES, AN EX 
POST REPORT TO THE CENTRAL BANK IS ALL THAT IS REQUIRED. 
 
G - FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT STATISTICS 
 
NET FOREIGN INVESTMENT FLOWS BY COUNTRY OF ORIGIN 
(MILLIONS U.S. DOLLARS) 
 
-                1989     1988     1987    1986 
 
TOTAL           (30.6)   132.5     89.9    110.3 
OECD             12.0    151.6     85.1    111.3 
EC COMMUNITY 
-TOTAL            0.8     50.0     81.5     86.0 
-FRANCE          (8.0)    66.6     71.9     72.5 
-GERMANY          0.7      0.8      0.0      1.7 
-SPAIN            0.0      0.0      0.0      0.2 
-ITALY            1.4      0.5      0.0      1.5 
-U.K.            20.9    (57.7)     0.6      4.4 
-BENELUX        (14.2)    39.9      9.0      6.1 
NON-EC OECD 
-TOTAL           11.2    101.6      3.6     25.3 
-U.S.             7.7     94.1      3.6     26.5 
-SWITZERLAND      2.7      7.3      0.0     (1.4) 
-JAPAN            0.2      0.2      0.0      0.2 
-CANADA           0.5      0.0      0.0      0.0 
NON-OECD        (42.6)   (19.1)     4.8     (1.1) 
 
NET FOREIGN INVESTMENT FLOWS BY SECTOR OF ACTIVITY (MILLIONS U.S. 
DOLLARS) 
 
PETROLEUM       (43.8)   132.5     89.9    110.3 
NON-PETROLEUM    13.2     37.0     59.9      2.7 
 
BOTH OF THE ABOVE TABLES WERE TAKEN FROM CENTRAL BANK DATA. 
 
H - MAJOR FOREIGN INVESTORS 
 
--U.S COMPANIES: 
 
AMERADA HESS OF NEW YORK OWNS A TEN PERCENT SHARE OF THE RABI KOUNGA 
OILFIELD, OPERATED BY SHELL GABON AND ALSO OWNED BY ELF GABON.  HESS' 
SHARE COST USD 300 MILLION.  IN ADDITION, HESS HAS PURCHASED AN OFFICE 
BUILDING AND SIGNED AGREEMENTS FOR EXPLORATION CAMPAIGNS ON OFFSHORE OIL 
LEASES WHICH REPRESENT POTENTIAL EXPENDITURES OF AROUND U.S.DOLS 100 
MILLION OVER THE COMING FIVE YEARS. 
 
CITICORP OF NEW YORK OPERATES BRANCHES IN LIBREVILLE AND IN PORT GENTIL, 
ALTHOUGH THE INVESTMENT REPRESENTED BY THESE ACTIVITIES IS MODEST.  THE 
LOCAL OPERATIONS, THOUGH ULTIMATELY BACKED BY CITICORP, ARE EXPECTED TO 
FUND THEMSELVES AND GENERALLY DO SO THROUGH LOCAL DEPOSITS AND FRANC 
ZONE INTERBANK BORROWING. 
 
A RANGE OF U.S. OIL COMPANIES HAVE IN THE PAST SPENT LARGE SUMS 
EXPLORING FOR OIL.  MOST OF THESE "INVESTMENTS" - WHICH EXCEEDED USD 600 
MILLION - ARE NOW CONSIDERED SUNK COSTS. 
 
-- NON-U.S. COMPANIES 
 
FRENCH INTERESTS ARE THE DOMINANT FOREIGN PRESENCE.  STATISTICS ON THE 
STOCK OF FRENCH INVESTMENT ARE NOT GENERALLY AVAILABLE. HOWEVER, THE 
U.S. EMBASSY ESTIMATES THAT FRENCH PRIVATE INVESTMENT IN GABONESE 
EQUITIES EXCEEDS U.S. DOLS 250 MILLION.  FRENCH INTERESTS DOMINATE 
SECTORS SUCH AS CONSTRUCTION (ABOUT 63 PERCENT OF CAPITAL INVESTED IN 
THIS SECTOR IS FRENCH OWNED) AND PETROLEUM (41 PERCENT FRENCH).  FRENCH 
INTERESTS ARE ALSO FOCUSED IN TIMBER (21 PERCENT), CHEMICALS (20 
PERCENT) AND TRANSPORTATION (29 PERCENT). 
 
THE MOST SIGNIFICANT NON-FRENCH AND NON-AMERICAN FOREIGN PRESENCE IS 
SHELL GABON, WHICH IS 75 PERCENT OWNED BY THE ROYAL DUTCH SHELL GROUP. 
 
