Child Poverty in Gabon 
The Gabonese Republic, a nation in central Africa bordering the Republic of the Congo to the east and south, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, originated in 1960 following independence from France. Following the successful decolonization movement, a constitutional and political order with a dominant presidency and close ties to France was established. Unfortunately, child poverty in Gabon is an issue that requires significant attention but some are making a difference.

The Situation

President El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba of the Gabonese Democratic Party, the new republic’s second head of state, abolished all other political parties. Using revenue from substantial natural reserves from forestry, oil and other extraction-based industries, Gabon invested in social services, such as comprehensive education, while encouraging the rural population to seek better-paying jobs based in urban centers. 

Substantial aid from other nations such as France and multinational institutions, such as the United Nations, have provided additional benefits. Following political turmoil and economic stagnation through the 1980s, President Bongo reintroduced multiparty democracy and deregulated the private sector economy, encouraging business investment. 

Gabon has since developed a reputation for stability and relative security in comparison with its central African neighbors. Additionally, Gabon is distinguished from its regional peers by its population, which is about 90% urban, and possesses one of the highest per capita incomes in central Africa. This wealth and high economic growth following independence has also permitted the country of $2.3 million to invest in economic development and establish social services, such as comprehensive education and other social services. 

As a result, Gabon experiences comparatively lower rates of poverty, illiteracy and food insecurity than most of its central and sub-Saharan peers. However, domestic government aid has been criticized globally for being inefficient, with economic incentives and development programs often benefiting those already secure and receiving upper and middle incomes more than concentrated demographics in need of direct help, such as impoverished children. Here is information about child poverty in Gabon and the efforts to eliminate it.

Poverty Among Vulnerable Groups

Despite these advantages and policies, Gabon continues to suffer from high concentrations of poverty and insecurity amongst vulnerable parts of the population, such as the elderly, those in rural areas and children. Children, who account for a substantial proportion of Gabon’s population, also face disadvantages due to mixed social services and basic infrastructure and uneven educational and early job opportunities, especially in rural areas. While the total national poverty rate is 38.5%, more than 40% of children face deprivation in health and sanitation, with nearly 50% facing such shortfalls in rural areas. Similarly, though unemployment amongst the broad population is 20%, youth unemployment remains elevated at 38%.

Learning Poverty in Gabon

Issues more relevant to younger children are also prevalent, such as in education, which reflects the nuanced situation for children in Gabon. Primary and secondary education is mandatory from the ages 6 to 16, and Gabon has invested more resources than average for sub-Saharan Africa on a per-student basis.

Additionally, learning poverty, defined as an inability to comprehend grade-level text by the age of 10 years, is 49.9% below average for regional peers. Despite these longstanding advantages in basic educational services, with only 9% of children not enrolled in school, persistent challenges exist in attempts to improve both the quality of services and reduce the substantial quantity of children not getting an adequate array of curricular services. 

Proficiency remains an ongoing challenge, with substantial minorities evaluated by international observers as below proficient; 31% do not achieve the Minimum Proficiency Standard, a national test sponsored by the United Nations Institute for Statistics to measure academic skills among school children. 

Overcrowding and a shortage of experienced teachers are especially prevalent in rural areas and “poor” educational quality compounds them.

Food Security and Water Access

Food security and access to water, examples of the essential services Gabon has been able to provide to its residents, also face issues related to quality which may hamper further progress. The imposition of a national water price, though effective in guaranteeing affordability for most households, remains prohibitive for those in poverty, especially families in rural areas. 

Further, rural families often lack direct access to water and depend upon neighbors, who often demand premiums over the government price, negating the impact. This structural obstacle towards greater water access also challenges efforts to improve access to superior so-called hygienic facilities, with 47% of households without running water septic systems and latrines. As a result, 40% of children lack basic hygienic provisions, with those in rural areas getting fewer resources on average. 

