The move to turn the country into an emerging market has been accelerated by the signing of investment contracts amounting to US$4.5 billion. The announcement has been timed to coincide with the country’s 50th Independence Anniversary celebrations (which take place tomorrow– Tuesday 17th) and it is hoped that the funding will signify the country’s future strengthening stability. While Gabon continues to be one of the more prosperous African nations, analysts have concluded that its dwindling oil resources have prompted moves into more diverse markets.
Investment will subsequently go towards projects specializing in road repairs, the establishment of special economic zones and social housing. The projects are being funded through foreign direct investment from Asian multinational companies and are expected to create up to 50,000 new jobs. The largest deal is with OLAM – a Singapore based company – and will involve the construction of a palm oil refinery. The government subsequently aims o to be one of the leading palm oil producer in Africa.
In recent years, the Gabonese political elite have received criticism for sustaining significant wealth gaps between the country’s privileged urban populations and the rural poor. Growing demand for more jobs, affordable housing and improved social provision, has spurned the government to divert more funding towards improving the country’s infrastructural capabilities.
At an earlier conference in July, the President, Ali Bongo Ondimba said, ‘For almost a year now, my Government has been carrying out important reform policies. But the implementation needs time, because like the construction of a house, it is first of all important to build the foundation. This is a work which is not necessarily visible, but essential. Soon we will see the results’.
The move will undoubtedly improve the country’s economic standing; it also presents a new trajectory of hope for some of its most disadvantaged citizens.