 
 
              CHAPTER VIII - TRADE AND PROJECT FINANCING 
 
A -  BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF BANKING SYSTEM 
 
GABON HAS BEEN A MEMBER OF THE FRENCH FRANC ZONE SINCE 1960. GABON IS 
ALSO A MEMBER OF THE BANQUE DES ETATS DE L'AFRIQUE CENTRALE (BEAC), 
HEADQUARTERED IN YAOUNDE WHICH ACTS AS A CENTRAL BANK FOR GABON, 
CAMEROON, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, CONGO, CHAD AND EQUATORIAL GUINEA. 
 
THE BASIC PRINCIPLES OF THE STATES OF THE CENTRAL AFRICAN MONETARY ZONE 
ARE: 
 
- ISSUING OF A SINGLE CURRENCY, THE CFA FRANC. THE BEAC HEAD 
  OFFICE IS IN YAOUNDE. 
- CENTRAL HOLDING OF MONETARY RESERVES BY THE BANQUE OF FRANCE 
- FREE CIRCULATION OF MONETARY TRANSFERS WITHIN THE ZONE 
- AND, FREE CONVERTIBILITY OF THE CURRENCY WITHOUT LIMIT INTO  
  FRENCH FRANCS ON THE BASIS OF A FIXED PARITY OF 1 CFA FRANC 
  EQUALS 0.01 FRENCH FRANC. 
 
ALTHOUGH BEAC RULES OF INTERVENTION ARE COMMON TO THE SIX MEMBER 
COUNTRIES, EACH COUNTRY'S ACCOUNTS ARE MAINTAINED SEPARATELY.  THE 
CONVERTIBILITY OF THE CFA FRANC IS GUARANTEED BY FRANCE THROUGH AN 
OPERATIONS ACCOUNT LINKING THE BEAC AND THE FRENCH TREASURY.  THE BEAC 
CONTROLS THE LIQUIDITY WITHIN THE ZONE AND WITHIN EACH COUNTRY BY 
GRANTING REDISCOUNTING FACILITIES AND MONEY MARKET ADVANCES.  THE 
INTEREST RATE STRUCTURE IS COMMON TO ALL MEMBER COUNTRIES OF THE ZONE. 
 
B - FOREIGN EXCHANGE CONTROL AFFECTING TRADING 
 
FOR ALL COMMERCIAL TRANSACTIONS INSIDE OR OUTSIDE THE FRANC ZONE AN 
IMPORT LICENSE SHOULD BE PRESENTED FOR ALL IMPORTS EXCEEDING CFA FRANC 
500,000 (U.S. DOLS 860.00).   
 
ALL TRANSFERS NOT EXCEEDING CFA F 5,000,000 (US DOLS 9,000.00) CAN BE 
FREELY TRANSFERRED TO FRANCE OR TO THE FRENCH ZONE. A JUSTIFICATION MUST 
BE PRESENTED FOR ALL TRANSFERS EXCEEDING THIS AMOUNT. BEAC BILLS CANNOT 
BE EXCHANGED INTO BCEAO (BANQUE CENTRALE DES ETATS DE L'AFRIQUE DE 
L'OUEST- THE FRANC ZONE TO THE NORTH) BILLS OR VICE VERSA. A TRANSFER 
AGREEMENT SHOULD BE DELIVERED TO THE MINISTRY OF FINANCE FOR ALL PRIVATE 
TRANSFERS OUTSIDE THE FRANC ZONE. 
 
C - GENERAL FINANCING AVAILABILITY 
 
1. CREDITS ARE AVAILABLE THROUGH THE GABONESE BANKING SYSTEM.  THERE ARE 
SEVEN COMMERCIAL BANKS IN GABON. 
BICIG, BRANCH OF BNP FRANCE 
UGB, BRANCH OF CREDIT LYONNAIS 
PARIS- BAS GABON, BRANCH OF BANQUE DE PARIS ET DES PAYS-BAS 
CITIBANK 
BARCLAYS BANK 
FIBA 
BMBG (BANQUE MERIDIEN BIAO GABON) 
 
B. IN ADDITION TO THE COMMERCIAL BANK, THERE ARE: 
- CREFOGA (CREDIT FONCIER DU GABON - FOR HOUSING) 
- FODEX, A NEW PARASTATAL ORGANIZATION FUNDED BY THE AFRICAN  
  DEVELOPMENT BANK IN ORDER TO FINANCE SMALL AND MEDIUM SIZED 
  FIRMS OWNED BY GABONESE NATIONALS. 
- BANQUE GABONAISE DU CREDIT RURAL, GIVES LOANS IN THE AGRICULTURAL 
  FIELD. 
- BGD (BANQUE GABONAISE DE DEVELOPMENT) 
 
D -  HOW TO FINANCE EXPORTS/METHODS OF PAYMENT 
 
PAYMENT ARE USUALLY MADE BY IRREVOCABLE LETTERS OF CREDIT. 
 