Historical improvements and more recent stagnation have also defined progress in addressing food insecurity among children in Gabon. According to the Global Hunger Index, Gabon has experienced gradual declines in chronic undernourishment of children, with the proportion of stunted children declining to under 20%. However, undernourishment remains a growing issue, with the UNICEF statistics showing that 35% of children in Gabon are nutritionally deprived, a reflection of ongoing problems in concentrating aid and resources towards those already disadvantaged, especially families, in rural areas. 

In sum, the Gabonese Republic has, through the encouragement of international aid and continuous social investments, successfully outperformed most other central African peers in countering poverty, including child poverty in Gabon. These investments, such as in widespread education and in key industries, have proved constructive in reducing poverty and countering social ills. However, the most vulnerable demographics, such as the poorest and children, have not reaped the full benefits of these programs and investments, acting as an example of the benefits of incentivizing aid while highlighting the intractability of complex issues such as child poverty in developing nations.

Cormac Sullivan
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Women’s Rights in GabonNew legislation in Gabon provides women with more rights and reduces gender inequalities. In recent years, women’s rights in Gabon improved drastically; however, there is still room for more progress. The following is a brief look into everything about women’s rights in the country.

Historical Discrimination

Historically, Gabon is a country with limited women’s rights. Gabonese women experience inequalities in marriages, such as husbands having control of their wives’ ability to work and women not being allowed to have their own bank accounts. Women also faced gender-based discrimination in financial services, and this made it difficult for them to access credit. Although domestic violence is illegal, it is still prevalent, and authorities rarely intervene to stop it. Female domestic workers often face sexual harassment with minimal resources to obtain legal support.

Gabonese women disproportionately suffer from poverty compared to their Gabonese male counterparts. According to the United Nations Women Count for Gabon, 3% of employed women in Gabon live below the international poverty line compared to 1.3% of employed men. Additionally, 28.5% of women in Gabon above the age of 15 are unemployed, which is 14.1% higher than the unemployment rate for men.

Progress for Women’s Rights

In recent years, lawmakers made several legislative strides to improve women’s rights in Gabon. In 2021, Gabon passed new legislation to prevent discrimination against women in the economy and financial institutions and decrease violence against women.

The Gabonese government also changed laws concerning marital rights. In the past, the government required women to get the permission of their husbands to administer marital assets. With the passing of these new shared marital assets laws, women now have equal rights to administer those assets. Women can also open bank accounts separate from their husbands, own property and be the official heads of their households.

Barriers Against Women in Gabon

According to the U.S. State Department’s 2022 Human Rights Report for Gabon, societal barriers prevent women from reporting sexual assault and rape. Although the law criminalizes rape, victims are typically unwilling to testify. Researchers found that almost half of Gabonese women experienced domestic violence. A women’s advocacy NGO found rape remains a prevalent problem in Gabon, with societal disapproval discouraging discussions about it, leading victims to often refrain from reporting incidents due to fear of retaliation or humiliation.

Women and girls in poverty continue to endure exploitation in various areas, including restaurants, servitude and the commercial sex trade. Their conditions include forced labor, little pay and long hours. There are still no laws that require equal wages for men and women. As things stand, women earned lower wages compared to men for performing equivalent work.

Looking Ahead

Key women leaders, such as First Lady Sylvia Bongo Ondimba, Minister of Social Affairs and Women’s Rights Prisca Raymonda Nlend Koho and Vice President Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda continue to fight for the improvement of women’s rights in Gabon. In 2020, they began implementing a strategy to promote women’s rights. Their efforts contributed to the passing of a new labor code that grants women access to employment in all jobs and sectors of work.

Gabon also implemented new legislation which better protects women from violence. With research showing that 90% of sexual violence victims in Gabon affect women, this legislation is an important step in protecting women from violence. Gabon’s new law establishes criminal penalties for violence against women. It also requires protection orders to be given to victims of violence within two days of receiving a report of violence occurring.

These advancements are just a few crucial actions taken to improve women’s rights in Gabon. And the country’s leaders continue to fight for more rights and equal treatment for Gabonese women.

– Marisa Del Vecchio
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in GabonGabon is a Central African nation with an abundance of culture, wildlife and landscapes. However, the country faces a range of challenges, including its continuous and worsening struggle with human trafficking. Gabon finds itself in a challenging predicament as it has become a popular location for human trafficking, especially child trafficking. Mélanie Mbadinga Matsanga, Gabon’s social affairs director-general, even referred to Goban as an Eldorado for human trafficking.

There has been a steady decadence in the severity of human trafficking in Gabon. The nation has witnessed unrestrained and swiftly burgeoning growth of trafficking with no rigorous systemic mechanisms to tackle the issue.

Between 2003 and 2010, there were no trafficking-related convictions in Gabon, while the nation has downgraded to a Tier 2 Watch List in the U.S. Department of State’s 2022 report.

The Reality of Gabon’s Human Trafficking

Gabon has become a popular transitory or final destination for human trafficking victims of West and Central Africa. Gabon both receives and sources trafficked people. Those who end up trafficked often by force become street vendors, transportation assistants, mechanics, fishermen, domestic servants, illicit gold miners, wildlife trafficking or sex workers, according to the Department of State.

The state of human trafficking in Gabon is due to its inadequate systems to prevent and address the issue at hand. A glaring indicator of this absence of systemic instruments is the nation’s inability to adopt an anti-trafficking national action plan (NAP) for the third consecutive year. To compound the issue, the federal government has neglected to create a functioning anti-trafficking coordination system within the national inter-ministerial commission.

Moreover, the lack of national coordination has also made data collection and usage immensely more complicated, thereby hindering the ability to properly understand, investigate and prosecute. For instance, the Gabonese authorities claim to have begun 10 human trafficking-related investigations, while there were zero in 2020 and only three in 2019, according to the Department of State.

Corruption and Collusion

To aggravate the situation, there have been persistent accusations and a scarcity of inquiries for governmental corruption and collusion in human trafficking. Experts have alleged that there has been intentional postponement or dismissal of trafficking cases that bribed judges cause. The Department of State suggests that while the government contends that delays stem from legal inadequacies and the absence of knowledge, the lack of concrete action against corruption accusations foments concerns.

Furthermore, Gabon’s existing anti-trafficking programs and committees lack transparency and commitment. The government has not disclosed the funding for the nation’s anti-trafficking programs and the government’s interministerial committee against trafficking has not convened since 2019. There is a discouraging aura of depreciation and inconsequence to solving these heinous crimes.

Gabon’s Poverty and Human Trafficking

In the shadows of human trafficking in Gabon lies a root catalyst of systemic inequalities and disparities. Poverty renders certain groups significantly more susceptible to exploitation and possible trafficking. Conflict, lack of access to professional and educational opportunities and mass displacement all have poverty as a central element that leaves individuals especially vulnerable.

U.N. Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons Joy Ngozi Ezeilo emphasizes how poverty, some traditional Western African and domestic work’s high demand in high Gabonese society are the foundation for the nation’s human trafficking issues. The dire conditions people face in extreme poverty leave them desperate and more likely to accept risky jobs or sell their daughters into marriage. Traffickers meticulously scout potential victims who live in a cycle of poverty, miseducation, unemployment, desperation and violence.

International Organization for Migration (IOM)

While the concerns and shortcomings of Gabon’s handling of its human trafficking situation, the national government and international institutions have made genuine efforts to tackle the issue.

One of the institutions that has been playing a vital role in the fight against human trafficking is the International Organization for Migration (IOM). IOM assists the Gabonese government in managing migration-related issues, emphasizing mixed population movements, migration governance and migration flows.

The return and reintegration of migrants, including minors in reception centers and adult migrants, is a crucial component of IOM’s activity in Gabon. IOM helped 143 migrants, the majority of whom were trafficking victims, return safely and integrate into their communities in 2020 and 2021 alone.

In addition, IOM Gabon works to advance the goals outlined in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM). The organization helps to ensure that migration is secure, effectively managed and advantageous for both migrants and the societies they join by cooperating with this global endeavor.

Future Hopes

Gabon is in dire need of action and attitudinal change in order to properly solve trafficking in its nation. “I am confident that Gabon can become a model for other countries in the region and beyond in the fight against trafficking,” said Joy Ngozi Ezeilo

With the appropriate mechanisms in place that strengthen prevention, ensuring the protection and reintegration of victims, paired with the support of international organizations, there is a genuine possibility of amending human trafficking in Gabon and creating a brighter future for its people.

– Agustín Pino
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Gabon
Many African nations are losing the fight against hunger. Levels of hunger are rising faster than governments can handle, but one country is setting an example of how nations should respond to this persistent struggle. Gabon, an African nation off the west coast of Africa, is taking steps to combat the threat of hunger around the region. Starvation is a massive problem in Africa and Gabon is no exception. Hunger proliferates throughout the African nation, but Gabon, with the help of international organizations, is making big strides that have helped thousands of Gabonese people.  Here are five key points to know about hunger in Gabon.

5 Key Points to Know About Hunger in Gabon

  1. The proportion of undernourished people in Gabon is rising again. According to the 2019 Global Hunger Index report, Gabon’s proportion of undernourished people has been steadily decreasing every year since 2008. However, hunger levels decreased every year between 2008 and 2014 but have since started to rise.
  2. Children and women are at the greatest risk. In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated that 18% of children under 5 years old suffered from chronic malnutrition. Furthermore, a 2016 report found that close to 61% of women in Gabon were anemic. Improved access to food can help prevent starvation, malnutrition and sickness.
  3. GHI lists Gabon’s level of hunger as ‘moderate.’ Gabon’s GHI Score in 2000 was 20.8 indicating that the country’s level of hunger ‘serious.’ Many Gabonese people continue to suffer from malnutrition, but the Gabonese parliament had undergone great efforts to alleviate the problem. Gabon has adopted policy frameworks, such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), which outlines a plan for improved access to water and food security. In 20 years, Gabon has dropped its score to 18.2, lowering the nation’s level of hunger to ‘moderate.’ Today, Gabon continues to make progress in its fight to end hunger throughout the nation.
  4. Gabon’s government has taken measures to fight the hunger epidemic. In 2019, the Gabonese government founded the Gabonese Parliamentary Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (APGSAN). The organization, established in association with the FAO Subregional Office for Central Africa and the United Nations, is committed to fighting hunger and malnutrition throughout the nation. APGSAN will work with other parliamentary coalitions to help provide sustainable food to the 42.7 million people who are starving in Central Africa. APGSAN’s formation proves that nations can allocate money, design legislation and form coalitions to combat pressing issues.
  5. From 2000 to 2019, the prevalence of growth stunting in children dropped from 25.9% to 20.2%. Growth stunting in children has seen a steady decline, but since 2010, the number of children suffering from stunted growth has in fact increased from 17% to 20.2%. In response, NGOs like ScalingUpNutrition (SUN) have created detailed action plans that illustrate hunger priorities the Gabonese government must address, such as resource mobilization for nutrition and budget allocations.

Like many other African nations, the threat of malnutrition has not spared Gabon. However, increased efforts on the part of Gabonese parliament and international bodies have proven effective in the fight against rising levels of hunger. Gabon is not 100% free from the hunger plague, but despite this harsh reality, the nation is getting better. Hunger levels in Gabon are decreasing faster than most countries in the same region. Continued commitment by the Gabonese government and international organizations to fight hunger will be the key to end it once and for all.

Pedro Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Gabon
For many citizens of the nation of Gabon, living on less than $2 a day is a harsh reality, with a third of the population living below the poverty line. However, this affliction of poverty in Gabon sharply contrasts the economic success of wealthier citizens, showcasing significant inequality within the country.

