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Re: [Gabon Discussion] "GABON: Poverty amid plenty as unemployment booms"

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  • w Siemers
    Maybe a little from left field, but some 40 years ago or so, there were those of us who were concerned that in Gabon there were developing two classes. The
    Message 1 of 16 , Sep 18, 2006
      Maybe a little from left field, but some 40 years ago or so, there were
      those of us who were concerned that in Gabon there were developing two
      classes. The poverty class in the village (and cities as well) and those
      who by virtue of education were able to secure management type or
      teaching jobs an moved into urban areas that offered more of the finer
      things of life electricity, etc. We were concerned that although there
      were plenty of "common laborers" and what we viewed to be an abundant
      supply of the educatee "evoluee'" there was no middle class or tradesman
      group either in place or developing. We knew of a few europeans who
      filled in those positions and did quite nicely.
      We spent a limited amount of time trying to re-open a facility at
      N'gomo, an abandoned mission on the river below Lambrene. Prior to 1930
      it had been a rather large school with trades training and even the
      operation of a kiln to make brick and a sawmill. We spent a few nights
      in a house that had been abandoned for about 30 years and because of its
      fine construction was still sound.
      Alas, about all we accomplished in our work and discussions with some of
      the powers that were in the government was to along with Henri Bucher of
      the Paris Mission Society, to dig out some books from the turn of the
      century (german script printing no less) and ship them off to Libreville
      where the powers that were were concerned about constructing a climate
      controled facility to protect those old books.
      Our attempt never got off the ground. However, it appears to us that
      today, that missing middle trades class is perhaps still missing in Gabon.

      bobutne wrote:

      >LIBREVILLE, 18 September (IRIN) - Patiently scraping the scales off
      >fish at the Pont Nomba market in Gabon's capital, 19-year-old high-
      >school graduate Etienne Biyoghe said he once dreamt of an office
      >career. But as unemployment has soared in oil-rich Gabon, now he
      >feels lucky just to have enough money to put some food on the table
    • bobutne
      Libreville - China is investing massively across Africa, especially in oil and construction, and especially in countries like Sudan, where it backs the
      Message 2 of 16 , Sep 29, 2006
        Libreville - China is investing massively across Africa, especially
        in oil and construction, and especially in countries like Sudan,
        where it backs the government's resistance to the deployment of
        United Nations peacekeepers in Darfur. These investments have been
        greeted with enthusiasm by many but in the west African state of
        Gabon, the activities of a Chinese oil company have created uproar
        among donors, conservationists and even within the government itself.

        In 2002 Gabon designated a quarter of its territory as nature reserve
        Na move designed to protect 67 000km2 of mainly pristine rainforest
        that is home to a wealth of plants and animals. Four years on the
        government of President Omar Bongo, who has ruled the country for
        nearly 40 years, has run into its first major conflict of interests
        involving one of these nature reserves.

        State-run Sinopec, the largest refiner in energy-hungry China, has
        been prospecting for oil in the Loango national park in southern
        Gabon and has employed methods that critics say respect neither the
        law nor the environment.

        The company, which has declined all comment on the affair, was
        ordered by Libreville this month to halt all prospecting activities
        in the park. But the embarrassing case continued to cause upheaval in
        a country torn between the pressure to develop and the pressure to
        preserve its natural heritage.

        The problem began before the summer, when teams from a US
        environmental organisation, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS),
        accused Sinopec of abusing its oil exploration licence in Loango.

        Far from protecting an area lauded in travel magazines as "Africa's
        last paradise", Sinopec was accused of dynamiting and polluting the
        park, tearing up the forest to create roads and generally destroying
        the habitat on which Loango's plants and animals survive.

        In addition, WCS accused the Chinese company of acting completely
        illegally because the environmental impact study it was obliged to
        conduct in Loango had not been approved by the Gabonese environment

        "This study is completely phony," said one observer, who asked not to
        be named, "and Sinopec's activities in Loango are therefore illegal."

        In early September a government delegation visited the park and
        confirmed that Sinopec was guilty of several of the abuses logged by
        the WCS in its report on the company, a copy of which was obtained by
        AFP. The affair has aroused fury and concern among Gabonese
        conservation bodies.

        "What is happening in Loango calls into question all the commitments
        that Gabon has made to protect the environment," said Nicaise
        Moulombi, head of group Croissance Saine Environment (Healthy Growth -

        "It proves that our authorities prefer the immediate gains obtained
        from oil to the long-term gains obtained from conservation," added
        Marc Ona Essangui from Brainforest, another non-governmental

        The scandal has also sparked anger among Gabon's international
        donors - who include the European Union, France, the United States
        and the World Bank, which has earmarked $10-million for Gabon's
        nature reserves.

