Healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa has a direct impact on poverty in the region. When adults are too ill to work, they and their children can quickly fall into extreme poverty, which leads to hunger and malnutrition. Around 46% of Africa’s population lives on less than $1 a day; an even larger proportion than was the case 15 years ago. Despite these challenges, organizations like Wild4Life are working to expand the reach of healthcare into these underserved communities.

Poverty and Health Care in sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is the poorest region in the continent. Close to 60 million children under the age of 17 work instead of attending school in an effort to help their families rise out of poverty. Every fifth child is forced into child labor. This effectively means that when grown, that person will lack education and most likely remain in poverty. This social plight creates a vicious cycle in which chronic malnutrition, growth disorders and physical and mental underdevelopment occur. These health issues further limit an individual’s opportunity to earn a living later in life. In addition, 25 million Africans are infected with HIV, including almost 3 million children — the highest rate of infection in the world. Many of these children have lost one or both parents and are living on the streets.

Government expenditure on healthcare in Africa is very low; typically about $6 per person. This means that medical workers experience huge pressures, operating with little-to-no equipment or means to reach rural populations, Such challenges make healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa difficult to provide.

Good News about Health Care in Rural Communities

The good news is that organizations such as Wild4Life are working to reverse these disturbing healthcare trends. The NGO’s mission is to expand the reach of health services to underserved remote, rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa that have limited or no access to healthcare. To achieve this goal, Wild4Life has developed an incredibly innovative service delivery model. The aim of this model is to reach more people than previously would have been possible. Wild4Life works to establish the basic building blocks of a healthcare system. It believes that a well-functioning system has a lasting effect on a community’s overall health and longevity.

Expansion to Twelve African Countries

The Wild4Life model involves partnering with organizations that are already established in remote locations, and that have put together links with people in the local community. This approach leverages the existing infrastructure, social ties and knowledge bank in cooperation with Wild4Life’s network of health providers. This allows support and treatment to impact some of the hardest-to-reach people and places on earth.

Wild4Life began as an HIV/AIDS program in Zimbabwe, but it has expanded throughout sub-Saharan Africa.  Now operating in twelve countries — Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe —the organization delivers extremely low-cost healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa and provides interventions that are scalable yet sustainable.

Community Partnerships to Improve Health Care

The goals of the NGO include assessing the needs of rural populations and targeting the health issues that most affect them. It also seeks to build clinics in remote areas; strengthen rural healthcare networks; provide quality healthcare and improve community partnerships so that creative ways to address problems become permanent solutions. For example, Wild4Life trains community leaders to mobilize local demands for healthcare services and advocate for quality care from clinic staff and maintain facilities. This results in significant infrastructure improvements. The NGO also organizes events around such topics as improving healthy behaviors and coming up with strategies for the best way to use clinic funds.

Five Clinics in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe alone, Wild4Life has a network of five clinics. These clinics have achieved remarkable results, including hundreds of lives saved by new diagnosis and treatment of HIV as well as other preventable diseases. The organization believes that there is not one single technology or innovation that will create a lasting impact on the health of people living in rural communities. Instead, it partners with all levels of the healthcare system to locate the gaps in the extant setup. By doing this, it hopes to leave behind a resilient, local healthcare system for those who need it most.

During comprehensive clinical mentoring, well-trained, multi-disciplinary teams composed of six specialists comprehensively mentor clinic staffs on primary care conditions. These conditions include HIV, TB, Integrated Management of Childhood Illness and testing for anemia. Such services also aid in labor and delivery. This process also covers monitoring and evaluation of data quality, pharmacy management and clinic management over a two-year period.

Scaling Up to Improve Healthcare in Africa

Wild4Life has significantly scaled up since its inception, through government, nonprofit and for-profit connections. It has gone from delivering care to remote areas, to building healthcare networks in rural populations. As a result of its expansion plan, 70,000 more people will have access to high-quality health services in their communities. By training clinicians and community members in the most up-to-date medical care delivery, the NGO is changing the way that rural healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa is delivered.

Sarah Betuel

Photo: Flickr

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

Rainforests in Gabon

Gabon is a country on the west coast of Central Africa, the equator passing through its center. The country is known first and foremost for its rainforests, which cover more than 80 percent of its terrain. Due to a historic deal with Norway, there now exists a financial incentive for preserving rainforests in Gabon.

Preserving Rainforests in Gabon

The deal, which took place at the 2019 Climate Action Summit in New York, will reward Gabon with $150 million over the course of the next 10 years. In preserving Gabon‘s rainforests, the U.N. hopes to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century.

Norway has been involved in similar preservation efforts in the past, most notably through its partnership with Liberia in 2014. Much of Norway’s partnership with Gabon is mirrored in its work with Liberia, in which Liberia was offered a maximum of $150 million by 2020. The main difference between the two deals involves their retroactive and proactive natures: the deal with Liberia was based on future preservation efforts, whereas the deal with Gabon is based on past accomplishments, as well as future goals for the nation.

Gabon has a quickly developing reputation for preservation. In 2002, the country established its first national park system. The national park system is comprised of 13 parks, one of which, Lope-Okanda national park, is a registered UNESCO natural heritage site.

The new deal was announced by a representative for the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI). CAFI is a partnership between six Central African countries, the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Bank, and a coalition of foreign donors, including the Kingdom of Norway, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

CAFI was launched at the U.N. Sustainable Development Summit in September of 2015. Its goal, to put it simply, is to assist the governments of the six partnered Central African countries (Gabon, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and to aid in reform efforts. These reforms are far-reaching, addressing issues of climate change, food insecurities and poverty.

How Does Preservation Help Address Poverty?

Preserving Gabon’s rainforests is currently a central focus of CAFI. What follows are just a few of the ways in which preservation can help alleviate the symptoms of poverty:

  • Climate change and the progressive loss of natural environments have a drastic impact on the availability of food and water. Land set aside for agricultural use often experiences extreme flooding or droughts as the problem worsens. Approximately 80 percent of drought damage was absorbed by agricultural land. By preserving the natural environment in Gabon, this danger can be largely avoided.
  • Conflict is one of the leading causes of poverty and tends to further divide the classes. By maintaining Gabon’s natural resources, and in turn reducing scarcities of resources, the country will likely continue to be largely at peace.
  • When the climate changes, so do prices. As shortages occur, prices rise, and the world’s poor are the most heavily affected by this. It is estimated that those living below the poverty line have experienced a 62 percent spike in their budgets for food in recent years. By preserving Gabon’s rainforests and the country’s environment as a whole, Gabonese people will likely avoid the impacts of further volatility in the market.

– Austin Brown
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Gabon

Gabon, located on the west coast of Africa, is surrounded by Atlantic Ocean, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and The Democratic Republic of the Congo. Forest covers 85 percent of the country, and the population is sparse and estimated to be 2.17 million. Keep reading to learn the top 10 facts about the life expectancy in Gabon.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Gabon

  1. The average life expectancy in Gabon is 66.4 years. Males have a life expectancy of 65 years compared to 68 years for females as per the 2016 data from WHO. This is the highest life expectancy value for Gabon compared to 61 years in 1990.
  2. Gabon’s total expenditure on health care is 3.44 percent of its gross domestic product. From the total expenditure on health, 31.62 percent comes from private resources. The government spends 7.38 percent of its total budget on health. This is higher than the average of 4.2 percent expenditure on health in Central Africa and an average of 3.9 percent for low-and-middle-income countries.
  3. Gabon has a low density of physicians. The country has 26 physicians and 290 nurses for every 100,000 people. The WHO notes that a physician density of less than 2.3 per 1,000 population is inadequate for an efficient primary health care system.
  4. Maternal mortality and infant mortality rates have seen a downward trend since the 1990s. The maternal mortality rate is 291 per 100,000 live births compared to 422 per 100,000 live births in 1990. The infant mortality rate is 21.5 per 1,000 live births. Eighty-nine percent of births are attended by skilled personal. The rate of under-5 deaths is 48.5 per 1,000 live births. On average, women have 3.8 children during their reproductive years.
  5. HIV/AIDS is no longer the number one cause of death in Gabon. Deaths from HIV/AIDS have declined by 77 percent since 2007. Similarly, deaths from tuberculosis and diarrhea have reduced by almost 23 percent and 22 percent respectively over the 10-year period ending in 2017. The current number one killer in Gabon is ischemic heart diseases followed by lower respiratory infection and malaria.
  6. Malnutrition is considered the most important driver of death and disability in Gabon. Dietary iron deficiency is the most important cause of disability and has retained the top spot for more than 10 years. Sixty percent of pregnant mothers and 62.50 percent of under-5 children are anemic, severely affecting the health and life expectancy of these groups.
  7. Rolled out in 2008, Gabon’s Universal health insurance extends coverage to the poorest, students, elderly, public and private sector workers. Gabon uses the Redevance Obligatoire à l’assurance Maladie (ROAM) to fund health care insurance. This is a 10 percent levy on mobile phone companies’ turnover, excluding tax and a 1.5 percent levy on money transfers outside the country. Still, the out of pocket cost for health care accounts for up to 21 percent of the total cost.
  8. As of 2015, 41.9 percent of the population has access to improved quality of drinking water. Gabon is ranked as 150 out of 189 countries in sanitation. People practicing open defecation increased from 1.7 percent in 2000 to 3.03 percent in 2015. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is advocating and investing to promote clean water in Gabon.
  9. Immunization coverage is between 70-79 percent for children in Gabon per UNICEF data. Available statistics for BCG and DTP vaccine shows that 87 percent of children have been vaccinated.
  10. The literacy rate in Gabon is 82.28 percent for the population aged 15 years and above. This is below the global average of 86 percent. The literacy rate for men (84 percent) is slightly higher than women (79 percent).

– Navjot Buttar
Photo: Flickr

lowest life expectancy in the world
Out of the established 224 countries on the earth, these are the bottom five with the lowest life expectancy in the world. The countries listed below range from an average lifespan of 52.1 years to 50.6 years old.

Five Countries with the Lowest Life Expectancy in the World

  1. Swaziland
    Swaziland has the fifth-lowest life expectancy in the world at an average of 52.1 years. Swaziland is the only country on this list with men living, on average, longer than women. As of 2016, the top two reasons for deaths were HIV/AIDS and lower respiratory infections.However, Swaziland is one of the countries receiving help from USAID. One of the top priorities of USAID is fighting against HIV/AIDS by preventing sexual transmission, increasing the prevalence of male circumcision, improving institutions and training, lessening the impact of HIV/AIDS and decentralizing care and treatment. With USAID’s continued assistance and its partnerships within the African nation, there is a chance that the average lifespan in Swaziland can increase above 52.1 years.
  1. Gabon
    With an average lifespan of 52.1 years, Gabon is ranked number four for the lowest life expectancy in the world. Despite being rated so low, Gabon has a robust oil-dependent economy, making it a middle-income country.Due to this income status, it is ineligible for relief programs such as Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization. This ineligibility may be why HIV/AIDS and heart disease are the top two reasons for death in the country, contributing to the low life expectancy.
  1. Afghanistan
    The only country not in Africa, Afghanistan is ranked at number three with an average lifespan of 51.7 years. This ranking may increase over time through help from USAID.In Afghanistan, USAID is working to promote health and education, both critical factors in raising life expectancies. USAID and its partners are making substantial strides to improve the healthcare for Afghans. For example, in 2016, the organization began a project to help reduce malnutrition and increase access to safe water and sanitation.USAID is also working toward making essential health services available and improving the quality and quantity of medicines. These resources, once available to Afghans, grant the nation a high potential to no longer be one of the countries with the lowest life expectancy in the world.
  1. Guinea-Bissau
    The second-to-last country with the lowest life expectancy in the world is Guinea-Bissau, averaging about 51 years of life. Aid for Africa is working in Guinea-Bissau with programs that help improve health and education, create businesses and protect wildlife.Another program through Aid for Africa, called Tostan, works by using local languages and traditions to promote democracy, problem-solving, human rights, hygiene and health. Through this program, successful countries have become more prosperous as well as healthier. With the continued implementation of programs such as these, Guinea-Bissau could improve its quantity of life.
  1. Chad
    Chad has the lowest life expectancy in the world at an average lifespan of 50.6 years. The life expectancy in this nation is so low because it has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality and high infant mortality as well.USAID has several programs to help those living in Chad. USAID and the U.N. World Food Programme are working together to distribute food and make sure access to food is readily available all over the country.Starting in 2018, programs such as In-Kind Food Aid, Local and Regional Food Procurement, Cash Transfers for Food and Food Vouchers all will be funded to help citizens. With these various programs helping improve health and nutrition, sources are working with Chad to increase the average lifespan.

World life expectancy continues to increase on the whole, but these five countries are still lagging behind. In order to increase the longevity and potential of their citizens’ lives, they will require targeted aid and a focus on infrastructure and healthcare.

– Amber Duffus

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Gabon

On a continent where a number of countries struggle with the issue of hunger, the western African nation of Gabon has proven to be a relatively optimistic case. Hunger in Gabon has gone down in absolute terms over the past decade.

In general, western Sub-Saharan Africa has improved its hunger situation in recent years. The prevalence of undernourishment in the region has been reduced from 24.2 percent in 1992 to 9.6 percent in 2016. In Gabon alone, the proportion of undernourished people went from 9.5 percent to 2.7 percent between 1992 and 2016. For Gabon, one of the most notable gains has been the wellbeing of children. Prevalence of growth stunting in children has dropped from 26.7 to 17.5 percent and the under five mortality rate has decreased from 9.1 to 5.1 percent in the span of 1992 to 2016. A big part of this improvement in western Africa has been the developments in infrastructure in the region. This has led to increased agricultural productivity.

Another reason for the decrease in hunger, including hunger in Gabon, is the increased cooperation between western African states. Several organizations have sprung up, including the Economic Community of West African States, the West African Monetary and Economic Union, and the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel. Additionally, the region has adopted the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program, which, among other things, aims to right gender imbalances, promote nutrition and encourage investment in agriculture.

There are still some factors that may be perpetuating hunger in Gabon. According to the Hunger Reduction Commitment Index Africa, Gabon lacks access to agricultural research, functioning social protection systems and equal access for women to agricultural land. Gabon also lacks a constitutional right to food. However, access to land was rated as “moderate,” which is an improvement.

Overall, hunger in Gabon still persists. However, the country is making strides in the right direction. If it continues to cooperate with its neighboring states and expand the access of its people – especially in the rural zones – to the resources they need, it will continue down the path to ending hunger.

Andrew Revord

Photo: Pixabay

Refugees in Gabon

Gabon is a Central African country with a population of about 1,763,000. President Ali Bongo Ondimba, son of the former President Omar Bongo, was elected in 2009 and has run the country since. The period immediately following his election was marked by violence, primarily due to claims that election fraud took place. According to Amnesty International, Gabon is home to many cases of human rights abuse. However, conflicts in surrounding countries gave rise to a population of people seeking refuge in Gabon. Here are 10 facts about refugees in Gabon:

1. In Gabon, there were 943 refugees in 2015, according to the World Bank. This places the country behind neighboring countries Cameroon (342,973 refugees) and the Republic of the Congo (44,955 refugees). Neighboring country Equatorial Guinea’s official refugee count is zero.

2. The peak population of refugees was in 2000 at 17,982 refugees. The refugees came to Gabon fleeing civil wars and political violence in surrounding countries during the 1990s.

3. Most of the refugees fleeing to Gabon are from the Republic of the Congo. In 1997, civil war broke out between paramilitaries loyal to former President Denis Sassou Nguesso and military forces loyal to liberalizing President Pascal Lissouba, driving tens of thousands of refugees into Gabon.

4. Refugees in Gabon have come from at least 25 different countries including Angola, Burundi, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, and Togo.

5. Refugees do not live in refugee camps, but rather in Gabonese cities. About 80 percent of refugees in Gabon live in these urban areas, with many concentrated around the capital of Libreville.

6. Refugees have some freedoms in Gabon that are not always guaranteed in other African countries. They obtain special refugee ID cards and can move freely throughout Gabon. They are even allowed to choose where they seek residency. Furthermore, the Gabonese government has allowed UN entry into Gabon to provide humanitarian services for people seeking refuge. These include providing medical treatment, courses on integrating into Gabonese society and helping refugees voluntarily repatriate themselves.

7. Refugees face high unemployment rates and can have difficulty in finding work. The country’s businesses can prefer to hire other Gabonese people over refugees, and the Gabonese government even requires businesses to prove that there are no Gabonese available for a position before hiring a refugee.

8. Refugees in Gabon sometimes face harassment and detention by local police. Although the country has laws protecting them, refugees can be mistaken for illegal immigrants, or encounter police unfamiliar with the protection laws. The UN had to step in and secure the release of wrongfully detained refugees.

9. The Gabonese government – in partnership with the UNHCR, the UN’s agency responsible for refugees – gradually revoked the refugee status for refugees in Gabon. Refugees who wish to remain in the country must apply for permits to become migrant workers or apply for permanent residency somewhere in the country.

10. The population of refugees in Gabon has decreased every year since 2011 when the Gabonese government announced the end of refugee status in the country. Hundreds of refugees have voluntarily signed up for repatriation every year since that time, and, with help from the UN, have safely returned to their respective countries.

David Mclellan

Photo: Flickr

Water resources in GabonWater quality in Gabon is abundant, but unevenly distributed and strained by high rates of urbanization. Gabon has one of the highest levels of water availability in the world, at 127,825 cubic meters per capita, per year.

Eighty-seven percent of Gabon’s 1.8 million people live in urban areas, such as Libreville and Port-Gentil. As the urban population increases, so does the demand for a fixed water supply. Gabon’s low capacity for drinking water production and lack of storage and maintenance facilities leads to frequent water shortages in Libreville and other urban areas.

Water quality in Gabon is different in urban and rural areas. In 2015, 92 percent of urban areas and 59 percent of rural areas had access to improved water resources. ‘Improved’ drinking sources include piped water on property and other improved sources of drinking water, according to the World Health Organization.

Despite its status as an upper middle-income country, 34 percent of the population lives in poverty. Rural, poverty stricken areas suffer deprivation from drinking water resources in Gabon, and 58 percent of the population does not have access to improved sanitation facilities. In 2015, sanitation rates in urban and rural areas were 43 and 32 percent, respectively.

Access to sanitation facilities is very low in Gabon. Inadequate wastewater and rainwater networks and deficient solid waste management explain the disparity.

Inadequate sewage and waste management led to negative health outcomes. Insufficient sanitation and lack of access to improved water sources are associated with the increased risk of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), a class of infectious bacterial and parasitic diseases. In Gabon, a large proportion of the population is at risk of infection from soil-transmitted helminthiasis, lymphatic filariasis and schistosomiasis.

The infrastructure for drinking water and sanitation were identified as priority areas for reform in the Gabonese government’s 2016–2020 Country Strategy Paper. Long-term success for water and waste management requires understanding how wealth distribution and social gradients affect water quality in Gabon. The CSP addresses social and infrastructural issues and broadened the scope of the development plan. It plans to build a sustainable water and sanitation infrastructure.

Gabrielle Doran

Photo: Flickr

On the western shores of Central Africa — bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and the Republic of Congo — is a nation covered in dense forests and home to a wealth of natural resources. With a population over 1.7 million, the Gabonese Republic is Africa’s fifth largest oil producer and is known for its manganese, uranium and lumber exports. It is one of the most stable nations in Africa and has been a member of the U.N. since 1960. In 2014, government education expenditure was 2.67 percent of GDP. Here are five facts about Education in Gabon:

  1. According to the Global 2016 Human Development Report, Gabon ranked 109 out of 188 nations. This is an incremental improvement from 2015 when the nation was ranked 110; a change which may be attributed to the Gabonese Republic’s 2014 Human Investment Strategy (SIHG).
  2. The French Ministry of National Education, Higher Education, Technical Education and Vocational training oversees the compulsory school system, which is structured in a 5-4-3-year fashion for primary, lower secondary and upper secondary school, respectively. The academic year runs from October to June.
  3. Primary school education in Gabon begins at age six and lasts until age 11. Primary school students earn two certificates, the Certificat d’Etudes primaires élémentaires (CEPE) and the concours d’entrée en sixième. The latter determines their secondary school progression. At the secondary level (ages 12-18), students earn a baccalauréat after successful completion of their schooling.
  4. With respect to higher education in Gabon, there are 11 universities, four institutes (medicine, business, economics, computer science), a National School of Law and Secretary Learning National School. Technical and vocational education opportunities are available in administrative, forestry, medical, management and biotechnology-related fields.
  5. Gabon has one of the highest primary enrollment rates in Africa: 96.4 percent. However, the school system is plagued by high repetition and low completion. According to UNESCO, Gabon also has a significant science graduate deficit.

The nation depends on global oil demand for its economic health and remains highly susceptible to changes in the energy market. Effects of oil price sensitivities on the nation’s social development is not well-documented or properly defined. Moreover, reliable (and current) socioeconomic and educational data is not readily available.

Data collection on poverty, infrastructure, price indices and income distribution are needed to improve fiscal policy and private sector investments in education.

JG Federman

Photo: Flickr

Palm Tree Oil Plantation
With notoriety for being one of six leading oil producing countries in Africa, Gabon embarked on a new project — developing palm tree oil plantations aimed at reducing the poverty gap and encouraging sustainable development.

Since 2013, Gabon has been facing a decline in its oil reserves. The government committed up to one million hectares of sustainable land to appeal to investors in agricultural development and spawn economic diversification.

Collaboration With Olam Palm Gabon

Olam Palm Gabon, Singapore’s Olam International Ltd and Gabonese government-owned company made an agreement with the government of the Republic of Gabon to utilize 50,000 hectares of land for palm plantation.

The development of palm tree oil plantations will enable the country to diversify its dependency on oil and instead invest in a more lucrative and long-term venture. Palm oil trees can produce fruit for more than 30 years with a plant yield far more advantageous than any major oilseed crop.

Sustained Economic Livelihood

Gabon has a population of 1.9 million, the highest urbanization quota in Africa with more than four in five Gabonese citizens residing in the metropolitan area. With an additional unemployment rate of 20%, partnership with Olam to build plantations will generate a revenue of $400 million and up to 5,000 new jobs.

Planting began in 2011; currently, 31,000 hectares exist. Upon complete production, the plantation is expected to yield 24 metric tons of fruit bunches per hectare and 5.2 metric tons of oil per hectare. The total estimated investment in phase one development of plantations, palm oil mills and related assets was $500 million.

Six thousand five hundred and two hectares have been sold and leased for $130 million. This proves Gabon’s ability to support innovative financial structures designed for the growth of the palm oil sector.

Job and Investment Opportunities

Experts believe that investment in the palm tree oil plantations in Gabon and the rest of Africa is thriving and will create local jobs and guarantee the stability of the local economy. Ali Bongo Ondimba, the head of State, commissioned on Sept. 16 the new production site of sustainable palm oil of Olam, in Kango, in the Estuaire province. Eight hundred jobs have been created in this location, with an inevitable 120 contracts planned. Social contracts signed by Olam ensure small farmers are key sellers in the project with a mutual benefit of electricity, road repair and water supplies.

Falling oil prices in Gabon have had the most severe effect on the country’s poor. The project also entails support of local community farming around Kango with the construction of 400 accommodations and social infrastructures.

“In Sub-Saharan Africa, many countries rely on extractive industries for revenues, but extractive industries don’t create a lot of jobs, and so countries are beginning to invest more in agriculture as a means of job creation,” said Gagan Gupta, chief executive at Olam Gabon Enterprise. “To succeed, however, agriculture projects must take into account, and invest in, local communities.”

Given the attention Gabon has received for their actions, it is hopeful that such efforts will continue to yield fruitful results encompassing economic growth.

Shanique Wright

Photo: Flickr