GABONESE Facts & Figures
Size: 103,347 square miles
Currency: Central African CFA franc
Weather / Climate:
Gabonis located on the Atlantic coast of central Africa. Located on the equator, between latitudes 3°N and 4°S, and longitudes 8° and 15°E. Gabon generally has an equatorial climate with an extensive system of rainforests covering 85% of the country. There are three distinct regions: the coastal plains (ranging between 20 to 300 km from the ocean's shore), the mountains (the Cristal Mountains to the northeast of Libreville, the Chaillu Massif in the centre, culminating at 1575 m with Mont Iboundji), and the savanna in the east. The coastal plains form a large section of the World Wildlife Fund's Atlantic Equatorial coastal forests ecoregion and contain patches of Central African mangroves especially on the Muni River estuary on the border with Equatorial Guinea.
Gabon's largest river is the Ogooué which is 1200 km long. Gabon has three karst areas where there are hundreds of caves located in the dolomite and limestone rocks. Some of the caves include Grotte du Lastoursville, Grotte du Lebamba, Grotte du Bongolo, and Grotte du Kessipougou. Many caves have not been explored yet. A National Geographic Expedition visited the caves in the summer of 2008 to document them (Expedition Website).
Gabonis also noted for efforts to preserve the natural environment. In 2002, President Omar Bongo Ondimba put Gabon firmly on the map as an important future ecotourism destination by designating roughly 10% of the nation's territory to be part of its national park system (with 13 parks in total), one of the largest proportions of nature parkland in the world. Natural resources include: petroleum, magnesium, iron, gold, uranium, and forests.
Taken from wikipedia
The official language of Gabon is French, while 32% of the people speak Fang as a mother tongue. French is the medium of instruction. Before World War II very few Gabonese learned French, nearly all of them working in either business or government administration. After the war, France worked for universal primary education in Gabon, and by the 1960-61 census, 47% of the Gabonese over the age of fourteen spoke some French, while 13% were literate in the language. By the 1990s, the literacy rate had risen to about 60%.
A small percentage, several thousand in number, have had secondary or higher education and are extremely fluent in French. It is estimated that 80% of the country's population are able to speak the language and one-third of residents of Libreville, the capital city, are native French speakers. More than 10,000 French people live in Gabon, and France predominates the country's foreign cultural and commercial influences.
The indigenous languages are all members of the Bantu family, estimated to have come to Gabon about 2,000 years ago, and differentiated into about 40 languages. They are generally spoken but not written; while missionaries from the United States and France developed transcriptions for a number of languages based on the Latin alphabet starting in the 1840s, and translated the Bible into several of them, French colonial policy officially promoted the study of French and discouraged African languages. The languages continue to be transmitted through family and clan, and individuals in cities and other areas where multiple peoples come in contact may learn several Bantu languages.
The Gabonese government sponsored research on the Bantu languages starting in the 1970s.
The three largest languages are Fang, Mbere, and Sira (Eshira), each with about 25-30% of the speakers. The remainder of the languages are single-digit percentages, and some have only a few thousand speakers.
Taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_Gabon
Gabonis one of West Africa's more stable countries. Since independence from France in 1960 Gabon has had just two presidents. Its late leader, President Omar Bongo, was in power for over four decades.
The oldest human artefacts to have been discovered in Gabon are stone spearheads, which date back to 7000 BC, but little more is known about Gabonese prehistory. The earliest of the present inhabitants are the Pygmies; from AD 1100 onwards various Bantu tribes began migrating into the area.
It was in 1472 that the Portuguese discovered Gabon. Thereafter, Gabon was primarily of interest to the Dutch, French and British, who negotiated with the coastal tribes for slaves and ivory from the interior. Between the 16th and 18th centuries the region was part of the Loango Empire, during which time the main inhabitants were the Omiéné and Fang tribes. The slave trade ceased in the middle of the 19th century, but not before it had destroyed the social inter-relationships of the tribes it affected. Land on either side of the Gabon River was annexed peacefully by the French during the mid-19th century as a province of French Equatorial Africa. The Republic of Gabon moved peacefully into independence in 1960 after a three-year period of internal self-government.
A French-style constitution was adopted the following year and Léon M'Ba became Gabon's first President. After seven years of stormy pluralism, the ruling Parti Démocratique Gabonais (PDG) declared Gabon a one-party state, but retained broadly pro-Western policies.
Despite being made up of more than 40 ethnic groups, Gabon has escaped the strife afflicting other West African states. This is partly down to its relative prosperity due to oil and to the presence of French troops, which in 1964 reinstated President Leon Mba after he had been overthrown in a coup.
Gabon's dependence on oil has made its economy - and political stability - hostage to fluctuations in oil prices. When oil prices fell in the late 1980s, opposition to President Bongo increased, culminating in demonstrations in 1990. These ushered in political liberalisation. A multi-party system was introduced in 1991. Government critics have pointed to the wealth gap between the urban elite and the rural poor.
