One of the largest economies in Africa is Gabon, a country situated in the southwestern coast of the continent. The affluence of the country is directly linked to its natural resources. Among the chief natural resources of Gabon is the crude oil and the country is heavily reliant on this natural resource. An example can be seen in the export catalog that Gabon ships to one of its major trading partners, the United States. The annual exports to the North American country were valued at $2.2 billion in 2010, and 96% was made up of crude oil exports. Other important natural resources found in Gabon include the agricultural land, natural tourist attractions, and its water-bodies.
One of the most important natural resources the country has is its forests. Situated in the equatorial part of the continent, Gabon has a dense forest cover which occupies an estimated 77% of the country’s land area. Gabon’s forests are home to hundreds of trees species which support an ecosystem made up of thousands of different fauna and flora species. The Okoume, a tree species which is in high demand all over the world for its use in the manufacturing of plywood, is the country’s top forestry export item, with the country being responsible for about 90% of the global production of the tree. Before the discovery of petroleum in the mid-20th Century, forestry was the leading foreign exchange earner in Gabon and the country’s primary economic activity. Even with the emergence of the huge oil industry, forestry is still a major foreign exchange earner for Gabon and is the country’s second largest industry is based on export earnings. The exports from the industry were valued at over $0.3 billion in 2003. The forests also have priceless environmental benefits.
Gabon is unlike many of its Sub-Saharan Africa peers as far as agriculture is concerned. Unlike many Sub-Saharan Africa countries where agriculture is the chief economic activity, agriculture is not a principal contributor to the Gabonese economy. A paltry 1.9% of the country’s land area is under agriculture, with the industry accounting for an estimated 8% of the GDP. Therefore, the country depends on agricultural imports to feed its domestic market. Most of the agricultural imports to Gabon are sourced from its neighboring countries as well as Europe. The decline of the agricultural industry in the country is blamed on the country’s overreliance on its petroleum industry. Nonetheless, the country has a significant production of cassava (0.23 million tons), yams (0.155 million tons), sugarcane (0.235 million tons), and plantains (0.27 million tons).
The agricultural land also supports a thriving animal husbandry sector. The country is home to thousands of pigs, sheep, goats, and cattle. However, the sector still has a long way to go as the domestic production of meat is not sufficient to meet the domestic demand. The country relies on imports of meat to meet its domestic demand. Nonetheless, the government is focused on expanding the sector by transforming large portions of the uninhabited savannah region of the country into huge ranches where animal husbandry can be carried out on a larger scale. The primary issue faced by the country’s animal husbandry sector is the presence of tsetse fly, an insect that is infamous with infecting cattle with diseases. To remedy the problem, new breeds of cattle have been imported from Senegal which is known to be resistant to the disease.
Gabon has the privilege of being situated in a region which is known for its mineral wealth. Among the minerals that the country has includes manganese, diamonds, gold, and uranium. Minerals are so important to the country’s economy that the entire economy revolves around the country’s mining industry. Gabon has huge deposits of manganese (estimated to be more than 21 million metric tons), a metal which has great demand in the global markets. The country remains the leading producer of the metal in Africa and ranks sixth globally in annual manganese production, producing more than 3 million metric tons each year. The country’s northeastern region is home to huge iron ore deposits, another crucial natural resource to Gabon’s economy.
Oil And Gas
The country has the sixth largest proven deposits of oil on the continent, having an estimated 3.68 billion barrels of oil reserves. The country has tapped into its immense oil deposits and has a daily production of oil estimated at 0.244 million barrels. Gabon only consumes a tiny fraction of its oil production (the country’s daily consumption is 0.013 million barrels), with the bulk of the oil produced being sold to the foreign markets. Oil is the largest export item from the country and is also the country’s chief foreign exchange earner. Crude oil accounts for about 96% of the country’s total exports to the United States. Some of the crude oil is refined at the country’s sole oil refinery, the Sogara Oil Refinery, which is partly owned by the Gabonese government. The country also has enormous deposits of natural gas which are estimated to be over 28.3 billion cubic meters. The production of the natural gas in the country is estimated to be about 0.1 billion cubic meters. Unlike the country’s crude oil which is primarily destined for foreign markets, Gabon consumes all of the natural gas it produces.
Dangers Of Oil Reliance
As one of the continent’s major oil producing countries, Gabon has seen its fortunes change in less than a century through oil exports. The country was able to finance many projects using the proceeds from its oil exports which helped thousands to rise from poverty. Unfortunately, oil production in the country has been on a steady decline since it reached its peak in 1997. The decline in production compounded with the price fluctuations of the commodity in global markets have been a signal of the dangers of the country’s reliance on oil. The effects of this overreliance are already seen in the decline of Gabon’s agricultural sector. Decades of little support from the government have seen the agricultural sector decline and the country relies on food imports to feed its people.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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