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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 over $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

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 68%. Gabon’s government is working to make clean drinking water accessible throughout the country. In 2018, the African Development Bank 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

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 with 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

Top 10 Facts about Girls' Education in Gabon
The top 10 facts about girls’ education in Gabon presented in the text below are interesting to consider because of the intersection they suggest between the country’s strengths and weaknesses. Women in Gabon suffer at the hands of domestic abuse and a deficiency of certain instrumental rights. At the same time, literacy rates in the country are relatively high compared to other countries in the region.

The 10 Facts about Girls’ Education in Gabon

  1. Compulsory education in Gabon lasts for 10 years. Students begin at age 6 and finish at age 15. This can be considered as a relatively short period, particularly when compared with a typical education in a country like the United States where students usually begin their education at age 6 and finish at age 18.
  2. In 2012, about 82 percent of people over age 15 in Gabon were considered literate. Out of this number, 85 percent were male and 80 percent were female. This is one indicator of gender inequity in education in Gabon.
  3. Compared to other countries in the region, Gabon has a relatively high overall education enrollment rate. In 2005, this rate was at the 92.4 percent. This may, in part, have to do with the fact that education is compulsory through certain ages.
  4. There is overcrowding in primary level schools and a high drop out rate in secondary schools. This suggests that when the compulsory years are finished, students neglect the idea of continuing their education.
  5. Gender equality in schools increases with age and education level. Still, only 54 percent of female students in Gabon continue into the latter parts of secondary education.
  6. UNICEF is making efforts to help keep girls in school. The Ministry of Family has set up in-school daycare to help ensure that young mothers are able to attend school. Many women in the country marry and start families young so solutions like these are essential to ensure woman’s continuing education.
  7. Poverty is most rampant in villages in Gabon. Because of this, villages also lack proper education systems. This often means that children have to attend schools far away from their homes. Families in rural areas often discourage their children from pursuing education, particularly females who are expected to help in the household.
  8. Education itself is free in Gabon but students are subject to fees that amount to about $50. Poor families cannot afford these fees and their children are, as a consequence, unable to receive an education. This education barrier affects both girls and boys in the country.
  9. In 2011, a study revealed that 77 percent of children in Gabon were victims of violence. Children are not likely to want to continue education past compulsory stages if it is associated with trauma and abuse.
  10. Constitution of Gabon affirms gender equality and the country has ratified documents affirming women’s rights but problems still persist. Women are frequently victims of domestic abuse and are often forced to marry at very young ages. These young marriages often prevent them from continuing to pursue their education.

These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Gabon indicate that though the system is providing decent literacy rates, education in Gabon is far from perfect. Women still face lower literacy rates than men and early marriages prevent them from having sufficient educational opportunities.

Efforts like those of UNICEF mentioned above will help to ameliorate such problems but the most promising prospects for the future will have to come from the country itself.

– Julia Bloechl
Photo: Flickr