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Gabon has taken the Covid-19 shock

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Gabon has taken the Covid-19 shock

” We were faced with a second exogenous economic shock in six years .” Jean-Marie Ogandaga, Minister of the Economy, Prospective and Development Programming of Gabon, thus summarizes the impact of Covid-19 this year on his country during a visit to Paris last week. The pandemic has not had a strong health impact in Gabon, with only 54 officially registered deaths, including only one for two months in this country of 2 million inhabitants. In tune with the rest of the continent where the Covid weighed for  0.3% of the usual mortality, undoubtedly because of the youth of the population (only 4% is over 65 years old) and immunity by exposure to other pathogens.

On the other hand, the economic impact has been considerable, via the collapse in world demand for oil. Black gold, whose production exceeds 220,000 barrels per day, provides nearly 80% of Gabon’s foreign exchange inflows, the majority of budgetary revenues and around 40% of GDP.

The danger of annuity

“We had to adapt, as after the price collapse of 2014, ” adds the minister, via a further rationalization of public spending. Especially since Libreville must meet public finance criteria in terms of inflation (less than 3%) and public debt (reduced to 58% of GDP) through its membership of the CEMAC (economic and monetary community of ‘Central Africa). The expected growth of 3.8% in 2020 will be negative by 0.8%, or even 1.3%. All sectors of activity have suffered, from petroleum to timber to tourism (Gabon has 13 national parks). But the minister expects a very clear rebound next year, eventually with non-oil growth of 7%. Libreville hopes to build on the efforts ofof the six CEMAC countries (Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo-Brazaville) which have significant potential despite the poverty of the inhabitants of this area of ​​55 million inhabitants which hardly appears on the screens international investor radars. ” However, we have everything, oil, water, manganese, gold, uranium, livestock, access to the sea. The region is thanks to its forest the second lung of the planet, and burns less than the Amazon ”, notes the Minister.

The fall in the price of black gold caused by the Covid illustrated, once again, the danger of depending too much on oil exports, in addition to the usual Dutch syndrome whereby oil rent crowds out other sectors of activity in a country. ” We will spare no effort to diversify our economy with labor-intensive sectors, the objective is to create 30,000 jobs within two years,” insists Jean-Marie Ogandaga. Gabon has already developed its timber industry since the ban in 2010 on exports of logs (tree trunks) without processing, in 2010, sales of reinforcing bars, etc.

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