Gabon flag Gabon: Economic and Political Overview

The economic context of Gabon

Economic Indicators

Heavily dependent on the oil sector and on food imports, the Gabonese economy is vulnerable to global fluctuations in commodity prices. After contracting in 2020 due to the joint effects of declining demand for oil, decreasing oil prices, and the pandemic-related containment measures, GDP growth started to recover in 2021 (+1.5%) and 2022 (+3%). The IMF estimated a marginal slowdown in real GDP growth to 2.8% in 2023. While oil production increased by 3.7%, train derailments hampered production and exports in non-oil sectors, particularly manganese and timber. Growth is forecast at 2.6% and 2.5% in 2024 and 2025, respectively, driven by a temporary surge in oil output, the recovery of mining and forestry industries, and activity in construction.

Gabon's budget surplus rose to around 2.3% of GDP in 2023, up from 1.1% in 2022. The 2024 Draft Finance Law projects increased revenue (+15.7%) and expenditure (+17%) compared to the 2023 Finance Law. Fitch predicts a decline in the fiscal surplus to approximately 1% of GDP. Alongside substantial public investment, the current political transition introduces additional spending pressures in public wages, fuel subsidies, and interest. The potential acquisition of Assala's oil assets may further strain public spending. Fitch Ratings' baseline assumptions anticipate budget surpluses and robust growth, indicating a decline in government debt from 56.0% in 2023 to 52.2% of GDP by 2025 (64.9% and 65.2%, respectively, according to the IMF). However, a significant drop in oil prices could alter this trajectory. Overall, public debt is mostly external (60% of the total) and held by multilateral (mainly the IMF and the World Bank) and bilateral (France, China, etc.) creditors (Coface). The IMF estimated inflation at 3.8% last year, with an expected decline over the forecast horizon, to 2.5% this year and 2.3% in 2025. Gabon's medium-term growth hinges on economic diversification, particularly in export-oriented non-oil sectors, alongside investments in infrastructure and the establishment of special economic zones.

Gabon is classified as an upper-middle-income country with a GDP per capita above its neighbors. However, social indicators lag behind the country's wealth. A third of the population lives below the poverty line (nearly 5% live on less than a dollar and a half every day), and unemployment is very high. In 2022, the unemployment rate in the country was at 20.6% (World Bank, ILO estimate). There is also a large gap between economic development in urban and rural populations. Moreover, city rents skyrocketed as a result of the exodus from rural areas to cities (four major cities house more than 85% of Gabon's population).

Main Indicators 20222023 (E)2024 (E)2025 (E)2026 (E)
GDP (billions USD) 21.0820.5221.0121.1021.43
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change)
GDP per Capita (USD) 9,7529,2909,3089,1489,095
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 63.670.573.178.984.6
Inflation Rate (%)
Current Account (billions USD) 2.200.860.840.630.46
Current Account (in % of GDP)

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database, October 2021

Main Sectors of Industry

Gabon is rich in natural resources. It is Africa’s second-largest wood producer and the fourth oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa. The agricultural sector accounts for an estimated 5.6% of Gabon's GDP (World Bank, latest data available), employing 26% of the workforce. Gabon has 22 million hectares of forest, one million hectares of arable agricultural land, and over 800 kilometers of coastline. The sector includes food crops, rubber (especially in the north), and palm oil, with the country relying heavily on food imports.

Industry contributes to 57.4% of the country's GDP and around 16% of total employment (World Bank). The sector is dominated by petroleum, manganese mining, and timber processing. Hydrocarbons account for 80% of Gabon’s exports and almost half of its GDP (Coface, U.S. ITA). However, the country is facing a decline in its oil reserves. Other activities include textile plants, cement factories, chemical plants, breweries, shipyards, and cigarette factories. Most industrial establishments are located near Libreville and Port-Gentil. Overall, the manufacturing sector is estimated to account for 23% of GDP.

The services sector accounts for 33.2% of GDP, employing 55% of the active workforce (World Bank). The government is the biggest employer in the sector. Tourism is still embryonic due to poor infrastructures and the country’s landscape mostly covered in forests. Gabon's banking system includes one development bank, the Gabonese Development Bank (BGD), and five main commercial banks. The International Gabonese and French Bank (BGFI) is the principal bank in Gabon and the largest financial group in the CEMAC zone.

Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 29.0 16.1 54.9
Value Added (in % of GDP) 5.6 57.4 33.1
Value Added (Annual % Change) 9.5 3.4 2.4

Source: World Bank, Latest Available Data. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.


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Indicator of Economic Freedom


The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.}}

World Rank:
Regional Rank:

Economic freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation


Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.

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Latest Update: April 2024