Economic Successes and Failures

Gabon had a GDP per capita of more than $7,600 as of 2019, the fourth-highest on the continent. Oil is by far the top industry in Gabon; as a small African country on the Atlantic Ocean, 80% of its exports are based on oil production, along with 45% of its GDP. However, some consider this dependence on the abundant supply of oil to be more of a curse than a blessing, as fluctuations in prices have the potential to significantly damage the Gabon economy. Additionally, oil dependence has also contributed to inequality, with only 20% of the population holding around 90% of the wealth in the nation. Gabon has done little to expand economic possibilities in spite of these effects, leaving approximately 400,000 people unable to find work and reinforcing the affliction of poverty.


Urbanization is incredibly high in Gabon, with more than half of the population living in two cities, Libreville and Port Gentil. In the overcrowded slums of Libreville, Gabon’s capital and largest city, many immigrant workers and local Gabonese live in absolute poverty. Thousands of people in Gabon’s urban areas do not have reliable sources of food or proper means of sanitation.

A positive for those living in the urban areas of Gabon is that clean drinking water is readily available: more than 97% of citizens living in cities have access. In rural areas, however, the percentage drops to less than 55%. Gabon’s government is working to make clean drinking water accessible throughout the country. In 2018, the African Development Bank (ADB) granted Gabon a fund of $96.95 million to improve the water deficit in Libreville by expanding the drinking water infrastructure into the greater Libreville area and other municipalities.

Lack of Infrastructure

The lack of developed infrastructure in rural areas has been a crippling issue. Most of the country’s roads are unpaved and impassable during the rainy season. The postal system is a nightmare for businesses trying to move products and raw materials around Gabon. To combat issues like these, Bechtel, an American engineering company, agreed to a partnership with Gabon in 2010, to complete projects improving transportation, housing, education, medical facilities and water and waste management. After six years of work, the partners agreed to extend the partnership by an additional $25 billion. The project will build 17 schools capable of housing 15,000 children, provide 64,000 homes with clean energy and repair roads and railroads, among other improvements. This modernization effort could prove revolutionary for industries in Gabon as well as the country’s poor. At the very least, this overhaul is bringing jobs to a population in desperate need, as the project hired much of its workforce locally.

In recent years, there have been great strides toward repairing Gabon’s economic issues. Reducing poverty in Gabon by diversifying the economy and repairing infrastructure both seem to be successful initiatives. With plans in place to modernize the country, prosperity could be on the horizon for the less fortunate citizens of Gabon.

Matthew Beach
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Gabon
Gabon, a country of around 2 million people located in western Central Africa, shows how a universal healthcare system can succeed. The relatively recent improvement in healthcare in Gabon provides a roadmap for other countries. Furthermore, Gabon highlights which areas of healthcare could use improvement and how best to go about enhancing it.

The Good

Gabon’s national healthcare system, Caisse Nationale d’Assurance Maladie et de Garantie Sociale (CNAMGS), emerged in 2008. In its infancy, the program provided healthcare coverage to students, the poor and the elderly. Since then, it has extended coverage to public-sector workers in 2011 and private-sector workers in 2013. As early as 2011, 417,118 of the 546,125 eligible poor residents of Gabon signed up for the program.

Many typically consider healthcare in Gabon above-average for West Africa in both access and effectiveness. For instance, Gabon has a high healthcare center density and a below-average adult mortality rate from non-communicable diseases.

Gabon employs a novel and effective system to help finance its expansive healthcare coverage: levies on mobile phone companies and on money transfers outside of the country. This system is an incredible success, according to Dr. Inoua Aboubacar, a World Health Organization public health specialist located in Gabon. Overall resources for CNAMGS quadrupled from 2008 to 2011, increasing from 12.5 billion CFA to over 47 billion CFA (nearly $8.5 million). Around 17.5 billion CFA came from these levies.

Launched in 2010, the National Health Strategy now provides 100% covered maternal healthcare in Gabon. The program covers approximately 85% of healthcare costs in other areas as well. Out-of-pocket copays cover any additional costs. Nevertheless, maternal mortality rates remain worrisome, with 261 deaths per 100,000 live births as of 2015.

Universal healthcare was achieved in Gabon in only 10 years, quicker than developed countries such as South Korea, where it took 12 years.

