Gabon - Country Commercial Guide
Best Industry Prospects

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country.  Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2021-10-11

Oil

The petroleum sector continues to provide opportunities for U.S. companies.  With the natural decline of mature oil fields, the government is developing its offshore, deep-water resources to achieve a target of doubling oil production to 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) by 2025. Gabon’s production of crude oil was at level of 184 thousand bpd in April 2021, up from 179 thousand bpd in December 2020, a change of 2.79%. Presently, offshore resources account for more than 70% of the less than 2 billion barrels (2016 estimate) in reserves.  Notwithstanding this decline, the oil sector remains the main contributor to the national budget. According to the IMF, the share of oil in Gabon’s GDP stands at 38.5%, but by 2025, Gabon wants to reduce the weight of the oil sector in its GDP below 20%. The Gabonese authorities hope in the coming years to succeed in the bet of slowing down the fall in oil production while diversifying the hydrocarbon sector as well as its economy. However, despite a programmed drop in production, the authorities forecast Gabonese oil price would be at 55 USD in 2021, up 34.15% compared to the initial 2021 budget. Gabon’s focus on offshore development could open new opportunities for U.S. oil and gas technology and services.  In addition, Gabon’s location in Central Africa and relative stability gives U.S. companies good geographic proximity to other markets in the region.

Gabon adopted and passed a revised Hydrocarbons Code in 2019.  This followed extensive consultations with legal, academic, and tax experts who sought to make Gabon more attractive to international investment. In light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gabon’s Directorate General of Hydrocarbons extended the closing date of the new 35 oil blocks bid to June 30, 2021.

Wood products

In 2009, the government prohibited the export of untreated wood and raw timber in support of local production of wood products to encourage a wood-based manufacturing sector.

Opportunities exist for timber processing companies.  Since the first annual Gabon Wood Show in 2018, Gabon promoted and maintains an ambitious vision to expand exports in the forest-wood products sector.  Gabon produced 270,000 cubic meters of tropical veneer, making it the African leader (6th world producer of tropical veneer and 12th worldwide producer of all types of veneers).  For sawn timber, Gabon was the fourth largest producer in Africa and the 26th worldwide for all types of sawn wood combined.  Gabon’s Special Economic Zone (SEZ), with its tax-free zone to attract new investors, is already producing steel rebar, furniture, veneer, plywood, and other wood products.  The expansive acreage near a modern port, tax breaks up to 25 years, and being co-located among multiple international businesses are attractive factors to U.S. investors.

The New Owendo International Port, a $300 million multipurpose terminal opened in October 2017.  The terminal is meant to receive container vessels and general and bulk cargo ships.  The wharf length, draught, and equipment (two ship-to-shore gantry cranes and four container gantry cranes) bring the Owendo container terminal up to international port standards.  It provides a competitive service to ship-owners, importers, and exporters.  Vessels reaching 6,000 TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) can be handled with high levels of productivity.  Bolloré Corporation manages the port.

 

2018

2019

2020

2021 estimated

Total Local Production

270,000 cubic meters of wood

435,766 cubic meters of wood

870,410 cubic meters of wood

NA

Power Africa (PA)

Power Africa is a market-driven, U.S. Government-led public-private partnership aiming to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. It offers tools and resources to private sector entities to facilitate doing business in sub-Saharan Africa’s power sector.  The Electrify Africa Act of 2015 institutionalized Power Africa. Learn more about the full Power Africa toolbox or other opportunities offered by Power Africa.

The Ministry of Mines, Petroleum and Hydrocarbons and the Ministry of Energy and Hydraulic Resources share responsibility for the energy sector. SEEG, the national electricity and water service company of Gabon, was under a concession to the French company Veolia since 1997. In 2019, SEEG was renationalized and holds the monopoly on power production and distribution. Gabon hydropower provides more than half (51%) of Gabon’s current 2,000GWh of electricity per year, from an installed capacity of 720MW. In 2020 the SEEG launched its emergency water and electricity plan to rehabilitate its 5MW Bongolo hydropower plant with the aim of restoring its installed capacity and improving supply in the region. The project costs nearly $12.7Million. The Gabonese government decided in the 2021 Budget law to sell some of its shares of the SEEG. Construction of several hydropower projects is planned but there have been several years of delays and search of funding. World Bank studies indicate that Gabon will require an installed capacity of at least 1,250MW by 2040. However, closer to 1,850MW will likely be needed to power industrialization for new processing enterprises to transform Gabon’s natural riches such as timber, manganese, and iron, which are currently exported as raw materials.

Mining

Opportunities for U.S. mining support companies include furnishing cranes, draglines, trucks, and tractors.  Manganese is the main mining activity, and in June 2015, Compagnie Minière de l’Ogooue (COMILOG), a subsidiary of the French company ERAMET, inaugurated a factory for domestic production of value-added manganese products.  Firms have also obtained prospecting/exploration licenses for iron ore, copper, gold, diamonds, and other minerals.  In the future, there may be opportunities for mining in the area surrounding the Belinga iron ore deposit, believed to be among the largest iron ore deposits in the world.  Gabon was the third largest producer of manganese in 2020. The country was responsible for 2.8 million MT of manganese, a slight increase from the previous year’s 2.51 million MT. Gabon produced 8.5 million tons of manganese and associated minerals in 2020, up 25% the year prior. The country’s government expects production of the mineral to hit 9.7 million tons in 2021 as it aims to diversify its economy and become less dependent on crude-oil exports.

Agriculture

Foodstuffs including meat, poultry, cheese, and beverages primarily enter the Gabonese market as imports.  Much of it comes from Europe at high prices resulting in a heavy trade imbalance and strain on the currency.  In July 2018, the government reduced exemptions on imports and announced plans to encourage more domestic food production, especially in poultry as an initial target.

Around 86% of the Gabonese live in major urban centers.  The rural workforce is insufficient, but the government is working to expand rural occupations.  Since 2014, Gabon has been laying the foundations for agricultural development through a project entitled, “Gabonese Agricultural Achievement and Engaged National Initiatives” (the GRAINE Project).  The project is funded by the Gabonese government through international loans provided by the African Development Bank and the World Bank; Olam has been awarded the implementation and management.  The first fruit produce of the GRAINE program was harvested last year.  The project, launched in the Haut-Ogooué Province, located in the southeast, is expected to cover the entire country by 2020.  Olam Gabon contributed significantly to the increase in agricultural GDP, which rose from 3.9% to 6.1% between 2013 and 2017.  In 2020, Olam divested many of its Gabon operations, which may have an impact on some of these plans.

Tourism

Gabon has a large range of environmental biodiversity.  It has the potential to attract tourists from around the world to experience the country’s remarkable wildlife, scenery, beaches, and favorable weather, allowing visitors to interact with nature, and to practice extreme sports and adventure.  The country has been labeled “The Last Eden” (see National Geographic) for its diversity of untouched forests.  However, Gabon needs almost every type of tourism infrastructure.  Roads are poor, cost of air transportation is high and “package” approaches to sightseeing are underdeveloped.  The limited lodges in the parks do not have well developed tourist facilities or services.  They are expensive relative to other African opportunities when considering the quality of the venues and the services delivered.

As Gabon modernizes and improves existing infrastructure, there are opportunities for U.S. firms in housing, water and waste treatment, healthcare technology, aviation infrastructure and maintenance, road construction, and education.