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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora