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.

The Gabonese economy was hit hard by the joint effects of declining demand for oil, decreasing oil prices and the containment measures implemented to tackle the coronavirus crisis. After a contracting by an estimated -1.8% in 2020, GDP growth recovered in 2021, reaching 1.5% (IMF estimates). Higher oil prices, increasing vaccination rates and good agriculture and forestry performances supported economic recovery. According to IMF forecast, GDP growth is expected to accelerate to 3.9% in 2022 before stabilizing at 3.2% in 2023. The economic recovery will remain fragile and subject to risks from the pandemic and oil prices (IMF). The Economist forecasts economic growth to slow in 2024-26 as oil prices dip sharply.

The Gabonese economy has faced challenging circumstances brought on by the fall of the prices and of the global demand for oil, its main export commodity, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic. The authorities responded to the crisis with a recovery plan estimated at EUR 381 million (approximately 3% of the GDP), and benefited from IMF assistance through an extended arrangement under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF). The authorities focused on fiscal and governance reforms to support economic recovery and enhance debt sustainability. After widening to an estimated -2.1% GDP (-7.4% of the non-oil GDP) in 2020, global fiscal deficit was forecast by the IMF at -3.5% GDP (-7.1% of the non-oil GDP) in 2021 and -0.3% GDP (-4.9% of the non-oil GDP) in 2022. Fiscal consolidation should enable global fiscal budget to return into surplus in 2023. Public debt, which soared to an estimated 77.4% GDP in 2020, decreased to 72.1% GDP in 2021 and is forecast to further reduce to 63.7% GDP in 2022 and 62.7% GDP in 2023 (IMF). Inflation remained contained thanks to Gabon’s membership in the CFA franc currency. Estimated at 1.3% in 2020, it increased to 2% in 2021 due to supply disruptions, and is forecast to stabilize at that level in 2022 and 2023 (IMF). The Gabonese government is focused on decreasing the dependency on oil and speeding up the Strategic Plan for Food Sovereignty (Euler Hermes). 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. The 2022 budget aims at reducing public debt and transforming the economy, but includes additional Covid-19 related spending. Among the challenges identified by the IMF, strengthening domestic revenue and public financial management, securing higher oil and mining revenue, enhancing debt sustainability, reforming the tax system 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 2020, the unemployment rate in the country was at 20.5% (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 20202021 (e)2022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)
GDP (billions USD) 15.3420.2422.2221.5522.19
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) -1.91.52.73.73.7
GDP per Capita (USD) 7e910910
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 78.365.854.052.449.3
Inflation Rate (%) 1.31.13.53.22.5
Current Account (billions USD) -1.06e-1.15-0.31-0.63-0.70
Current Account (in % of GDP) -6.9-5.7-1.4-2.9-3.2

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 fifth oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa. The agricultural sector accounted for an estimated 6.7% of Gabon's GDP in 2020 (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 40.7% 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 68% of Gabon’s exports, 45% of its GDP and 40% of its budgetary revenue (Euler Hermes). 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 45.7% 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) 30.0 10.7 59.3
Value Added (in % of GDP) 6.4 41.5 46.2
Value Added (Annual % Change) 5.2 -3.0 -0.8

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 70% of the country's GDP (World Bank, 2020). 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, manganese ores, wood products and ferro-alloys; and mainly imports machinery, boats, electrical machinery, meat and other food products, vehicles, cereals, mineral fuels, iron, plastics, and pharmaceutical products (ITC, 2020).

Gabon's main trading partners are China, the United States, Ireland, the Republic of Korea and the Netherlands (UNCTAD, 2020). France, Belgium and China are Gabon’s main suppliers (France Ministry of Economy). 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 2020, total exports of goods amounted to USD 4.9 billion while total imports reached USD 2.94 billion, resulting in a comfortable trade surplus. 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 20162017201820192020
Imports of Goods (million USD) 2,1633,0123,0823,1402,937
Exports of Goods (million USD) 4,5065,6786,5046,6204,903
Imports of Services (million USD) n/a0000
Exports of Services (million USD) n/a0000
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -6.6-7.31.617.9-5.4
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -3.33.94.920.43.2
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 26.124.822.321.622.7
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 44.050.251.150.747.9
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 70.175.173.472.270.6

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

 
 
 
 
 

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Main Services

0.2 bn USD of services exported in 2017
39.81%
31.86%
17.79%
2.49%
2.46%
2.22%
1.42%
1.28%
0.64%
0.02%
1.8 bn USD of services imported in 2017
34.17%
30.63%
18.33%
6.29%
5.12%
4.30%
0.38%
0.33%
0.28%
0.17%

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data

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Political Outline

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

Prime Minister: Rose Christiane OSSOUKA RAPONDA (since 16 July 2020)

Next Election Dates
Presidential: August 2023
Senate: 2027
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

COVID-19 epidemic evolution
To find out about the latest status of the evolution of the COVID19 pandemic and the most up-to-date statistics on the COVID19 disease in Gabon, please visit the Gabonese government platform, containing the official data. The platform provides a daily epidemiological update, which includes key national figures.
For the international outlook you can consult the latest
situation reports published by the World Health Organisation as well as the global daily statistics on the coronavirus pandemic evolution including data on confirmed cases and deaths by country.
Sanitary measures
To find out about the latest public health situation in Gabon and the current sanitary measures in force, please consult the Gabonese government platform including updated information on the containment measures put in place and public health recommendations.
Travel restrictions
The COVID-19 situation, including the spread of new variants, evolves rapidly and differs from country to country. All travelers need to pay close attention to the conditions at their destination before traveling. Regularly updated information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related travel restrictions in place including entry regulations, flight bans, test requirements and quarantine is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
It is also highly recommended to consult COVID-19 Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on the daily basis by IATA.
The US government website of Centers of Disease Control and Prevention provides COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination.

The UK Foreign travel advice also provides travelling abroad advice for all countries, including the latest information on coronavirus, safety and security, entry requirements and travel warnings.
Import & export restrictions
For information on all the measures applicable to the movement of goods during the period of sanitary emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak (including possible import and export restrictions, if applicable), please consult the portal of the Gabonese Directorate-General for Customs and Indirect Duties.
For a general overview of trade restrictions due to COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the section dedicated to Gabon on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage. 
Economic recovery plan
Information on the economic recovery plan put in place by the Gabonese government to address the impact of the COVID19 pandemic is available here (page 11).
For a general overview of the main economic policy measures (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) taken by the Gabonese government to limit the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the section dedicated to Gabon in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform. 
Support plan for businesses
Information on the local business support program set up by the Gabonese government to help small and medium-sized companies to deal with the economic impacts of the COVID19 epidemic is available here (Page 11).
For a general overview of international SME support policy responses to the COVID-19 outbreak, please refer to the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.
Support plan for exporters
Official government sources do not provide information on specific programmes for exporting companies following the coronavirus outbreak.
 

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Latest Update: November 2022