Five things to know about Gabon, an oil-rich Central African country, where President Ali Bongo Ondimba is seeking a third presidential term on August 26.
The Bongos in power for more than 55 years
The country has had only three presidents since its independence from France in 1960. It was ruled for more than 41 years by Omar Bongo Ondimba until his son Ali was elected after his death in 2009.
Omar Bongo, respected for his mediation in several African crises, was also a pillar of “Françafrique”, a system of political cooptation, networks and commercial preserves between Paris and its former colonies on the continent. His son Ali ostensibly distanced himself from the barely elected former colonial power.
Nine other of his children are indicted in the investigation carried out since 2010 by French justice on “ill-gotten gains”, real estate constituted in France with public money embezzled from Gabon.
A daughter of Omar Bongo, Pascaline, had an affair with reggae legend Bob Marley, whom she invited to come and play in Gabon for her father’s birthday. These were the Jamaican singer’s first concerts in Africa, in January 1980.
Oil, wood and manganese
Gabon is one of the richest countries in Africa in terms of GDP per capita ($8,820 in 2022), thanks to its oil, timber and manganese in particular, and a small population (2.3 million inhabitants). ).
It is among the very first producers of black gold in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2020 this resource represented 38.5% of its GDP and 70.5% of its exports, according to the World Bank.
But the economy, which the authorities are unable to diversify sufficiently, still depends too heavily on hydrocarbons, and one in three inhabitants lived below the poverty line at the end of 2022, according to the World Bank.
The 26,8000 square kilometer country, of which 88% of the territory is occupied by forest, is described by the World Bank as “a net carbon absorber and a leader in net zero emissions initiatives”, thanks in particular to the efforts made to reduce emissions and preserve its vast rainforest.
It has a rich ecosystem. Its national parks are home to endemic species and emblematic mammals such as the forest elephant, the gorilla, the chimpanzee, the leopard or even several species of pangolins .
The country has one of the highest urbanization rates on the continent, with more than four out of five Gabonese living in cities. Libreville and Port-Gentil, the economic capital, alone account for nearly 60% of the population.
A plant with psychotropic effects, the iboga, an endemic shrub of the equatorial forest of Central Africa, is used in Gabon in the form of bark powder taken from its root, in the “bwiti” ceremonies, a traditional initiation rite.
The plant left its purely traditional use for about fifty years because of the medicinal virtues of ibogaine, one of its active principles, which would have in particular anti-addictive properties.
However, ibogaine is considered a narcotic in the United States or several European countries such as France.
Most of the ibogaine used in clinics that have flourished around the world ( Costa Rica, Mexico, New Zealand, the Netherlands …), to wean drug addicts or help victims of post-traumatic stress, comes from illegal export.
Fearing that its resources will be depleted by illegal harvesting, Gabon has adopted a new framework for trading in it.
International Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is Gabon’s most famous footballer.
The 34-year-old striker, who has just signed with Olympique de Marseille for three years, has worked for Lille, Monaco, Saint-Étienne, German club Borussia Dortmund and English Arsenal, among others, after training at AC Milan.
Source : AFRICANEWS