Economic studies


Population 1.8 million
GDP 7,692 US$
Country risk assessment
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major macro economic indicators

  2014 2015  2016(f) 2017(f)
GDP growth (%) 4.4 3.9 2.3 2.4
Inflation (yearly average) (%) 4.5 0.1 2.1 2.5
Budget balance (% GDP) 2.7 -1.2 -4.6 -2.6
Current account balance (% GDP) 8.1 -5.4 -9.0 -8.3
Public debt (% GDP) 33.0 41.4 62.0 62.0


(f) Forecast


  • 5th largest oil producer in Sub-Saharan Africa; 2nd largest producer of wood in Africa; aiming to become world’s leading manganese producer
  • Work on economic diversification as part of the Emerging Gabon Strategic Plan
  • Strong potential for mining (iron, uranium, diamonds) and wood sectors


  • Economy highly dependent on the oil sector with declining crude reservesRe-emergence of budget and current account deficits
  • High cost of factors of production, linked with inadequate infrastructure (transport and electricity)
  • High unemployment and endemic poverty
  • Worsening political context

Risk assessment

Weak oil prices weighing on growth

Activity slowed in 2016 under the impact of low oil prices, but increased spending aimed at alleviating social tensions ahead of the presidential election and foreign finance helped to some extent sustain consumption and investment. In 2017, growth is expected to stabilise at a relatively low level. Facing a gradual decline in its oil production as crude oil reserves are being depleted, in addition to the fall in crude prices, the government’s ability to invest is more limited. The effort to diversify and modernise the economy, undertaken by the government as part of the Emerging Gabon Strategic Plan (PSGE) launched in 2010, is stunted. With higher debt-servicing costs and a fiscal adjustment, the public investment programme should all the more slow. In addition, investments in the mineral ore and wood processing industries as well as those in the agriculture sector (palm oil and rubber) are expected to decelerate as well. Foreign investment might suffer from the political turmoil following Ali Bongo’s contested re-election in August 2016. The political situation and repeated strikes in the oil sector should limit a significant rebound in growth. Nevertheless, the IMF support with an Extended Fund Facility (EFF) will contribute to stimulate economic growth. There is work needed concerning the effectiveness of investments, together with a number of obstacles to growth that need to be cleared (unreliable electricity supply, inflexible job market and shortage of skilled and trained workers, and concerns around the security of contracts). Finally, the benefits of growth are far from being shared across all layers of society. Despite abundant natural resources and per capita income amongst the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, poverty remains endemic and unemployment high.


Public and external accounts in the red

The public account surplus started to dwindle as of 2010 following the huge public investments made with the implementation of the PSGE. The budget fell into the red in 2015 as a result of the collapse in oil revenues, which forced the government to cut public spending. The continuing plunge in oil receipts in 2016, at the same time as spending was increased for the elections and the preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations (2017), led to a further deepening of the deficit. This should however shrink in 2017 thanks to the slight recovery in oil prices. The government also plans to drastically reduce capital spending (roughly 30% in 2017 Budget) to balance the budget. A three-year EFF arrangement of 642 million USD signed with the IMF will help the government to address fiscal imbalances.

The public debt increased rapidly in recent years, rising from 19.7% in 2012 to 62% of GDP in 2016 as a result of a Eurobond issue and the depreciation of the CFA franc. There has also been a rise in its borrowing costs on the financial markets for Gabon.

In 2015, the country also recorded its first current account deficit in seventeen years following the collapse in oil exports (down to 77% of total exports) and this despite the contraction in imports linked with falling domestic demand and world commodity prices. Exports continued to fall in 2016, still suffering from lower oil sales which largely offset the increase in manganese and wood sales. In 2017, the current account deficit is likely to shrink slightly thanks to the slow rise in crude oil prices and the continuing expansion in non-oil exports.


Acute post-electoral crisis

The disputed re-election of Ali Bongo in August 2016 triggered violent confrontations between the supporters of the opposition candidate, Jean Ping, and security forces (two days of riots, deaths and hundreds of arrests). The Constitutional Court confirmed the victory of the outgoing president in September, which did not stop the European Union observers to keep denouncing the failings of the Gabonese electoral system. Calm has since returned to the country but its political landscape needs to be rebuilt as legislative elections initially planned for December 2016 and then scheduled to July 30th 2017, have been postponed to April 2018. The opening of a one-month national dialogue by the Ali Bongo administration, but without Jean Ping and his allies, concluded after two months of discussion without calling into questions institutional balances: the conclusions recommend the non-limitation of elected representatives, including the President.

There is enduring social unrest, further fostered by the level of inequality and failings in terms of basic services. The teachers' strike since October 2016 to claim, bonuses, wage arrears and the construction of new classrooms comes up against a government that acknowledges the grievances but claims not to have enough money to access those requests. A call for the general strike of the National Organization of Petroleum Employees (ONEP) in March 2017 was added to the repeated strikes in the sector since the beginning of the year. Finally, the long-term development of the country remains limited by governance shortcomings.


Last update: June 2017

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