Gabon Country Report
Ali Bongo increasingly appears to have weathered the storm following his victory over Jean Ping in the August 2016 presidential election despite compelling evidence of electoral fraud. Violent unrest has died down but the biggest threat to Bongo was the possibility of targeted sanctions, so he has manufactured the appearance of inclusion by holding a national dialogue and then naming a new government in August 2017 containing token opposition representation. The unwelcome attention around the election has still damaged Gabon's image as an investment destination, as it attempts to overcome extreme dependence on oil and surging debt levels. Gabon was obliged to accept a USD642 million bail-out from the IMF in June 2017 and still faces repeated strikes over unpaid salaries and joblosses.
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. Corruption investigations against former ministers are politically motivated and do not indicate a reduction of risks for investors. An ingrained culture of high-level graft means funds continue to be siphoned off from major expenditure such as the African Nations Cup, despite Gabon's surging debt levels.
Domestic terrorism has historically been non-existent in Gabon and there is little prospect of this changing as there are no separatist movements. Furthermore, the presence of a French army base in Libreville improves security capabilities beyond local capacities. The only source of concern is piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. An increasing number of attacks had been reported close to Gabon's oil hub, Port-Gentil, up to 2014, but attacks outside Nigerian waters are now rare. In the event of a resurgence, this is likely to threaten new deepwater explorations, raising risks to vessels and oil industry assets.
Gabon enjoys stable relationships with neighbouring countries and war risks are minimal. The presence of French forces acts as a deterrent to acts of aggression by neighbours. Risks are diminishing further due to Gabon's integration in the Central African regional African Union standby brigade, the Force Multinationale de l'Afrique Centrale (FOMAC), 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 the two countries agreed in November 2016 to settle the issue amicably at the International Court of Justice.
Opposition demonstrations are likely to be less frequent as momentum is lost following challenger Jean Ping's noisy campaign to be declared the rightful president. Following stalling tactics from the government and lack of international support, Ping failed to generate much response to "active resistance" and civil disobedience calls. The use of tear gas and live ammunition by security forces to break up rioting following results continues to act as a strong deterrent to further protests. The government is, therefore, likely to push a new constitution through parliament despite criticism from political opponents of measures allegedly giving the president even more power.
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