Economic and Political Overview

flag Gabon Gabon: Economic and Political Overview

In this page: Economic Indicators | Foreign Trade in Figures | Sources of General Economic Information | Political Outline | COVID-19 Country Response

 

Economic Indicators

For the latest updates on the key economic responses from governments to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the IMF's policy tracking platform Policy Responses to COVID-19.

Heavily dependent on the oil sector and on food imports, the Gabonese economy is vulnerable to global fluctuations in commodity prices. After contracting in 2020 due to the joint effects of declining demand for oil, decreasing oil prices and the pandemic-related containment measures, GDP growth started to recover in 2021 (1.5%). Economic recovery continued in 2022, GDP growth reaching 2.7%, driven by higher oil prices, a booming mining sector, and the rebound in the wood, construction and services sectors (IMF). According to IMF forecast, GDP growth is expected to accelerate to 3.7% in 2023 and 2024, still supported by oil exports.

In 2022, the Gabonese economy continued to recover from the 2020 recession, owing to strong policy response to the pandemic and the rise in oil prices. Russia’s war in Ukraine and related surge in commodity prices contributed to boost oil exports and revenues, improve the fiscal and external positions and reduce public debt. Due to the comfortable royalties generated by high oil prices, better mobilisation of non-oil revenues and control of current expenditure, Gabon recorded a budget surplus of 1.2% GDP in 2022, which is forecast to be maintained in 2023 (3% GDP) (IMF, Coface). Public debt dropped from 65.8% GDP in 2021 to 54% GDP in 2022, and it is expected to further decrease to 52.4% GDP in 2023 and 49.3% GDP in 2024 (IMF). Public debt is mostly external (60% of the total) and held by multilateral (mainly the IMF and the World Bank) and bilateral (France, China, etc.) creditors (Coface). In the context of the war in Ukraine, inflation increased from 1.1% in 2021 to 3.5% in 2022 (IMF). It is expected to slightly decrease to 3.2% in 2023 and 2.5% in 2024 (IMF). The pegging of the CFA franc to the euro helps to containing inflationary pressures (Coface). In July 2021, Gabon concluded a three-year fiscal consolidation programme with the IMF, through an extended arrangement under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), and the Gabonese authorities are still focused on fiscal and governance reforms to support economic recovery and enhance debt sustainability. The 2023 budget aims at implementing the Plan for the acceleration of economic transformation (PAT), as well as supporting education, health, water, energy and infrastructure. The Strategic Plan for Food Sovereignty is designed to decrease food imports. To revert dependence on raw materials and lack of economic diversification, Gabon seeks to revive its agricultural sector (cocoa, coffee, and palm oil). The country is also planning to develop tourism, and particularly eco-tourism, to take advantage of its forest heritage. Gabon has also launched a broad public investment program (PSGE) to become one of the fastest-growing economies by 2025. Among the challenges identified by the IMF, addressing structural reforms, including governance and corruption issues, enhancing the banking sector and implementing an effective financial inclusion strategy, preserving debt sustainability and protecting the most vulnerable are key priorities.

Gabon is classified as an upper-middle-income country with a GDP per capita above its neighbors. However, social indicators lag behind the country's wealth. A third of the population lives below the poverty line (nearly 5% live on less than a dollar and a half every day) and unemployment is very high. In 2021, the unemployment rate in the country was at 21.8% (World Bank, ILO estimate). There is also a large gap between economic development in urban and rural populations. Moreover, city rents exploded as a result of the exodus from rural areas to cities (four major cities house more than 85% of Gabon's population).

 
Main Indicators 20222023 (E)2024 (E)2025 (E)2026 (E)
GDP (billions USD) 21.1219.3219.8520.4121.14
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 3.02.82.62.52.8
GDP per Capita (USD) 9,7718,8328,9699,1169,339
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 57.764.964.565.266.8
Inflation Rate (%) n/a3.82.52.32.2
Current Account (billions USD) 0.34-0.16-0.41-0.72-0.96
Current Account (in % of GDP) 1.6-0.8-2.1-3.5-4.5

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database , Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Main Sectors of Industry

Gabon is rich in natural resources. It is Africa’s second largest wood producer and the fourth oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa. The agricultural sector accounted for an estimated 6% of Gabon's GDP in 2021 (World Bank), employing 30% of the workforce. Gabon has 22 million hectares of forest, one million hectares of arable agricultural land and over 800 kilometers of coastline. The sector includes food crops, rubber (especially in the north), and palm oil, with the country relying heavily on food imports.

Industry contributes to 50.9% of the country's GDP and around 11% of total employment (World Bank). The sector is dominated by petroleum, manganese mining, and timber processing. Hydrocarbons account for 50% of Gabon’s exports and 38% of its GDP (Coface, US ITA). However, the country is facing a decline in its oil reserves. Other activities include textile plants, cement factories, chemical plants, breweries, shipyards, and cigarette factories. Most industrial establishments are located near Libreville and Port-Gentil.