 
IX - BUSINESS TRAVEL 
 
A - BUSINESS CUSTOMS AND VISAS 
 
U.S. VISITORS VISITING GABON SHOULD GET A VISA AT THE GABONESE EMBASSY 
IN WASHINGTON OR AT THE GABONESE MISSION TO THE UNITED NATIONS IN NEW 
YORK. FROM TIME TO TIME VISITORS HAVE BEEN ABLE TO OBTAIN A VISA AT THE 
AIRPORT ON ARRIVAL, BUT THIS APPROACH IS NOT RECOMMENDED. YELLOW FEVER 
INOCULATIONS ARE REQUIRED.  LIBREVILLE IS HOT AND HUMID, LIGHTWEIGHT 
SUMMER CLOTHES ARE RECOMMENDED.   
 
B - HOLIDAYS 
 
THE FOLLOWING GABONESE HOLIDAYS ARE OBSERVED IN GABON: 
JANUARY 1 (NEW YEAR'S), BETWEEN MARCH AND APRIL (EASTER MONDAY), MAY 1 
(LABOR DAY), BETWEEN MAY AND JUNE (PENTECOST MONDAY), AUGUST 15,16,17, 
(INDEPENDENCE DAY), NOVEMBER 1 (ALL SAINT'S DAY), DECEMBER 25 
(CHRISTMAS).  TWO MUSLIM HOLIDAYS ID EL FITR AND THE LAST DAY OF RAMADAN 
ARE CELEBRATED IN GABON, BUT THEIR DATES ARE KNOWN ONLY AT THE LAST 
MOMENT. THE U.S. EMBASSY ALSO OBSERVES AMERICAN HOLIDAYS. 
 
C - BUSINESS INFRASTRUCTURE 
 
SEVERAL AIRLINES SERVE LIBREVILLE, INCLUDING AIR GABON, SWISSAIR, 
SABENA, ROYAL AIR MAROC, AIR AFRIQUE, CAMEROON AIRLINES, AIR FRANCE AND 
EQUATORIAL AIRLINES (SAO TOME). FLIGHT TIME TO EUROPE IS AROUND 8 HOURS.  
FLIGHT TIME TO THE U.S. VIA EUROPE, INCLUDING A STOP OVER IN EUROPE IS 
AROUND 17 - 18 HOURS.  THE LIBREVILLE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT IS LOCATED 
10 KMS FROM THE EMBASSY.  DOMESTIC AIR SERVICES LINK LIBREVILLE TO MAJOR 
CITIES, SUCH AS PORT GENTIL, FRANCEVILLE AND OYEM. LOCAL AND LONG 
DISTANCE TELEPHONE SERVICE IS AVAILABLE 24 HOURS A DAY.  TELEPHONE RATES 
ARE 15 TIMES HIGHER THAN IN THE U.S.  TAXIS ARE READILY AVAILABLE AND 
CONVENIENT. IF YOU TAKE "UNE COURSE", A PRIVATE TRIP, THE PRICE IS 
BETWEEN 1,000 TO 2,000 CFA FRANCS, DEPENDING ON THE DISTANCE.  FRENCH IS 
GABON'S OFFICIAL LANGUAGE, FEW PEOPLE SPEAK ENGLISH.  
 
D - HOTELS  
 
THE TWO MAIN HOTELS IN LIBREVILLE ARE THE OKOUME PALACE INTERCONTINENTAL 
AND THE MERIDIEN RE-NDAMA. 
 
OKOUME PALACE: A 500 ROOM HOTEL WITH SOME APARTMENTS, IT IS JUST ACROSS 
THE BORD DE MER FROM THE BEACH. TOWARDS THE AIRPORT ABOUT 5 KMS FROM THE 
EMBASSY, IT HAS A POOL, TENNIS AND SQUASH COURTS, A FULLY EQUIPPED 
HEALTH SPA WITH AEROBICS CLASSES. THERE ARE TWO RESTAURANTS. 
 
MERIDIEN RE-NDAMA: SOUTH OF THE EMBASSY ON THE MAIN ROAD. IT HAS A WELL 
SITUATED POOL ON THE BEACH SIDE OF THE HOTEL AND TWO RESTAURANTS. 
 
