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Report | The Report: Gabon 2014

With just 1.63m people, Gabon is the second-smallest member of the six-country Central African Economic and Monetary Community in terms of population, after Equatorial Guinea. However, the country’s well-developed hydrocarbons sector has made Gabon the second-largest economy in the sub-region.

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Chapter | Legal Framework from The Report: Gabon 2014

OBG introduces the reader to the different aspects of the legal system in Gabon, in partnership with Deloitte.

Chapter | Tax from The Report: Gabon 2014

In conjunction with Deloitte, OBG explores the taxation system, examining Gabon’s investor-friendly environment. This chapter contains an interview with Nicolas Balesme, Partner and General Manager, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Gabon.

Chapter | Health & Education from The Report: Gabon 2014

Health Covering the 2011-15 period, the National Health Strategy was launched in 2010 and aims to accelerate sector reforms by improving the overall governance of health care, reducing infant and maternal mortality, introducing free maternal health care and investing in infrastructure, especially hospitals. The country has been rolling out its universal health care system, the National Insurance and Social Welfare Fund since 2008 as part of a broader effort to improve the standard of living. However, challenges such as a shortage of trained medical personnel remain, and the country still has much work to do to meet the goals set for its health care sector. Health spending as a proportion of GDP remains comparatively low and non-communicable illnesses linked to demographic shifts and lifestyle changes, including cancer, hypertension, obesity and diabetes are a growing concern. Education One of the three key pillars of the Emerging Gabon strategy is Services Gabon, which addresses the development of a skilled labour force and aims to establish the country as a regional centre for financial services, tertiary education, health and environmentally sustainable development. Gabon increased its investment budget in 2013 as part of its plan to overhaul public infrastructure across the board. Proposed investment in education in the budget was up 53% year-on-year to €138m. Efforts to identify future economic needs and to bring tertiary education in line with the demands of the job market are vital for the economic growth of the country. Agreements with private companies looking to increase the number of qualified professionals are on the rise, with plans for several new industry-specific schools announced in recent years. The private sector and foreign cooperation will play a key role in improving the educational offering and thereby helping the nation to provide the skilled workers required by its growing economy. This chapter contains an interview with Simon Ntoutoume Emane, Minister of Labour, Work and Vocational Training.

Chapter | Tourism from The Report: Gabon 2014

As oil output declines, the government is looking to encourage growth in the tourism sector, with the aim of developing high-end and luxury ecotourism under the rubric of the Green Gabon strategy for sustainable development. In spite of the country’s wealth of natural attractions, Gabon’s tourism industry has remained small in both absolute terms and the contribution it makes to the local economy. Between 2006 and 2011 some 100,000 visitors arrived in Gabon, with France ranking as the highest visitor market at around 35% of arrivals. Tourism made up 1.2% of Gabon’s GDP in 2013, but the government anticipated the sector’s contribution will grow 9.5% in 2014, and an annual average of 7.3% through 2024. The sector is set to expand in coming years, pushing up its contribution to GDP.

Chapter | Telecoms & IT from The Report: Gabon 2014

Telecoms Gabon’s telecoms sector is undergoing an important shift in 2014. The highly competitive market will see two of its four operators merge, potentially changing the balance with the traditional market leader. The long-awaited launch of 3G service in April 2014 is helping to open new avenues for growth in Gabon’s increasingly saturated mobile telecommunications sector. Subscriber numbers continue to rise, but with real penetration of nearly 100%, future growth will come from the introduction of higher-value services. Competition is fierce with four operators serving a relatively small market, and providers are working to expand their networks and boost service quality. IT Gabon aims to transition to a digital economy by 2016, supported by $68m in public and private investment in national infrastructure planned for 2013-14. Commercialisation of access to the long-awaited Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) fibre-optic cable, expected in early 2015, should propel Gabon’s IT sector forward in the next year. The public sector continues to be the primary digital consumer, but demand for internet connectivity, IT hardware and services is growing rapidly. For now, the market continues to be held back by limited broadband capacity, so 2014 will be focused on efforts to commercialise access to the ACE cable and to expand IT infrastructure both in Gabon and the broader sub-region to meet rising demand. This chapter contains interviews with Alain Ba Oumar, President, Federation of Operators of Electronic Communications of Gabon; and Axcèle Kissangou-Mouelé, Managing Director, Société de Patrimoine des Infrastructures Numeriques.

Chapter | Mining & Industry from The Report: Gabon 2014

Mining The natural wealth of Gabon is not limited to oil and gas, and the country is turning to mining to help diversify away from its reliance on hydrocarbons. g The African Development Bank estimated that in 2012 the mining sector contributed 6.3% of GDP and 6% of exports, though estimates from the Ministry of Economy and Planning put it much lower, at under 2% of GDP. Either way, the sector has the potential to be a major economic driver, and the government hopes to quadruple mining’s contribution to GDP by 2025 under the Industrial Gabon development plan. In line with the government’s industrialisation strategy, local processing requirements are gradually being imposed to increase the sector’s added value and boost non-hydrocarbons activity, although infrastructure and personnel shortages will be an obstacle to development in the medium term. Industry Today, industrial activity is limited to agro-industry, beverages, construction materials and some timber, petroleum and mineral processing, but the state has outlined a plan to establish several industrial clusters by 2025 and double the sector’s contribution to GDP. Industry was identified as one of three economic development pillars under the Emerging Gabon strategy launched in 2009. Under the Industrial Gabon plan, the state is working to encourage investment in downstream processing for all natural resource operations. Local processing requirements are gradually being introduced, starting with the 2010 ban on raw timber exports, which is helping to increase export value and reduce Gabon’s reliance on hydrocarbons. While the transition has not always been smooth, the economy stands to benefit significantly in the medium term from the uptick in value-added activity. This chapter contains interviews with Régis Immongault, Minister of Mines, Industry and Tourism; and Pietro Amico, General Representative, Eramet Gabon.