This is Part One of a six-part series on African Investment
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Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba says he is determined to fulfill the aspirations of citizens to better their lives.
In an exclusive interview with VOA at the recent gathering by the group New York Forum Africa held in the Gabonese capital Libreville, President Bongo Ondimba said his recently launched "Emerging Gabon" initiative will help citizens realize their potential and lift living standards.
Emerging Gabon initiative
Bongo Ondimba underscored the rationale behind his decision to become president of Gabon and his vision for the country.
"I want to make sure that I fulfill the aspirations of the Gabonese people: to have access to a better life, job opportunities and importantly for the Gabonese people themselves to take into their own hands the development of their own country," said Bongo Ondimba.
Officials say the Emerging Gabon Initiative is built on three main pillars: Green Gabon, Industrial Gabon; and Service-oriented Gabon.
Green Gabon aims to use forestry, agriculture and ecotourism to help the sustainable development of the country’s ecosystem: 22 million hectares of forest, one million hectares of arable land, 13 national parks and 800 kilometers of coastline.
Industrial Gabon will promote the local processing of raw materials, exports of high value-added products and the diversification of the national economy.
Service-orientated Gabon will develop the country’s human resources in order to become a regional leader in financial services, new information technologies and the green economy, higher education and health care.
President Bongo Ondimba expressed confidence in the plan.
"So far, so good… In the last three years we have been able to secure billions of dollars for investment. So that’s a sign that Gabon is back in the business of trust, that people feel they can come in and invest. We need that, and that’s really important for us," he said.
He called for public support for his administration’s development agenda. He said individual success is based on "ambition, belief and then work. There is nothing that you can do without working. We have to work twice as hard in order to fulfill our ambitions."
President Bongo Ondimba said his country’s decision to help organize and co-host the conference of New York Forum Africa is part of his plan to attract investment to his country.
The objectives of the Emerging Gabon Initiative, said Bongo Ondimba, would be accomplished within the next 13 years.
"That’s why we fixed the target of 2025 for us to reach the status of an emerging country, necessary not just for us to have sustainable development, but a sturdy one. So, this [New York] forum is part of that --for us to connect with the rest of the world, and tell [it] to come to Gabon," he said.
He said his government is preparing the public for increased investment by improving education – though he says both go hand in hand.
"For you to be able to do what you need to do, we need to have strong economic growth, therefore you have revenue [to] really [invest] in education and health of the people," he said.
The Gabonese government signed several agreements at the end of the meeting of New York Forum Africa. One with the Moroccan property developer, the ADDOHA Company, focuses on housing and construction.
The asset management group YCAP will work with the Gabonese investment fund in the agriculture, infrastructure, and financial engineering sectors.
The three-day meeting was co-organized by Richard Attias and Associates. It aimed to find models for bolstering business growth and resolve challenges to development. The meeting attracted hundreds of industry figures, entrepreneurs, and political decision-makers from across Africa.
The World Bank
says Gabon’s economy has grown over the past few years, thanks to higher oil prices and government efforts to promote privatization and budgetary reforms and cut corruption. In recent years, it had a growth rate of up to 5 percent.