E - HEALTH  AND FOOD  
 
MALARIA IS ENDEMIC IN GABON. AN ANTIMALARIAL PROPHYLAXIS IS STRONGLY 
RECOMMENDED DURING YOUR VISIT.  INSECTS, SUCH AS MOSQUITOES, ARE LEGION. 
IF YOU ARE SENSITIVE TO INSECT BITES, YOU ARE ADVISED TO USE A 
REPELLENT.  DRINK ONLY BOILED OR BOTTLED WATER. WASH ALL SALADS, 
VEGETABLES AND FRUITS BEFORE EATING. 
 
 
 
                    CHAPTER X - APPENDICES 
 
APPENDIX A -               COUNTRY DATA 
 
POPULATION:                1,040,000 
POPULATION GROWTH RATE:    N/A 
RELIGIONS:                 CHRISTIAN, MUSLIM, INDIGENOUS 
GOVERNMENT SYSTEM:         LEGISLATIVE:  UNICAMERAL NATIONAL 
                           ASSEMBLY.  SENATE TO BE FORMED FOLLOWING 
                           NEXT NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS,  
                           EXPECTED TO BE IN NOVEMBER 1995. 
LANGUAGES:                 FRENCH (OFFICIAL), FANG, MYENE, 
                           BAPOUNOU/ESCHIRA, BATEKE, BANDJABI 
WORK WEEK:                 40 HOURS - MONDAY TO FRIDAY 
 
 
APPENDIX B - DOMESTIC ECONOMY: 
 
DOMESTIC ECONOMY 
(IN MILLION OF CURRENT U.S. DOLLARS UNLESS NOTED) 
 
                                1994     1995      1996 
                                          (1)     (1) 
DOMESTIC ECONOMY 
POPULATION (MILLION) (1)         1.0       1.0       1.0 
NOMINAL GDP (MIL DOLS)       4.185.1   4.806.0   4,819.0 
NOMINAL GDP GROWTH (PCT)       -28.3      14.0    +  5.0 
GDP PER CAPITA (US DOLS)     4,185.0   4,806.0   4,819.0 
GOG SPENDING AS PCT OF GDP      N/A       N/A       N/A 
INFLATION                       35.0      11.0       8.0 
UNEMPLOYMENT                    30.0      30.0      25.0 
LABOR FORCE (000)               87.0      90.0      91.0 
FOREIGN EXCHANGE RESERVE        63.3      N/A       N/A 
AVG EXCH RATE FOR US DOL 1     540.0     505.0     525.0  
FOREIGN DEBT                 3,574.0   5,575.0      N/A 
DEBT SERVICE RATIO              20.9      13.0      N/A 
U.S. ECON/MILITARY ASSIST.       0.1       0.1       0.1  
 
APPENDIX C - TRADE 
 
TOTAL GABONESE EXPORTS    2,367.2   2,500.0   2,500.0 
TOTAL GABONESE IMPORTS      700.5     730.0     750.0 
US TOTAL IMP. FROM GABON  1,148.2   1,200.0   1,200.0 
US TOTAL EXPORTS TO GABON    85.0      92.0     100.0* 
US SHARE OF GABONESE IMP.    12.0      13.0      13.0 
 
- MANUFACTURED GOODS: 
 
TOTAL GABONESE IMPORTS       595.0    600.0   612.0 
IMP. OF US MANUFAC GOODS      82.6     83.0    83.0 
U.S. SHARE OF MANUFAC GOODS   13.8     13.8    14.0 
TRADE BALANCE WITH THE U.S.   NA        NA      NA  
WORLD IMP.AVERAGE GROWTH RATE NA        1.0     2.0 
U.S. AVERAGE GROWTH RATE      NA        1.0     0.0 
 
- AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS: 
 
TOTAL GABONESE IMPORTS       122.3     135.0   150.0 
IMP.OF FOOD PRODUCTS FROM US   3.4       5.0     7.5 
TRADE BALANCE WITH THE U.S.    NA        NA      NA  
PROJ AVER GROWTH RATE WITH  
WORLD                          NA       10.0    12.0 
PROJ AVER GROWTH RATE WITH US           40.0    50.0 
TOTAL IMPORTS FROM FRANCE    279.0     300.0   300.0 
TOTAL EXPORTS TO FRANCE      521.1     525.0   530.0 
TOTAL IMPORTS FROM JAPAN      63.5      60.0    60.0 
TOTAL EXPORTS TO JAPAN       228.8     230.0   232.0 
 
* ESTIMATES 
 
THE UNITED STATES TRADITIONALLY RUNS A TRADE DEFICIT WITH GABON.  
GABONESE IMPORTS OF U.S. PRODUCTS IN 1994 WERE US DOLS 84.0 MILLION, AN 
INCREASE OF 11 PERCENT COMPARED TO 1992 FIGURES. IN 1993, U.S PRODUCTS 
REPRESENTED 10.5 PERCENT OF TOTAL GABONESE IMPORTS, SECOND TO FRANCE, 
WHICH SUPPLIED 48 PERCENT, JAPAN IS THE THIRD LARGEST EXPORTER TO GABON. 
 