The services sector accounts for 38.7% of GDP, employing 59% of the active workforce (World Bank). The government is the biggest employer in the sector. Tourism is still embryonic due to poor infrastructures and the country’s landscape mostly covered in forests.

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 29.0 16.1 54.9
Value Added (in % of GDP) 5.6 57.4 33.1
Value Added (Annual % Change) 9.5 3.4 2.4

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 

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Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
CFA Franc (XOF) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 MUR 16.6816.8816.3816.5014.63

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 
 

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Indicator of Economic Freedom

Definition:

The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.

Score:
58,1/100
World Rank:
110
Regional Rank:
15

Economic freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation

 
 

Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.

 

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Foreign Trade in Figures

Foreign trade account for 73% of the country's GDP (World Bank, 2021). Customs duties are relatively high and some other non-tariff barriers also exist, aiming to protect the local industries. Gabon mainly exports mineral fuels and oils, boats, wood products, manganese ores, and machinery; and mainly imports boats, machinery, electrical machinery, vehicles, meat and other food products, mineral fuels, iron, cereals, pharmaceutical products and plastics (ITC, 2021).

Gabon's main export partners are China, India, Cameroon, Congo and Korea (ITC, 2021). France, Singapore, China and the USA are Gabon’s main suppliers (ITC, 2021). Gabon is a member of the CEMAC (Monetary and Economic Community of Central Africa), which through the Monetary Union of Central Africa provides its six members with a common currency, the CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro. The country is also a member of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), but the economic integration of the group's eleven member states is far from being complete. Gabon has also signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

Gabon’s trade balance is structurally in surplus, thanks to the revenues generated by oil exports. In 2021, total exports of goods amounted to USD 5.96 billion while total imports reached USD 3.44 billion, resulting in a comfortable trade surplus (WTO). On the side of service, in 2016, Gabon’s service export amounted to 357 million USD while its services import cost 1.79 billion USD (WTO).

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20182019202020212022
Imports of Goods (million USD) 3,8162,5383,4323,6074,600
Exports of Goods (million USD) 6,2316,7226,2227,5989,200
Imports of Services (million USD) 1,6471,8791,3911,4441,617
Exports of Services (million USD) 516285135199201
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 51.225.5-6.03.58.6
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 1.414.010.0-2.07.4
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 22.722.022.616.616.6
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 54.351.447.555.561.4
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 77.073.470.172.178.0

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank , Latest Available Data

 
 
 
 
 

To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows.

 

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Sources of General Economic Information

Ministries
Ministry of Economy
Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Labour
Ministry of Health
Statistical Office
Directorate General for Statistics
Central Bank
Bank of Central African States
Stock Exchange
Regional Securities Exchange
Search Engines
Google Gabon
YellowPages of Africa
Economic Portals
Fortune of Africa Gabon
Gabonews

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Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
President: Ali BONGO Ondimba (since 16 October 2009)

Prime Minister: Alain Claude BILIE-BY-NZE (since 9 January 2023)

Next Election Dates
Presidential: August 2023
Senate: December 2026
National Assembly: 2023
Main Political Parties
Gabon is a multy-party state, though the Gabonese Democratic Party is the one that holds the power. Opposition parties are allowed, but are widely considered to have no real chance of gaining power. Opposition parties include:
Circle of Liberal Reformers (liberal)
Social Democratic Party (centre-left)
Rally for Gabon (socialist)
Gabonese Progress Party (centre-left)
Type of State
Democratic Republic.
Executive Power
The legislative power is vested in the president, who is also head of State. The president is elected for a seven-year term and has the power to appoint the prime minister. The Council of Ministers is appointed by the prime minister in consultation with the president.
Legislative Power
The legislative power is vested in the Parliament, which has two chambers: the National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale), composed of 120 members, of which 111 members elected for a five-year term in single-seat constituencies and 9 members appointed by the president; and the Senate (Sénat), composed of 91 members, elected for a six-year term in single-seat constituencies by local and departmental councillors.
 

Indicator of Freedom of the Press

Definition:

The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:
117/180
 

Indicator of Political Freedom

Definition:

The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Ranking:
Not Free
Political Freedom:
7/7

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House

 

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COVID-19 Country Response

Travel restrictions
Regularly updated travel information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related entry regulations, flight bans, test and vaccines requirements is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
To find information about the current travel regulations, including health requirements, it is also advised to consult Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on a daily basis by IATA.
Import & export restrictions
A general overview of trade restrictions which were adopted by different countries during the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.
Economic recovery plan
For the general overview of the key economic policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) undertaken by the government of Gabon, please consult the country's dedicated section in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.
Support plan for businesses
For an evaluation of impact of the Covid pandemic on SMEs and an inventory of country responses to foster SME resilience, refer to the OECD's SME Covid-19 Policy Responses document.
You can also consult the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.

 

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Latest Update: December 2023