Gabon country profile – overview

Map of Gabon

Gabon is one of West Africa’s more stable countries. Between independence from France in 1960 and 2009, Gabon had just two presidents. The late president Omar Bongo was in power for over four decades.

Despite being made up of more than 40 ethnic groups, Gabon has escaped the strife afflicting other West African states.

This is partly down to its relative prosperity due to oil and to the presence of French troops, which in 1964 reinstated President Leon Mba after he had been overthrown in a coup.

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At a glance

A street market in Libreville. A woman buys fruit from a femail fruitseller.
    • Politics: Gabon was ruled by just two presidents between 1960 and 2009. The current president succeeded his father


  • Economy: The country is trying to diversify away from oil, whose earnings have been decreasing. Most of the population remains poor



  • International: Tension persists over three small islands in oil-rich off-shore waters claimed by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. France has a military base in Gabon



Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring

Gabon’s dependence on oil has made its economy – and political stability – hostage to fluctuations in oil prices. When oil prices fell in the late 1980s, opposition to President Bongo increased, culminating in demonstrations in 1990.

These ushered in political liberalisation. A multi-party system was introduced in 1991.

Government critics have pointed to the wealth gap between the urban elite and the rural poor.

Thanks to its oil exports and a small population it enjoys more wealth per head of population than many of its neighbours. However, most of its people live in poverty.

As oil reserves diminish, eco-tourism could grow in economic importance.

Gabon’s rainforests teem with wildlife, including lowland gorillas and forest elephants. National parks make up around one tenth of the land area.

Lowland gorilla in Gabon

Gabon’s forests teem with wildlife. However, their habitat is under threat