Gabon flag Gabon: Investing in Gabon

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Gabon

FDI in Figures

According to UNCTAD's World Investment Report 2021, FDI inflows into Gabon increased from USD 1.5 billion to USD 1.7 billion between 2019 and 2020. The FDI stock was estimated at USD 14 billion in 2020. Gabon recorded robust inflows into the oil sector, with the adoption of its new oil code in 2019 leading to several new offshore production sharing agreements, some of which materialised in 2020. According to UNCTAD’ Investment Trends Monitor, global FDI flows rebounded strongly in 2021, but FDI flows to African countries (excluding South Africa) rose only moderately. The oil and mining sectors are the main destinations for FDI in the country, however, the agrifood and infrastructure sectors have recently received the largest FDI flows, notably from the Singaporean Olam group. China is increasingly present in the country, as illustrated by the recent EUR 180 million investment of Chinese energy firm TBEA in a hydropower project, and the USD 50-100 million progressive investment by Jiangsu Wanlin Modern Logistics Co. in the construction of a high-quality furniture factory in Libreville. Morocco is also a major investor in the country, with companies investing in the service sector, mining, infrastructure and construction. France has historically had a predominant place in the FDI stock of Gabon as hundreds of French companies have established branches in various sectors: oil exploitation, mining, timber, agribusiness, building and civil engineering works, financial services, water and electricity concessions, etc.

The government is actively trying to attract FDI. Its development strategy (Plan Stratégique Gabon Emergent – PSGE) aims at developing Gabon into an emerging economy by 2025 by diversifying the country and transforming Gabon into an internationally competitive investment destination. The plan calls for increased public and private investment, modernised infrastructure and improved human capital. Recently, the public-private partnership (PPP) agricultural programme (GRAINE) was launched, providing new oil palm plantations and the development of food crops. Changes in hydrocarbon legislation should also help to accelerate private investment flows. Gabon is the 5th oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa, Africa’s 2nd largest producer of wood and it hopes to become the world’s leading producer of manganese. It has special economic zones where companies have tax advantages, preferential customs duties and simplified customs procedures. The country also enjoys a relatively high purchasing power compared to other Sub-Saharan African countries. However, limited market potential, bureaucracy, weak contract enforcement, an unskilled and expensive workforce, as well as poor infrastructure all constitute barriers to FDI inflows. In the 2020 Doing Business report of the World Bank, Gabon was ranked 169th for the ease of doing business, unchanged from the past year. Gabon improved on some aspects by making the start of a business easier. Dealing with construction permits is now safer and access to credit information has improved.

Foreign Direct Investment 201920202021
FDI Inward Flow (million USD) 1,5531,7171,635
FDI Stock (million USD) 12,24113,95715,592
Number of Greenfield Investments* 1155
Value of Greenfield Investments (million USD) 1,4455282,114

Source: UNCTAD, Latest available data

Note: * Greenfield Investments are a form of Foreign Direct Investment where a parent company starts a new venture in a foreign country by constructing new operational facilities from the ground up.

Country Comparison For the Protection of Investors Gabon Sub-Saharan Africa United States Germany
Index of Transaction Transparency* 7.0 5.5 7.0 5.0
Index of Manager’s Responsibility** 1.0 3.5 9.0 5.0
Index of Shareholders’ Power*** 4.0 5.5 9.0 5.0

Source: Doing Business, Latest available data

Note: *The Greater the Index, the More Transparent the Conditions of Transactions. **The Greater the Index, the More the Manager is Personally Responsible. *** The Greater the Index, the Easier it Will Be For Shareholders to Take Legal Action.

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What to consider if you invest in Gabon

Strong Points

Among the factors that make Gabon an attractive destination for FDIs, there are:

  • an abundance of natural resources
  • the country’s strategic location along the Gulf of Guinea
  • political stability
  • its membership of the CEMAC and several other international organizations
  • the government's plan to diversify the economy (Emerging Gabon Strategic Plan)
  • the fact that Gabon is the 5th oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa; Africa’s 2nd largest producer of wood, with a plan to become the world’s leading producer of manganese
  • no restrictions or limitations for foreign investors concerning converting, transferring or repatriating funds associated with an investment in Gabon
  • free convertibility of its currency with foreign currencies by being part of the franc zone
Weak Points

Several factors still hinder Gabon’s FDI inflows:

  • the country’s economy remains dependent on revenue generated by the exportation of hydrocarbons,
  • high cost of production factors (often linked to inadequate transport and energy infrastructure),
  • high unemployment and levels of poverty (around one-third of the population lives below the poverty line - World Bank, latest data available),
  • burdensome bureaucratic procedures,
  • a lack of a clearly established and consistent process for companies to enter the market, a small domestic market,
  • relatively rigid labour laws,
  • inconsistent application of customs regulations,
  • high risk of corruption,
  • the stock of domestic and external arrears is not cleared yet,
  • reliance on imports of food and capital goods.
Government Measures to Motivate or Restrict FDI
The Gabonese government is trying to implement several reforms with the objective of diversifying the country’s economy away from oil and from traditional investment partners (“Emerging Gabon 2025” plan).
Gabon has established the Investment Promotion Agency (ANPI-Gabon), which is meant to act as the gateway for investment into the country and reduce administrative procedures, costs, and waiting periods. The country also established a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) located at Nkok, which became operational in 2014. In 2017, the High Council for Investment was established to promote investment and boost the economy by increasing the dialogue between the public and private sectors.
The government encourages investments in some of Gabon's main industries (oil and gas, mining, and timber) through customs and tax incentives (for example, oil and mining companies are exempt from customs duties on imported working equipment). Gabon is also promoting FDIs across a range of sectors, particularly infrastructure and ecotourism. The new Tourism Investment Code passed in 2019 provides tax incentives to foreign tourism investors during the first eight years of operation.
Gabon’s agriculture code also provides tax and customs incentives to agricultural operators (especially for small and medium-sized enterprises). In this context, land used for agriculture and farm exploitation is exonerated from fiscal tax, and all imported fertilizers and food for ranch exploitation are exempt from customs duties.

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Latest Update: March 2023

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