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Gabon Economy

26 January 2010
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MACROECONOMIC PANEL

The economy of Gabon is based primarily on the export of petroleum. Agriculture is poorly developed but there are many petrochemical industries given the presence of hydrocarbons such as natural gas (methane), oil, coal and uranium.

About agriculture it is good to make a distinction between cash crops (groundnuts, cocoa, bananas and sugar cane) that occupy the most fertile and productive soils and crops reserved for subsistence (maize, cassava and sweet potatoes) that are grown still means backward and bound on marginal soils often unproductive because in the past already being used for commercial crops.

Despite this, the Gabon has one of the highest per capita incomes in Africa but not in a subdivision right, there are so few individuals who have an enormous wealth at the expense and  many forced to live under the poverty line.

Gabon's economy remains highly vulnerable to any negative oil shocks, since the activity in the non-oil sector is supported by large flows of public expenditure.

However, this sector continues to experience rapid growth.
This growth was driven by the improved attractiveness of the country to foreign direct investment in mining and forestry, while the increased level of financial intermediation is helping improve access to credit by small businesses.

In any case, the environment for business remains difficult.

The main factors limiting the development of the private sector are excessive bureaucracy and high costs to start a new business, high labor costs and rigid labor laws, lack of enforceability of contractual provisions and inadequate legislation for the protection of investments.

Gabon is a member of the Central African Monetary Union ( with Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo Brazzaville and Equatorial Guinea) that requires uniformity of conduct of monetary and foreign exchange by member countries placed under the management of the Bank of the States of Central Africa  (BEAC).

The medium-term outlook for the economy is linked to Gabon's ability to proceed along the path of product diversification through the progressive growth of non-oil sector, encouraged by foreign direct investment in mining and forestry (sector it very profitable) and those in infrastructure, as well as by creating an economic environment conducive to private sector development through the elimination of rigidities in the system.

The structure of trade in Gabon has not undergone major changes in recent years.

Petroleum is the main item of export (for a share of over 80%) followed by timber (for a fee equal to 7%).

Instead the country imports most of its food requirements, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, along with materials and equipment needs associated with investment projects in oil and mining.

Traditionally in  Gabon there are large trade surpluses, thanks to the considerable oil exports and a modest overall level of imports of goods.

However, the surplus merchant is subject to strong fluctuations in the light of international oil prices.




OPPORTUNITIES FOR INVESTMENT

The non-petroleum sectors potentially attractive are:

• Forestry: in recent years, the task of transferring the timber has a fast development especially with regard to the manufacture of plywood over the exploitation of timber, the forest of Gabon is rich in medicinal plants is already partly used by traditional medicine.
• Construction: they have been undertaken by the Government, new initiatives to promote the construction of social housing in urban areas including the development of new constructions sites and accelerating the process of granting property titles.
• Services: mainly in the field of telecommunications.
• Tourism: the country has a great tourism potential, to date not developed as hampered by the shortage and high cost of transport.
• Mining: after petroleum, manganese is the main product of the extractive industry of Gabon. The country also has rich reserves of iron ore. As for other minerals in the country are ongoing industrial exploration of gold, diamond, platinum and niobium (used in the Air).
• Agriculture: The sector has investment opportunities both in farming and in the processing of fruit and vegetables, the fisheries sector is not well developed.

The African Development Bank (ADB) on 24 January 2007 approved the Country Strategy Paper for Gabon for the period 2006-2010 and provides assistance in support of structural reforms aimed at improving governance and transport infrastructure, implementation of programs of economic diversification, poverty reduction and improvement of living conditions of the population.

As regards the presence of Italian entrepreneurs, currently there are investments of Italian enterprises in the timber sector and its transformation, construction and in trade sectors and services.

PENETRATION OF COMMERCIAL ITALIAN PRODUCTS IN LOCAL MARKETS

The image of excellence and quality of Italian products is deeply rooted among consumers and producers of Gabon.
The products most in demand are mechanical and electrical equipment, appliances and materials for the construction sector.


Barriers

Tariff barriers that currently exist are:


• TEC Common External Tariff (5% for essential goods, 10% for raw materials, 20% for intermediate products such as food and 30% for all other products) and a common rate of ICT integration ( 1%) is applied to imports from third countries not members of CEMAC (Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa, which includes in addition to Gabon, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Congo Brazzaville, the Central African Republic and Chad ).
• Rusid  Tax calculated based on the time needed to computerize customs operation. This tax is necessary and varies from 2% to 80% or more of the declared customs value, which makes it impossible to calculate in advance the amount to be paid to customs.

There are also excise duty (from 5% to 32%) on the luxury consumer products (wine, liquor, cigarettes, cosmetics).

The rate of VAT (value added tax) is 18%.
For some locally produced products (cement, mineral water, sugar, frozen poultry) the rate is 10%. Dairy products, butter and margarine, cereals, medicines and medical equipment, fertilizers and seeds are exempt from paying tax.


NON TARIFF BARRIERS

A quality control is required by Customs of Gabon for food from certain countries (European meat, poultry Asia).

It is necessary to equip with a phytosanitary certificate in case of export of lumber or chemicals.

It is forbidden to import sugar and eggs in Gabon, while other products such as oil and flour are taxed heavily and can only be imported after the import license.

The assistance of an agent / officer transition is essential for any customs operation.

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