Gabon - Country Commercial Guide
Investment Climate Statement
Last published date:

The U.S. Department of State’s Investment Climate Statements provide information on the business climates of more than 170 economies and are prepared by economic officers stationed in embassies and posts around the world.  They analyze a variety of economies that are or could be markets for U.S. businesses.  The Investment Climate Statements are also references for working with partner governments to create enabling business environments that are not only economically sound, but address issues of labor, human rights, responsible business conduct, and steps take to combat corruption.  The reports cover topics including Openness to Investment, Legal and Regulatory systems, Protection of Real and Intellectual Property Rights, Financial Sector, State-Owned Enterprises, Responsible Business Conduct, and Corruption. 

To access the ICS, visit the U.S. Department of Department of State’s Investment Climate Statement website.

2023 Executive Summary

Gabon is a historically stable country in a volatile region that benefits from significant economic advantages: a small population (roughly 2.3 million), an abundance of natural resources, and a strategic location in the Gulf of Guinea. After taking office in 2009, President Ali Bongo Ondimba introduced reforms to diversify Gabon’s economy away from oil and traditional investment partners such as EU countries, particularly France, and to position Gabon as an emerging economy. Gabon promotes foreign investment across a range of sectors, particularly in oil and gas, infrastructure, timber, ecotourism, and mining. Gabon remains dependent on revenue from petroleum and mining.

Foreign investors participating in Gabon’s investment climate face hurdles establishing new businesses, connecting to utilities like electricity and water, and transferring company ownership. Many companies report difficulties in obtaining business financing. Banks and other financiers struggle to release funds, especially to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), due to a lack of guarantees and insufficient documentation. These challenges make Gabon a difficult place for foreign businesses to operate. According to the World Bank 2022 report, Gabon ranks 38th in Africa for the protection of minority investors and 43rd for the payment of taxes.

Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 significantly increased inflation and concerns over food security in Gabon. The government estimated overall inflation at almost 4 percent in 2022, but economic experts noted countries in the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), an organization that includes Gabon, had lower inflation than other countries in the region. However, the prices for many food items in Gabon surged with global food instability in 2022 due to the vast majority of food items being imported for consumption. Gabon was forced to continue fuel and food subsidies enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the inflationary pressure from food and energy insecurity in 2022.

Though economic conditions in Gabon recovered from the COVID-19 recession, the business environment is challenging. Corruption and lack of transparency, including inconsistently applied customs regulations and duties, remain impediments to investment. Many international companies, including U.S. firms, continue to report difficulties in collecting timely payments from the government, including significant delays in VAT reimbursements that hinder further foreign trade and investment. As part of the IMF’s 2021-2024 $553.2 million Fund Facility arrangement, the Gabonese government has agreed to enact significant governance and transparency reforms.

Historically, the petroleum and mining sectors attracted the most investment in Gabon. To entice more investors in other sectors, particularly the timber sector, Gabon created a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Nkok near Libreville in 2010. The 1,350-hectare SEZ offers considerable tax and financial incentives for local and foreign investors to start business there, provides dedicated electricity and water services to the area and preferred access to the deep-sea port of Owendo, all of which enhance industrial competitiveness and build a business-friendly ecosystem to attract investment. With the success of the Nkok SEZ, Gabon launched two new SEZs in Inkolo (June 2021) and Mpassa-Lebombi (April 2022), with a fourth planned near Port-Gentil in the future. In addition, Gabon has several business incubators active in the country that attempt to facilitate all business activities, foster entrepreneurialism, and develop startups.