What Needs Improvement

Healthcare in Gabon, while successful in many ways, lacks the national spending that it deserves. Healthcare spending only accounts for 3.44% of the country’s total GDP, which is the lower than Gabon’s neighbors of Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of Congo and Chad. Although Gabon has the classification of an upper-middle-income country, it still spends less on healthcare than many comparable countries.

HIV/AIDS is a major problem in Gabon. An estimated 3.8% of adults live with the disease in Gabon, which makes it the 14th worst affected country in the world. However, the effects of the disease are diminishing. In 2017, the Gabon Ministry of Health launched a program to raise awareness and understanding of HIV through various campaigns and events in high schools.

Out-of-pocket spending for the people of Gabon is still higher than ideal. In the country, one can attribute 21.87% of healthcare expenditures to out-of-pocket spending, which is higher than in most economically similar countries in the region.

Healthcare in Gabon is a success by most standards, especially in comparison with other countries in Africa. It is far from perfect, though, and improvements must continue in the future. Still, Gabon’s quick and targeted approach should be a model for other countries seeking to improve healthcare programs of their own.

– Evan Kuo
Photo: Department of Defense


As of 2018, Gabon had the third-highest rate of tuberculosis among African countries, with a yearly occurrence of 428 cases per 100,000 people. Tuberculosis is so prevalent in Gabon, in part, because it often goes undiagnosed and is poorly treated. In addition, the rates of local transmission and drug resistance are high, leading to a tuberculosis crisis in Gabon.

Limited Laboratory Access

Effective diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis in a laboratory setting is crucial to the prevention and treatment of the disease. Limited access to laboratory diagnosis is one of the main contributing factors to the tuberculosis crisis in Gabon. CERMEL, a not-for-profit center for research in Lambaréné, is the country’s foremost resource for tuberculosis research. In the past decade, CERMEL has held events regarding the treatment and diagnosis of tuberculosis, through which doctors share research and information. Though the center was established over 30 years ago, CERMEL has devoted considerable resources to tuberculosis only in recent years. Gabon has also received support from the Global Fund, an international financing and partnership organization. Before 2015, however, the country was receiving no outside financial support to deal with the tuberculosis crisis.

Tuberculosis and HIV Co-Infection

Another issue Gabon faces is the simultaneous prevalence of tuberculosis and HIV. In 2012 and 2013, the co-infection rate of these diseases was 42% in adults and 16% in children. The mortality rate for those infected by both TB and HIV was 25%.

Cultural and Social Obstacles to Professional Healthcare

Cultural and socioeconomic factors contribute to Gabon’s high infection rates and low treatment success rates. When it comes to TB, patients often do not follow “doctor’s orders.” This is largely due to patients’ belief that they can be healed by visiting a spiritual doctor, rather than by going to the hospital. Additionally, high transportation costs and improper diagnosis and treatment prevent patients from taking healthcare professionals’ advice seriously.

Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis

The prevalence of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, or MDR-TB, is yet another concern. Like many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Gabon has limited access to the second line of drugs used to treat tuberculosis in drug-resistant cases. The first MDR-TB treatment center was opened in Gabon in 2015, in Lambaréné, with the laboratory support of CERMEL. The German Ministry of Health provided funding for a trial study of second-line drug treatment for patients in Gabon, which showed positive effects — 63% of patients were cured. However, the drugs used in second-line treatment are harsh and often cause adverse effects, such as gastrointestinal problems.

Expanding laboratory infrastructure will be invaluable in stopping the tuberculosis crisis in Gabon. As it stands, CERMEL is one of the only research laboratories in the country and newer data on TB is not available. CERMEL has helped get the ball rolling for research on the disease, but further laboratory spaces and doctors are necessary. Additionally, to quell the tuberculosis crisis in Gabon, healthcare professionals will have to engage the population in ways that account for prevailing cultural beliefs and socioeconomic realities.

Elise Ghitman
Photo: Flickr

ten facts about living conditions in Gabon

The West African country of Gabon is home to nearly 2 million people and shares a large part of its borders with The Republic of the Congo. While more politically stable than its neighbors, Gabon still struggles with extreme poverty and corruption. Keep reading to learn the top 10 facts about living conditions in Gabon.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Gabon

  1. Poverty: Even though Gabon boasts a per capita income four times the sub-Saharan average, as of 2015, 34 percent of the country still lived below the poverty line. Some estimates place unemployment at more than 40 percent. Of those who are employed, 64 percent are primarily employed in subsistence agriculture. By 2025, President Ali Bongo hopes to move Gabon into a “higher-tech, skilled economy,” which will potentially yield quality jobs beyond subsistence farming.
  2. Oil: Until oil was discovered offshore in the 1970s, Gabon primarily exported timber and manganese. As of 2012, Gabon had 2 billion barrels of accepted oil reserves, making it the fifth largest producer in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, oil makes up 80 percent of exports and 45 percent of the GDP. Despite the money generated from oil, the hydrocarbon sector, unfortunately, doesn’t generate sufficient jobs.
  3. Clean Water: More than 97 percent of urban populations have access to clean drinking water while only two-thirds of rural populations do. Relatedly, only 43 percent of urban dwellers and just below one-third of rural inhabitants have access to quality sanitation. In 2018, the African Development Bank granted Gabon a fund of $96.95 million to improve the water deficit in its capital Grand Libreville by expanding the drinking water infrastructure into Greater Libreville and other municipalities. The goal is to have sustainable universal access to drinking water and sanitation by 2025.
  4. HIV/AIDS: As of 2017, 56,000 people in Gabon were living with HIV/AIDS. That same year, 1,300 people died from causes related to HIV/AIDS. This, however, is a decline from 2003 when 3,000 people had died of HIV/AIDS-related causes. Since 2010, new incidences of HIV have dropped by 50 percent while the number of AIDS-related deaths has fallen by one-third.
  5. Leading Causes of Death: In 2007, HIV/AIDS was the leading cause of death in Gabon. However, as of 2017, that number had fallen to fifth place, being overtaken by ischemic heart disease and lower respiratory tract infections as the top two causes of death. Although from 2007 to 2017, Malaria had risen to third place in deadliness. In 2017, there were more than 35,000 confirmed cases of malaria and 218 deaths.
  6. Corruption: Gabon has been relatively stable politically since gaining independence from France in 1960 and electing El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba in 1968. President Omar Bongo ruled for 41 years until 2009 when his son, Ali Bongo Ondimba, won the presidential elections. But, within this relative stability, dissent and distrust had begun to surface. The elder Bongo’s re-election in 2002 was riddled with allegations of electoral fraud. In 2016, when the younger Bongo was reelected, the country erupted into riots which resulted in the burning of the parliament building. The opposition, as well as international election observers, flagged the election results as suspicious, but Gabon’s Constitutional Court ruled in favor of Ali Bongo Ondimba extending his mandate to rule until 2023. In January of 2019, while President Bongo was in Morocco on an extended stay, several soldiers attempted a coup. They were unsuccessful and ultimately arrested.
  7. Education: According to the Education Policy and Data Center’s 2018 National Education Profile, 90 percent of primary school-age children were attending school. Literacy rates for young adults ages 15-24 were at 89 percent for females and 87 for males. This shows impressive improvement from 1985 when literacy rates were much lower, 53 percent for women and 70 percent for men.
  8. Maternal Mortality: The average woman in Gabon has about 4 children. In 2015, 291 women died out of 100,000 live births. As of 2018, there was still only one physician for every 3,000 people; therefore, complications from pregnancy and delivery can often go undetected and untreated. While still distressing, this maternal mortality rate represents a marked improvement from 1996 when it was 403.
  9. Infrastructure: In the 2013 World Economic Forum Competitiveness Report, Gabon ranked 112 out of 148 countries for quality of infrastructure. While roads are often impassable in the rainy season, railroad infrastructure had performed substantially better, coming in at 72 out of 148. Gabon has “one of the highest urbanization rates in Africa. More than four in five people live in cities.” In fact, 59 percent of the population lives in the country’s two dominant hubs: Libreville, the political capital and Port Gentil, the heart of its oil industry.
  10. Life Expectancy: In the 1980s, women were only expected to live into their early 50s and men only into their late 40s. Improvements in healthcare among other factors have extended life expectancy for women into their 70s and for men into their mid-60s. Furthermore, the mortality rate for children under the age of five was cut in half since 1990 when 80 out of 1000 children died. In 2017, that rate was approximately 40.

It is evident through these top 10 facts about living conditions in Gabon that there have been dramatic changes in the quality of life. Hopefully, Gabon will reach its drinking water and sanitation infrastructure goals for greater Libreville by 2025. It is through initiatives like this that Gabon will continue to improve the standard of living for those in the country.

Sarah Boyer
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Benefits From Foreign Aid to Gabon
As the United States faces potential cuts to its foreign aid budget, it is important to recognize that the relationship between the United States and any country receiving aid is not a one-way transaction. The benefits reaped by both countries outweigh any costs. The many ways the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Gabon is one such example. With a diplomatic friendship stretching back 58 years, the U.S. assists Gabon with funds that power humanitarian programs. These programs fight poverty, human trafficking and disease in Gabon. In return, the U.S. has gained a stable trading partner and international ally.   

The Partnership Between the U.S. and Gabon

When Gabon gained independence from France in 1960, U.S.-Gabon relations grew quickly. During the cold war era, Gabon was an ally of the West and has always sought to remain close with U.S. leaders, no matter who occupies the Oval Office. Gabon’s large oil reserves have received investments from U.S. presidential administrations, starting with Nixon and going all the way to the Obama administration. Gabon’s oil industry has been key to the development of strong trade partnerships with the U.S.

As reported in 2018, the U.S. had been importing about 30,000 barrels of crude oil from Gabon daily.  However, it isn’t all about oil; Gabon is ranked 134 as the U.S.’ largest goods trading partner. In 2016, there was a total of $192 million in goods traded. The U.S. exported a total of $89 million in goods to Gabon, and in return, imported $199 million in Gabonese products, clearly showing that the trading benefits alone outweigh any foreign aid costs.

The main products being imported from Gabon include mineral fuels, wood products and rubber while the U.S. mainly exports poultry products, beef products, cotton and sweeteners. While there is a certain amount of trade occurring between both nations, the number of goods being exchanged could be improved substantially by an increase in the amount of aid that Gabon is receiving from America. As more trading occurs as a result of Gabon’s ongoing development, the more the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Gabon.    

The Rainforest

The two countries also cooperate to spearhead conservation efforts that seek to protect the country’s rainforest from deforestation and poaching. As a central African nation, Gabon part of the second largest rainforest in the world: the Congo Basin. The Congo Basin’s many natural resources provide food and shelter to more than 60 million of its inhabitants. Land in this area creates many viable, renewable products that have long reinforced a strong trading partnership with the U.S.

The United States Agency for International Development, (USAID), has employed an initiative called the Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE) in Gabon and six other nations in the Congo Basin: the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Republic of the Congo.

The program seeks to bolster conservation efforts in these six countries as they battle poaching and deforestation while, at the same time, trying to improve responsible land management in the Congo Basin. CARPE works with communities and governments and nonprofits in these central African nations to speed up the transition from developing states to financially and politically secure democracies. It provides funding to ensure that the region’s rich, biodiverse habitat is preserved and that the transition from developing nation to developed nation is accompanied by low emissions and environmentally conscious economic strategies.  

Looking Ahead

Looking to the future, it is clear that the relationship between the U.S. and Gabon is beneficial for both countries. The ways that the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Gabon will only be strengthened as Gabon continues to develop, bolstered by USAID through programs such as CARPE. The 58-year relationship between the two countries serves as an example of the mutually beneficial results of foreign aid. 

Jason Crosby
Photo: Flickr