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Background: Ruled by autocratic presidents since independence from France in 1960, Gabon introduced a multiparty system and a new constitution in the early 1990s that allowed for a more transparent electoral process and for reforms of governmental institutions. A small population, abundant natural resources, and foreign private investment have helped make Gabon one of the more prosperous black African countries.
Government type: republic; multiparty presidential regime (opposition parties legalized in 1990)
Capital: Libreville
Currency: 1 Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFAF) = 100 centimes

Geography of Gabon

Location: Western Africa, bordering the Atlantic Ocean at the Equator, between Republic of the Congo and Equatorial Guinea
Geographic coordinates: 1 00 S, 11 45 E
total: 267,667 sq. km
land: 257,667 sq. km
water: 10,000 sq. km
Land boundaries:
total: 2,551 km
border countries: Cameroon 298 km, Republic of the Congo 1,903 km, Equatorial Guinea 350 km
Coastline: 885 km
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: tropical; always hot, humid
Terrain: narrow coastal plain; hilly interior; savanna in east and south
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mont Iboundji 1,575 m
Natural resources: petroleum, manganese, uranium, gold, timber, iron ore, hydropower
Land use:
arable land: 1%
permanent crops: 1%
permanent pastures: 18%
forests and woodland: 77%
other: 3% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 40 sq. km (1993 est.)
Environment – current issues: deforestation; poaching
Environment – international agreements:
party to:  Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: a small population and oil and mineral reserves have helped Gabon become one of Africa’s wealthier countries; in general, these circumstances have allowed the country to maintain and conserve its pristine rain forest and rich biodiversity.

People of Gabon

Almost all Gabonese are of Bantu origin. Gabon has at least 40 ethnic groups, with separate languages and cultures. The largest is the Fang. Other ethnic groups include the Myene, Bandjabi, Eshira, Bapounou, Bateke/Obamba, and Okande. Ethnic group boundaries are less sharply drawn in Gabon than elsewhere in Africa. French, the official language, is a unifying force. More than 10,000 French people live in Gabon, and France predominates foreign cultural and commercial influences. Historical and environmental factors caused Gabon’s population to decline between 1900 and 1940. It is one of the least-densely inhabited countries in Africa, and a labor shortage is a major obstacle to development and a draw for foreign workers. The population is generally accepted to be just over 1 million but remains in dispute.

Population: 1,389,201 (July 2005 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years:  33.29%
15-64 years:  60.77%
65 years and over:  5.94%
Population growth rate: 1.02% 
Birth rate: 27.42 births/1,000 population 
Death rate: 17.22 deaths/1,000 population 
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population 
Infant mortality rate: 94.91 deaths/1,000 live births 
Life expectancy at birth:
total population:  49.59 years
male:  48.47 years
female:  50.75 years 
Total fertility rate: 3.69 children born/woman 
noun: Gabonese (singular and plural)
adjective: Gabonese
Ethnic groups: Bantu tribes including four major tribal groupings (Fang, Eshira, Bapounou, Bateke), other Africans and Europeans 154,000, including 10,700 French and 11,000 persons of dual nationality.
Religions: Christian 55%-75%, Muslim less than 1%, animist
Languages: French (official), Fang, Myene, Bateke, Bapounou/Eschira, Bandjabi
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 63.2%
male: 73.7%
female: 53.3% (1995 est.)

Gabon Economy

Economy – overview: Gabon enjoys a per capita income four times that of most nations of sub-Saharan Africa. This has supported a sharp decline in extreme poverty; yet because of high income inequality a large proportion of the population remains poor. Gabon depended on timber and manganese until oil was discovered offshore in the early 1970s. The oil sector now accounts for 50% of GDP. Gabon continues to face fluctuating prices for its oil, timber, manganese, and uranium exports. Despite the abundance of natural wealth, the economy is hobbled by poor fiscal management. In 1992, the fiscal deficit widened to 2.4% of GDP, and Gabon failed to settle arrears on its bilateral debt, leading to a cancellation of rescheduling agreements with official and private creditors. Devaluation of its Francophone currency by 50% on 12 January 1994 sparked a one-time inflationary surge, to 35%; the rate dropped to 6% in 1996. The IMF provided a one-year standby arrangement in 1994-95, a three-year Enhanced Financing Facility (EFF) at near commercial rates beginning in late 1995, and stand-by credit of $119 million in October 2000. Those agreements mandate progress in privatization and fiscal discipline. France provided additional financial support in January 1997 after Gabon had met IMF targets for mid-1996. In 1997, an IMF mission to Gabon criticized the government for overspending on off-budget items, overborrowing from the central bank, and slipping on its schedule for privatization and administrative reform. The rebound of oil prices in 1999-2000 helped growth, but drops in production hampered Gabon from fully realizing potential gains. An expected decline in oil output may lead to contraction in GDP in 2001-02.

GDP: purchasing power parity – $7.7 billion (2000 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 1.2% (2000 est.)
GDP – per capita: purchasing power parity – $6,300 (2000 est.)
GDP – composition by sector:
agriculture: 10%
industry: 60%
services: 30% (1999 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 1.5% (2000 est.)
Labor force: 600,000
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture 60%, services and government 25%, industry and commerce 15%
Unemployment rate: 21% (1997 est.)
revenues: $1.5 billion
expenditures: $1.3 billion, including capital expenditures of $302 million (1996 est.)
Industries: food and beverage; textile; lumbering and plywood; cement; petroleum extraction and refining; manganese, uranium, and gold mining; chemicals; ship repair
Industrial production growth rate: 2.3% (1995)
Electricity – production: 1.02 billion kWh (1999)
Electricity – production by source:
fossil fuel:  29.9%
hydro:  70.1%
nuclear:  0%
other:  0% (1999)
Agriculture – products: cocoa, coffee, sugar, palm oil, rubber; cattle; okoume (a tropical softwood); fish
Exports: $3.4 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.)
Exports – commodities: crude oil 75%, timber, manganese, uranium (1998)
Exports – partners: US 47%, France 19%, China 8%, Japan 1.3% (1999)
Imports: $1 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.)
Imports – commodities: machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, petroleum products, construction materials
Imports – partners: France 64%, US 4%, UK 2%, Netherlands 2%, (1999)
Debt – external: $3.9 billion (2000 est.)
Economic aid – recipient: $331 million (1995)
Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XAF); note – responsible authority is the Bank of the Central African States

Map of Gabon