SINCE THE BULK OF U.S. IMPORTS FROM GABON RELATE TO THE OIL INDUSTRY, 
THE VALUE TENDS TO FLUCTUATE WITH THE LEVEL OF ACTIVITY IN THE PETROLEUM 
SECTOR.  IN 1993, GABONESE EXPORTS TO THE UNITED STATES, WHICH CONSISTED 
ALMOST ENTIRELY OF CRUDE OIL, WERE US DOLS 1,081.3 MILLION IN 1993, 
CREATING A BILATERAL DEFICIT FOR THE UNITED STATES OF US DOLS 997.3 
MILLION.  
 
APPENDIX E - U.S. AND COUNTRY CONTACTS 
 
DIRECTION GENERALE DU COMMERCE 
PIERRE OWONDO BOURDETTES, GENERAL DIRECTOR 
MINISTRY OF COMMERCE 
B.P. 561, LIBREVILLE, GABON 
TELEPHONE: (241) 760991 - (241) 745925 
TELEFAX: (241) 765838 
 
GABONESE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE 
JEAN BAPTISTE NGOMO OBIANG, SECRETAIRE GENERAL 
B.P. 2234 - LIBREVILLE - GABON 
TELEPHONE: (241) 722064 
 
CENTRE GABONAIS DU COMMERCE EXTERIEUR 
PIERRE SOCKAT, GENERAL DIRECTOR 
B.P. 3906 - LIBREVILLE - GABON 
TELEPHONE: (241) 746976/746974 
        
PRICE WATERHOUSE/FIDAFRICA 
B.P. 2164 - LIBREVILLE - GABON 
TELEPHONE: (241) 762371 
TELEFAX: (241) 744325 
 
HSD - ARTHUR YOUNG 
B.P. 2278 - LIBREVILLE - GABON 
TELEPHONE: (241) 762067/742168 
 
COUNTRY COMMERCIAL BANKS AND THEIR CORRESPONDANT IN THE U.S. 
BICIG, B.P. 2241 - LIBREVILLE - GABON 
TELEFAX (241) 744034 
U.S. CORRESPONDANT 
FABC (FRENCH AMERICAN BANKING CORP) 
200 LIBERTY STREET - NEW YORK - NY 10281 - TEL:(212) 4159600 
 
UGB, B.P. 315, LIBREVILLE, GABON 
FAX (241) 764616 
CREDIT LYONNAIS - 1301 AVENUE OF AMERICAS, NEW YORK, NY 10019 
TELEPHONE: 212 - 2617000   
 
BMBG, B.P. 106, LIBREVILLE, GABON 
FAX: (241) 762663 
ITM CORPORATION - 126 EAST 56TH STREET, NEW YORK, NY 10022  
TELEPHONE: (212) 9809110 -  FAX: (212) 8886619 
 
CITIBANK 
B.P. 3940, LIBREVILLE, GABON 
TELEPHONE: (241) 733000 - FAX: (241)  
CITIBANK NY - 399 PARK AVENUE, NEW YORK, NY 10043 
TELEPHONE: (212) 5591000 - FAX: (212) 7930690 
 
BARCLAY'S BANK 
B.P. 4050 - LIBREVILLE - GABON 
TELEFAX: (241) 773223 - TELEPHONE: 741300 
BARCLAY'S BANK PLC NEW YORK 
75 WALL STREET - NEW YORK - NY 10265 
TELEPHONE: (212) 412400 - TELEFAX: (212) 7973018 
 
PARIBAS-GABON 
B.P. 2253 - LIBREVILLE - GABON 
TELEPHONE: (241) 762507/762326 - TELEFAX: (241) 740894 
PARIBAS NORTH AMERICA 
THE EQUITABLE TOWER - 787 7TH AVENUE, NEW YORK, NY 10019  
TELEPHONE: (212) 8413000 - TELEFAX: (212) 8413555 
 
DOCUMENT PREPARED BY THE COMMERCIAL SECTION 
OF THE U.S. EMBASSY IN LIBREVILLE 
B.P. 4000, LIBREVILLE, GABON 
TELEPHONE: (241) 762003 - (241) 762004 
TELEFAX: (241) 745507 
To the top of this page