In 2003, a change of constitution meant that Bongo could run for office as many times as he wanted and Bongo, now in his 70s, is likely to remain as president for life. Gabon's only problem in the region concerns the island of Mbagne which lies in the Corisco Bay, potentially the site of large oil and gas deposits: occupied by Gabon in 1970, it is also claimed by Equatorial Guinea.
Gabon’s current president, President Ali Bongo Ondimba, took office in 2009, and is the son of President Omar Bongo – one of Africa's longest serving heads of state. From 1990, in common with much of the rest of Africa, the Omar Bongo’s government effected the transformation from a one-party state to a pluralistic political system. At the heart of the country's policies lie exceptionally close relations with France. In particular, Gabon is a key supplier to France of uranium and a number of other strategic minerals.
Thanks to its oil exports and a small population it enjoys more wealth per head of population than many of its neighbours. However, most of its people live in poverty. As oil reserves diminish, eco-tourism could grow in economic importance. Gabon's rainforests teem with wildlife, including lowland gorillas and forest elephants. National parks make up around one tenth of the land area.
Gabonis bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and the Congo. The 800km- (500-mile-) long sandy coastal strip is a series of palm-fringed bays, lagoons and estuaries. The lush tropical vegetation (which covers much of the interior) gives way in parts to the savannah. There are many rivers along which settlements have grown. Many of the Bantu people are concentrated in coastal areas and villages along the banks of the many rivers. The main cities are Libreville, Port Gentil, Lambaréné, Moanda, Oyem, Mouila and Franceville.
About 60% of the population is Christian (mainly Roman Catholic), the remainder follow Muslim and animist beliefs. Dance, song, poetry and myths remain an important part of traditional Gabonese life. It is absolutely forbidden to photograph military installations. In general, permission to photograph anything should be requested first, to prevent misunderstandings.
· 01 January – New Year's Day
· 12 March – Renovation Day
· 17 April – Women’s Day
· April – Easter Monday
· 01 May – Labour Day
· 06 May – Martyrs’ Day
· 28 May – Whit Monday
· 15 August – Assumption
· 16 August – Independence Day
· August – Eid al-Fitr, End of Ramadan
· October – Eid al-Adha, Feast of the Sacrifice
· 01 November – All Saints’ Day
· 25 December – Christmas Day
note: Estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2010 est.)
Age structure:0-14 years: 42.1% (male 320,414/female 318,027)
15-64 years: 53.9% (male 407,461/female 409,633)
65 years and over: 3.9% (male 24,799/female 34,659) (2010 est.)
Population growth rate:1.934% (2010 est.)
Birth rate:35.57 births/1,000 population (2010 est.)
Death rate:12.76 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.)
Net migration rate:-3.48 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.)
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.72 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2010 est.)
Infant mortality rate:51.78 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 53.11 years
male: 52.19 years
female: 54.05 years (2010 est.)
Total fertility rate:4.59 children born/woman (2011 est.)
Gabonese cuisineis the cooking traditions, practices, foods and dishes associated with the sovereign state of Gabon. French cuisine is prevalent as a notable influence, and in larger cities various french specialties are available. In rural areas, food staples such as cassava, rice and yams are commonly used.Meats, when available, include chicken and fish, and bush meats such as antelope, wild boar and monkey. Sauces are often utilized, with hot red pepper berbere paste used commonly. Fruits include bananas, papayas, guavas, mangoes, pineapples, coconuts, avocado and peanuts. Plantains, tomatoes, corn, and eggplant are also used.
Common foods and dishes
- Mustard chicken with garlic, onions and lemon juice 
- Meat stews 
- Seafood 
- Smoked fish 
- Baked bananas, coated with bread crumbs and served with sour cream and brown sugar 
- Gari, a cassava flour prepared as a porridge 
- Plantains, whole, crushed and mashed 
Taken from wikipedia
Places to go in GABON
In Libreville, there are two bustling markets at Akebe-Plaine, Nkembo and Mon-Bouet. Stone carvings can be bought on the outskirts of both, fashioned by a group of carvers who have adapted traditional skills for the tourist market. Crafts from local villages can also be bought from stalls in the streets or from the villagers themselves. African (Fang) mask carvings, figurines, clay pots and traditional musical instruments can also be bought.
There are nightclubs in Libreville with music and bars. Food is often served, although this can be expensive. The African quarter of Libreville is full of fairly cheap places to eat and drink. There are also casinos at several hotels.
Take a stroll around Gabon's lively, charming and cosmopolitan ocean-side capital, Libreville. The Cathedral of St Michael in Libreville is famous because of its 31 unusual wooden columns which were carved by a blind Gabonese craftsman; each of the columns depicts a Biblical scene. Don't miss the hustle and bustle of the Mount Bouet Market in Libreville. Visit the National Museum in Libreville, which contains some of the most beautiful woodcarvings in Africa, especially the indigenous Fang style of carving which influenced Picasso's figures and busts. Gawp at the sheer expenditure that is behind the construction of the Presidential Palace in Libreville; it was built in the 1970s costing US$800 million, and has Italian and Greek marble columns.