        In a letter addressed to Gabon's forestry minister, Emile Doumba, the
        donors recently complained that Sinopec's activities "pose a threat
        to the biology and tourist potential of Gabon's parks and to the
        credibility of the government and recommend that oil exploration
        there be halted". The scandal has even caused tensions within the
        government itself. "What Sinopec is doing is unacceptable," Doumba
        said. "If we find a huge reserve under a park we're not going to
        ignore it, that's for sure," he continued. "But I think it is better
        to favour the long term and the development of ecotourism, which has
        considerable potential in Gabon."

        After lengthy discussions, the national parks council has finally
        ordered Sinopec to halt its exploration activities and WCS reported
        that it had begun this week to pull its workers out of Loango.

        While they are celebrating this conservation victory,
        environmentalists fear this conflict will be only the first of many
        to come. An immense iron ore mining project is about to get underway
        in Belinga, northern Gabon, and it is also being run by a Chinese

        "If Sinopec can get away with this in Loango, we risk seeing a whole
        string of abuses in Belinga," one conservationist told AFP.

        "We don't intend to stop Gabon exploiting its underground resources
        but it has to show a good example by enforcing its own laws." - Sapa-
        AFP http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?
      • bobutne
        afrol News, 13 October - Steadily dropping since its peak in 1997, Gabon s oil production is finally experiencing a slight growth, new statistics reveal. In
        Message 3 of 16 , Oct 15, 2006
          afrol News, 13 October - Steadily dropping since its peak in 1997,
          Gabon's oil production is finally experiencing a slight growth, new
          statistics reveal. In the same period, Gabon has been reduced from
          the third to the sixth largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa.

          According to statistics released by the US government agency Energy
          Information Administration (EIA), Gabon's decrease in oil production
          has now stopped. During the first nine months of 2006, Gabon produced
          237,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) of crude oil, EIA informs. This is a
          small increase from 2005.

          Contrasted with Gabon's 1997 peak of 371,000 bbl/d, 2006 oil
          production however has declined by 36 percent. "In part, the decline
          in production is due to maturing fields and a lack of new fields
          coming online, something that Gabon is working to change over the
          next few years," the US agency explains. Despite these efforts, EIA
          however foresees further "looming oil export declines."

          The main reason for Gabon's decreased oil production is found on its
          largest producing oil field, Shell's offshore Rabi-Kounga, which now
          only produces around 55,000 bbl/d. This is down from its 1997 peak of
          217,000 bbl/d. In an effort to extend the productive life of the
          field, Shell in 2003 however began re-injecting associated natural
          gas into the field.

          Apart from Rabi-Kounga, Gabon in fact has been successful in
          increasing its oil production during the last years. Given the
          current high world market prices, Libreville authorities have managed
          to recruit several smaller firms to bring new oil fields online in

          Vaalco, Addax Petroleum, and Sasol are involved in the Etame offshore
          field, with a current of approximately 18,000 bbl/d. In July this
          year, Addax Petroleum purchased the interests of Pan-Ocean Energy in
          Gabon for US$ 1.4 billion. The acquisition now makes Addax the
          largest producer in Gabon, with total production of more than 100,000

          Further investments are also on track. Only last month, FirstAfrica
          Oil completed initial drilling in the offshore East Orovinyare
          oilfield. The company hopes to have production from the field online
          by the third quarter of 2007. Initial production is expected at over
          7,000 bbl/d. Several onshore fields are also currently being
          explored, developed or expanded.

          Gabon was hit hard by the declining oil production, with its highly
          ineffective administration being used to almost unlimited revenues.
          Despite its small population of about 1.4 million, limited social
          spending and a very slow progress in developing infrastructure, the
          Libreville government had accumulated a debt of around US$ 3.8
          billion - debt payments now amounting to 40 percent of the annual
          government budget.

          Faced with a financial crisis, Libreville during the last two years
          has reformed its economy, increased transparency, embraced good
          governance and achieved new oil investments. In 2005, Gabon finally
          experienced sustainable growth figures, with GDP increasing by 2.7
          percent - around the same as population growth. Also inflation was
          reduced to close to nothing, following decades of hiking prices in
          the oil-driven economy.

          In 2005, Gabon registered per-capita GDP of approximately US$ 5,000,
          which is significantly higher than the sub-Saharan African average of
          US$ 1,500. However, analysts estimate that 60–70 percent of Gabonese
          live below the poverty line despite forty years of large oil exports.

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