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Gabon Implements Policies to Woo Investors

  • Peter Clottey

This is Part Five of a six-part series on Gabon Continue to Parts: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6

The administration of President Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba says it is working to attract investment to the country.

Officials say, for example, that the government will establish an agency to guarantee a “single window clearance” policy, specifically for investors. They say it should help expedite the necessary documents they need to start their businesses.

They cite the sharp increase in direct foreign funding as a symbol of the country’s dynamic economy and the government’s continuing partnerships with private organizations.

Even so, some experts say the country still lags in attracting private investors. The yearly publication called Doing Business 2012 rates Gabon as 156 out of 183 nations evaluated.

The report rates Gabon lower with regard to “ease of doing business” than several neighboring countries, including Cameroon, Sao Tome and Principe, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, and the Central African Republic.

The publication, issued by the World Bank and International Finance Corporation, shows that it takes an investor about 58 days to start a business in Gabon, compared to15 days in Cameroon, 21 in Central African Republic and 10 in Sao Tome and Principe.

In addition, the 2011 and 2012 reports did not show an improvement in the total number of days needed to start a business in Gabon.

Nor did it show an improvement in the number of days needed to receive a construction permit. The latest report says getting a permit in Gabon took 201 days, which is more than the number of days required in Cameroon (147), Democratic Republic of Congo (117) and Equatorial Guinea (166). In contrast, neighbors Angola (321) and Central African Republic (203) did worse.

But set some investors do see promise. Among them are officials with the France-based Investment Organization for Tropical Agriculture, which manages nearly 2,000 hectares of rubber and palm oil plantations in Gabon.

Gert Vandersmissen, a top official with the company, said he appreciates government efforts to improve the business climate. But he says political stability in Gabon – as in other countries – is just one element needed for business to thrive.

“As a private company,” he said, “we need good infrastructure and a solid judicial system, without corruption, so that we can do what we do best. So, far the government is not pushing us and is not working against us so that we can do our job and that is how it should be.”

Another investor, Tauhid Monif, says his investment company, the Abhijeet group, is planning a long-term presence in the country.

“Avenues have opened up [including an offer to set] up one of the biggest plants over here,” said Monif.

His India-based company specializes in power generation, mining, ferroalloys, steel and roads – all of which are needed to raise living standards in a nation with high levels of poverty and income inequality.

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