News / Africa

Gabon President Bongo Launches Ambitious Development Agenda

Gabon President Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba has launched an ambitious development agenda to transform the country.
Gabon President Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba has launched an ambitious development agenda to transform the country.

Multimedia

Audio
  • Clottey interview with Gabon govenrment officias as well as investors

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

 

Gabon’s President Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba has launched an ambitious development program, which, he says, will totally transform the country’s economy and infrastructure to better the lives of all Gabonese.

Administration officials say co-hosting the just ended African Nations cup with neighboring Equatorial Guinea, was one of the many initiatives Mr. Bongo Ondimba undertook to showcase Gabon to the entire world.

“We are proud to have been a co-host of the African Nations Cup. We have invested in an extensive program of infrastructure development in preparation. The tournament has been a huge success and shows that Gabon is focused on moving our country forward, for the people and the region, to be a global player,” said President Bongo Ondimba.

Officials say the goal of Mr. Bongo’s policy reforms is to ensure that Gabon becomes a regional force in such areas as financial services, information and communications technology (ICT), and trade-related services. They will be aligned with efforts to build a green economy and specialized fields within higher education, health and research.

Political Stability

Some analysts predicted a crisis in Gabon, as occurred in neighboring countries, following the death of long-time leader Omar Bongo. They cited for their concerns a possible power struggle and conflicts in neighboring countries that could spill over into Gabon. But the democratic election of President Bongo Ondimba, some observers say, ensured a smooth transfer of power.

Some investors cite the country’s political stability as one of the many attractions that informed their decision to invest in the Central African country.

“Since we have been here, there is only one [lull in our business activity] –when the former president died, but they did very well to maintain stability in the country to ensure the continuation of the presidency. We see that there is a clear view of the future with Gabon and emerging Gabon,” said Gert Vandermissen, general manager for SIAT, a tropical agricultural investment company.

Infrastructural Development

The government invested about half a billion dollars to improve its infrastructure ahead of the African nations cup. The administration is constructing two new international airports in other parts of the country to support the Leon Mba international airport in the capital, Libreville.

To improve the public health of citizens, officials say the government has built an ultra-modern Cancer Treatment Center, which will complement the work of the International Center for Medical Research of Franceville (CIRMF).

CIRMF is the national reference laboratory for the diagnosis and treatment of ebola and other viral hemorrhagic fevers as well as infectious diseases including AIDS.

“Gabonese people are benefiting from our research findings. What we find and what we can apply directly to the public health system. We are also training doctors to be the future leaders in medical research here and abroad,” said Doctor Jean Paul Gonzalez, CIRMF director general and infectious diseases specialist.

CIRMF’s initial research focused on improving human fertility and perinatal health. But now, the center’s scientific policy is reoriented towards cutting-edge research on diseases affecting the population of Gabon and neighboring countries. The center, which is located in the southeastern part of the country, is the biggest in Central Africa.

Presidential adviser for education, Gabriel Ntougou said the government has increased the annual education budget from $300 million to $1.26 billion, primarily for the upgrade of old structures and the construction of new ones.

“The program of investment in education, focuses on infrastructure by building facilities for universities and the 12 post-graduate schools which includes conference rooms, teachers’ offices, laboratories, students housing and sports facilities,” said Ntougou. ”The president has also developed a program of building nine special high schools across the country that will focus on science, math and physics.”            

The U.S.-based firm Bechtel is playing a pivotal role in the government’s ambitious initiatives. The company provides support for L’Agence Nationale De Grands Travaux (National Agency for Major Works), a government agency, which ensures timely completion of Gabon’s infrastructural projects. Bechtel is one of the most highly acclaimed global engineering, project management and construction companies.

Attracting Investors

To ensure President Bongo Ondimba’s development strategy benefits the people, the administration has launched a new economic initiative and unveiled a number of reforms to sharply reduce graft and create a business-friendly environment necessary to attract foreign direct investments. The government has set up a “single window clearance” process that expedites the documents investors need to start their operation.

Since the implementation of the president’s initiatives, officials say there has been a dramatic increase in local and international investors who have now begun doing business in Gabon.

Vandersmissen said “As a private company, 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.”

“It’s stable here and there is liberty,” he added, “and if this should continue, Gabon could become an economic center for the development of Central and Western Africa.”

Vandersmissen also praised the business-friendly conditions in the country. Tauhid Monif is the general manager of the Abhijeet group, another investment company.

“Business opportunities that are offered by Gabon are excellent,” said Monif.  “And avenues have opened up [for us including the opportunity to set] up one of the biggest plants over here,” said Monif.

Headquartered in India, Monif said the Abhijeet group, which specializes in power generation, mining, ferroalloys, steel and roads will use Gabon as its base to launch operations in the rest of the Africa.

Special Economic Zone (SEZ)

The zone, which covers about 1146 hectares, has already attracted $210,920,491 million in investment, with many companies acquiring plots of land to begin their operation.

The president’s strategy, officials say, is to turn Gabon into a value-added economy that hinges on the local processing of raw materials, including timber, manganese and natural gas. The three main pillars of the plan, officials say, include industry, services and green initiatives.

To achieve those objectives, the administration has partnered with the international company Olam.  Together, they are working to promote a competitive economic environment; to develop local processing of the country’s natural resources and to diversify Gabon’s agricultural and industrial sectors.

Theophile Ogandaga, director at the Special Economic Zone, said the project was instituted following a ban on the export of logs in order to add value by using the timber to make other products.

Ogandaga says the government offered many benefits to investors.

Some of the benefits, Ogandaga said, include the exemption from Value Added Tax (VAT) for 25 years and from the 35 percent corporate tax for 10 years. The investors will also have a sharp reduction in electricity costs.

Energy production

To sustain the level of new development projects across the country as well as meet the energy demands of Gabon, and especially industry, the government is constructing a number of new hydroelectric dams after upgrading an older one.

Patrick Rodrigue Yalis Ongala, director of electricity at Gabon’s energy ministry and hydroelectric resources, said the dams are being built in accordance with international standards.

“We are expecting 160 megawatts of energy in which 75 percent will be dedicated to the Mwanda factory and the rest of the 25 percent will be for the population network,” said Ongala. “We are constructing another dam in the southern region to produce about 84 megawatts, and also in the northern side on the Okano River, which will produce 54 megawatts of electricity.”

You May Like

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

China to Invest $20 billion In India Amid Border Dispute

Border spat between armies of two countries in Himalayas underlines mutual tensions despite growing commercial ties highlighted by Xi Jinping's high profile visit More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid