Gabon Country Report
The country continues to struggle with a legacy of bureaucracy, red tape, and corruption. Labour costs remain high and employers repeatedly complain of a lack of well-qualified personnel, while strikes are becoming more frequent over unpaid salaries, lack of jobs and the high cost of living. An extensive civil service austerity programme introduced in June 2018 is likely to provoke major strike action by unions, disrupting much of government business. Corruption trials featuring former ministers are politically motivated and do not indicate reducing risks for investors. An ingrained culture of high-level graft means funds continue to be siphoned off from major expenditure, despite Gabon's surging debt levels.
Domestic terrorism has historically been non-existent in Gabon until a knife attack on two Danish journalists at a Libreville market in December 2017. This is highly likely to remain an isolated incident, with no evidence of outside support for the lone perpetrator. The presence of a French army base in Libreville improves security capabilities beyond local capacities in the event of any developing threat. The only substantial source of concern is piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. A reported incident took place off Libreville in August 2018, the first for over four years, but there are grounds to doubt its authenticity.
Gabon enjoys stable relationships with neighbouring countries and war risks are minimal. The presence of French forces is a deterrent to any acts of aggression by neighbours. Risks are diminishing further due to Gabon's integration in the Central African regional African Union standby brigade, and increasing security co-operation with neighbours. Gabon has a long-standing dispute with Equatorial Guinea on sovereignty over the waters and islets of Corisco Bay, but they agreed in November 2016 to settle the issue amicably at the International Court of Justice. Civil war risks are negligible despite simmering resentment over the grip on power enjoyed by the Bongo family and its Téké clan.
The outlook for civil unrest will now be dominated by union responses to a wide-ranging programme of public-sector austerity measures introduced by the government in late June 2018. A general strike appears very likely at some point, with a high risk of regular, prolonged, and disruptive protests featuring several thousand participants. Unions at some stage are likely to defy a consistent refusal by the government to permit anti-austerity marches. Political protest will remain muted after the October 2018 legislative elections showed how weak and divided the opposition has become since almost unseating President Bongo in the 2016 poll.
Vaccinations required to enter the country
Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required if traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever (YFV) transmission and over one year of age.
Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.
Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.
Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).
Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).
Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).
Malaria: Recommended preventive medication - mefloquine (sometimes marketed as Lariam) or doxycycline (sometimes marketed as Vibramycin).
For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.
During the rainy season (October to December and February to April), torrential rainfall can cause significant material damages, including in Libreville.
Except for Libreville and Port Gentil, where roads are paved but poorly maintained, road infrastructure throughout the country is limited and in poor condition. During the rainy season (October to December and February to April), driving conditions are often hazardous, rendering driving impossible on some roads. In general, roads have little or no lighting. There is also a risk from dangerous driving habits (speeding, uncertain driving, untimely overruns, etc.).
Outside major cities, all travel should be conducted during the day with an all-terrain vehicle (4x4) stocked with adequate supplies of water, food, and fuel. It is also advised to ensure that the vehicle contains mechanical spare parts (wheels, cables, etc.) and has effective means of telecommunication.
In the event of a traffic accident, it is recommended to immediately travel to the nearest police station due to the risk of potentially hostile reactions from local drivers and the public.
It is important to stop at any roadblocks erected by the security forces, both in cities and in rural areas, and be prepared to present necessary documentation (e.g. passport, visa, car registration details, etc.).
Public transportation (e.g. minibuses) should be avoided due to drivers' risky behaviors and the vehicles poor maintenance. Never hail taxis on the street.
Several local airlines serve various cities of the country. However, some are on the list of airlines banned from operating in the European Union (the so-called blacklist).
Gabon's climate is equatorial, hot, and very humid. The country experiences a rainy season from October until December and then a second, more intense rainy season from February until April. The long dry seasons last from May until September and the short dry season from December until January. Temperatures are high all year long (usually between 23°C and 26°C), going as low as 18°C (July) and as high as 35°C (April). The country also receives between 2 and 4 meters of rainfall annually.
Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz