Gabon is one of the richest countries in Africa in terms of per capita gross national income, reflecting its modest population (1.5 million) and significant oil revenues. It has a free-market economy and encourages foreign investment. Oil accounts for around 45% of GDP and nearly 80% of total exports.
Bordered to the north by Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, to the south and east by Congo and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, the country lies on the Equator and is blessed with natural forests, which constitute around 80% of the territory. A former French colony, Gabon became independent on 17 August 1960. The national working language is French and an increasing number of people now speak good English.
President Ali Bongo Ondimba has taken a leadership role in diplomatic affairs and maintains good relations with neighboring countries as well as France, China and the US. A member of the African Union, Gabon has been a member of the World Trade Organisation since 1 January 1995.
Gabon acted as a prominent negotiator in high level multilateral talks focusing on the role of forests in mitigating climate change in Copenhagen, December 2009. The country, member of the Commission des Forêts d’Afrique Centrale (COMIFAC), teamed up with its fellow members to work on the conservation and sustainable management of almost 30% of the world’s tropical forests.