Walk the winding route from Libreville to the beach of Cap Estérias, where the rocks abound with sea urchins, oysters and lobsters: on the way, pass through a forest of giant trees. This is a good place to swim.
Visit Lambaréné, the town made famous by Doctor Albert Schweitzer, the tropical disease specialist and musician. Schweitzer Hospital is open to visitors as part of it has been made into a museum. A tour on Evaro Lake can be organised.
The villages of M'Bigou and Eteke are famous for their local crafts and gold mines and are well worth a visit.
Gabon's national parks are all rich in wildlife. The largest national park is the Lopé-Okanda Reserve, near La Lopé in the centre of the country, and its landscape, containing a mixture of savannah and dense forest, encloses gorillas, chimpanzees and elephants, as well as a variety of other primates, large mammals and around 350 species of bird. Alternatively, traverse the enchanting Mayumba, a thin strip of land set between sea and lake, and try to spot some of the many creatures that lurk here. Whale watching is popular all along the south coast from July to September each year, when up to 3,000 humpback whales can be seen.
For wildlife, enter the region of Bateke Plateau, which comprises savannah and forest galleries and tumultuous rivers spanned by liana bridges, such as the one at Poubara. Creatures include forest elephants, buffalos, sitatunga, river hogs, gorillas, panthers, crocodiles, monkeys and parrots.
Bathe at some of the beaches on the Atlantic coast. For peace and quiet, the deserted beaches of Pointe Denis and Ekwata beach are in the north, Mayumba and Sette Cama are in the south. Port Gentil at the mouth of the River Ogooué and Libreville have beaches with facilities for waterskiing and other water sports. Mayumba in the south and Cap Estérias, 35km (22 miles) from Libreville, are popular water sports centres at weekends. Perroquet and Pointe Denis both offer good skin-diving. Kayaking is also a popular sport among visitors.
Go fishing: popular among European visitors, many of the rivers offer excellent catches. Equipment can be hired at Port Gentil. Fish abound in Gabonese rivers and lakes, but the local fishermen can find the largest variety along the coast and in the numerous lagoons located at the mouth of the Ogooué.
Taken from www.worldtravelguide.net
Doing business in GABON
Gabon's economy is dominated by oil. Oil revenues comprise roughly 46% of the government’s budget, 43% of gross domestic product (GDP), and 81% of exports. Oil production is now declining rapidly from its high point of 370,000 barrels per day in 1997. Some estimates suggest that Gabonese oil will be expended by 2025. In spite of the decreasing oil revenues, planning is only now beginning for an after-oil scenario.
Gabonese public expenditures from the years of significant oil revenues were not spent efficiently. Overspending on the Transgabonais railroad, the oil price shock of 1986, the CFA franc devaluation of 1994, and low oil prices in the late 1990s caused serious debt problems that still plague the country.
Gabonearned a poor reputation with the Paris Club and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over the management of its debt and revenues. Successive IMF missions have criticized the government for overspending on off-budget items (in good years and bad), over-borrowing from the Central Bank, and slipping on the schedule for privatization and administrative reform. However, in September 2005, Gabon successfully concluded a 15-month Stand-By Arrangement with the IMF. Another 3-year Stand-By Arrangement with the IMF was approved in May 2007. Because of the financial crisis and social developments surrounding the death of President Omar Bongo and the elections, Gabon was unable to meet its economic goals under the Stand-By Arrangement in 2009. Negotiations with the IMF are ongoing.
Gabon's oil revenues have given it a strong per capita GDP of $8,600, extremely high for the region. However the income distribution is skewed and social indicators show poor values. The richest 20% of the population receive over 90% of the income while about a third of the Gabonese population lives in poverty.
The economy is highly dependent on extraction of abundant primary materials. Prior to the discovery of oil, logging was the pillar of the Gabonese economy. Today, logging and manganese mining are the other major income generators. Recent explorations point to the presence of the world’s largest unexploited iron ore deposit. For many living in the countryside without access to employment in extractive industries, remittances from family members in urban areas or subsistence activities provide income.
Many foreign and local observers have consistently lamented the lack of diversity in the Gabonese economy. Various factors have so far stymied additional industries—a small market of about 1 million people, dependence on French imports, inability to capitalize on regional markets, lack of entrepreneurial zeal among the Gabonese, and the fairly regular stream of oil "rent". Further investment in agricultural or tourism sectors is complicated by poor infrastructure. The small processing and service sectors that do exist are largely dominated by a few prominent local investors.
At World Bank and IMF insistence, the government embarked in the 1990s on a program of privatization of its state-owned companies and administrative reform, including reducing public sector employment and salary growth, but progress has been slow. The new government has voiced a commitment to work toward an economic transformation of the country but faces significant challenges to realize this goal.
Taken from wikipedia
GABON: useful links