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World Bank Infrastructure Projects begin in Gabon

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  • bobutne
    November 2, 2007 – It is 8 a.m. on October 23, 2007. The gray sky, covered by a thick hazy cloud, sprinkles soft morning dew on the neighborhoods of
    Message 1 of 6 , Jan 8, 2008
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      November 2, 2007 – It is 8 a.m. on October 23, 2007. The gray sky,
      covered by a thick hazy cloud, sprinkles soft morning dew on the
      neighborhoods of Libreville.

      Only the day before, the Gabonese capital had been pelted by
      torrential rains, a typical sign of the rainy season in this
      equatorial region where the thermometer registers a temperature of 38
      o Celsius and the climate is warm and humid. In Nkembo Sotéga, one of
      the many 'underprivileged neighborhoods' in the capital, a three-
      vehicle cortege stops abruptly in front of a home. In the yard, a tri-
      colored green, yellow, and blue flag flutters like a weathervane atop
      a roughly six or seven meter metal pole.

      The home is owned by Mr. Ondo Aboghe, the neighborhood chief. Leading
      the cortege is Olivier Frémond, the World Bank's country manager in
      Gabon. In a jovial manner, he heads toward the yard where the
      neighborhood chief awaits him. After exchanging pleasantries, Frémond
      informs the sixty-year-old chief of the reason for his visit.

      In a matter of minutes, word spreads like wildfire through the
      neighborhood. A crowd gathers around the elder chief who is
      conversing with his unexpected guest. This unannounced morning visit
      has aroused their curiosity. The question they seem to be asking
      themselves is "what could possibly bring a World Bank representative
      to this poor community?"

      After this brief conversation, the neighborhood chief explains. "This
      is the World Bank representative. He is visiting us this morning
      because our neighborhood, like Avéa, Nkembo, and Cocotiers, has been
      selected to receive paved roads, bridges, and other community
      amenities in order to improve our living conditions."

      His words are enough to generate a spontaneous burst of applause.
      Fueling this reaction is the realization of a distant and long-held
      desire of the inhabitants of the neighborhood. Frémond's visit has
      allowed him to see the difficult living conditions of the
      communities – the lack of roads and sanitation infrastructure,
      chaotic construction, stagnant water filled with mosquito larvae, and
      homes built on river beds with flimsy materials. Plagued by flooding
      during the rainy season, these communities are anxiously awaiting
      this jointly financed Gabonese Government/World Bank project. Work on
      the local infrastructure development project will begin in December
      2007.

      The project will cover six cities: Libreville, Port-Gentil,
      Franceville, Oyem, Mouila, and Lambaréné. The objective is to improve
      the living conditions of the people in the target areas. The project
      has five components:

      (i) Building community infrastructure in the underprivileged
      neighborhoods (providing access to drinking water and electricity,
      building paved roads, developing small-scale local infrastructure );

      (ii) Capacity building through the provision of training and
      technical assistance to the appropriate municipal and ministerial
      officials and to the beneficiary communities;

      (iii) Developing SMEs through improved procurement procedures and
      financial conditions;

      (iv) Providing assistance with public procurement management reforms
      with the aim of enhancing transparency and efficiency in public works
      financing; and

      (v) Supporting efforts to control HIV/AIDS in the cities targeted for
      the project.

      At the end of this visit and after a series of conversations with the
      riverside residents, Frémond has assessed the extent of the
      challenge. He takes the opportunity to urge residents to become
      involved with the maintenance of current and future works. In his
      view, it is "essential to improve joint management" in order to
      achieve sustainable development.


      Permanent URL for this page: http://go.worldbank.org/3W9KTK2YW0
    • Tom LeBlanc
      Bob, This is the best news I ve heard about Gabon in a long time. This is a great opportunity to improve the lives of a lot of people. I will cross my fingers
      Message 2 of 6 , Jan 8, 2008
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        Bob,

        This is the best news I've heard about Gabon in a long
        time. This is a great opportunity to improve the lives
        of a lot of people. I will cross my fingers for its
        success.

        Tom

        --- bobutne <bobutne@...> wrote:

        > November 2, 2007 – It is 8 a.m. on October 23, 2007.
        > The gray sky,
        > covered by a thick hazy cloud, sprinkles soft
        > morning dew on the
        > neighborhoods of Libreville.
        >
        > Only the day before, the Gabonese capital had been
        > pelted by
        > torrential rains, a typical sign of the rainy season
        > in this
        > equatorial region where the thermometer registers a
        > temperature of 38
        > o Celsius and the climate is warm and humid. In
        > Nkembo Sotéga, one of
        > the many 'underprivileged neighborhoods' in the
        > capital, a three-
        > vehicle cortege stops abruptly in front of a home.
        > In the yard, a tri-
        > colored green, yellow, and blue flag flutters like a
        > weathervane atop
        > a roughly six or seven meter metal pole.
        >
        > The home is owned by Mr. Ondo Aboghe, the
        > neighborhood chief. Leading
        > the cortege is Olivier Frémond, the World Bank's
        > country manager in
        > Gabon. In a jovial manner, he heads toward the yard
        > where the
        > neighborhood chief awaits him. After exchanging
        > pleasantries, Frémond
        > informs the sixty-year-old chief of the reason for
        > his visit.
        >
        > In a matter of minutes, word spreads like wildfire
        > through the
        > neighborhood. A crowd gathers around the elder chief
        > who is
        > conversing with his unexpected guest. This
        > unannounced morning visit
        > has aroused their curiosity. The question they seem
        > to be asking
        > themselves is "what could possibly bring a World
        > Bank representative
        > to this poor community?"
        >
        > After this brief conversation, the neighborhood
        > chief explains. "This
        > is the World Bank representative. He is visiting us
        > this morning
        > because our neighborhood, like Avéa, Nkembo, and
        > Cocotiers, has been
        > selected to receive paved roads, bridges, and other
        > community
        > amenities in order to improve our living
        > conditions."
        >
        > His words are enough to generate a spontaneous burst
        > of applause.
        > Fueling this reaction is the realization of a
        > distant and long-held
        > desire of the inhabitants of the neighborhood.
        > Frémond's visit has
        > allowed him to see the difficult living conditions
        > of the
        > communities – the lack of roads and sanitation
        > infrastructure,
        > chaotic construction, stagnant water filled with
        > mosquito larvae, and
        > homes built on river beds with flimsy materials.
        > Plagued by flooding
        > during the rainy season, these communities are
        > anxiously awaiting
        > this jointly financed Gabonese Government/World Bank
        > project. Work on
        > the local infrastructure development project will
        > begin in December
        > 2007.
        >
        > The project will cover six cities: Libreville,
        > Port-Gentil,
        > Franceville, Oyem, Mouila, and Lambaréné. The
        > objective is to improve
        > the living conditions of the people in the target
        > areas. The project
        > has five components:
        >
        > (i) Building community infrastructure in the
        > underprivileged
        > neighborhoods (providing access to drinking water
        > and electricity,
        > building paved roads, developing small-scale local
        > infrastructure );
        >
        > (ii) Capacity building through the provision of
        > training and
        > technical assistance to the appropriate municipal
        > and ministerial
        > officials and to the beneficiary communities;
        >
        > (iii) Developing SMEs through improved procurement
        > procedures and
        > financial conditions;
        >
        > (iv) Providing assistance with public procurement
        > management reforms
        > with the aim of enhancing transparency and
        > efficiency in public works
        > financing; and
        >
        > (v) Supporting efforts to control HIV/AIDS in the
        > cities targeted for
        > the project.
        >
        > At the end of this visit and after a series of
        > conversations with the
        > riverside residents, Frémond has assessed the extent
        > of the
        > challenge. He takes the opportunity to urge
        > residents to become
        > involved with the maintenance of current and future
        > works. In his
        > view, it is "essential to improve joint management"
        > in order to
        > achieve sustainable development.
        >
        >
        > Permanent URL for this page:
        > http://go.worldbank.org/3W9KTK2YW0
        >
        >



        ____________________________________________________________________________________
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        http://www.yahoo.com/r/hs
      • bobutne
        Tom, Before we break out the champagne , see todays Reuters story below: By Daniel Flynn LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Bodies of African migrants wash up on the
        Message 3 of 6 , Jan 9, 2008
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          Tom, Before we 'break out the champagne', see todays Reuters story
          below:

          By Daniel Flynn

          LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Bodies of African migrants wash up on the
          beaches and those who survive the ocean voyage complain of
          discrimination and police harassment. This is not Italy or Spain, but
          the small central African country of Gabon. While Western Europe
          attracts thousands of African migrants each year, many making a
          perilous journey by sea only to find poverty, Africa itself has a
          similar story.

          Gabon has long been a magnet for the poor of neighboring countries,
          lured by a mirage of prosperity. The discovery of petroleum in the
          1960s, just a few years after independence from France, made Gabon
          one of Africa's first oil exporters and, on paper, gave its small
          population one of the highest incomes per head in the world's poorest
          continent. Futuristic government buildings have mushroomed along the
          main boulevard of the capital Libreville, while plush offices and
          hotels jostle for space on a seafront highway where slick dark
          limousines and four-wheel-drives glide by.

          Forty years of peace under President Omar Bongo, Africa's longest-
          serving ruler, have helped make Gabon an oasis of stability in a
          region torn by civil wars and coups. Neighboring states such as
          Cameroon, with a population nearly 10 times larger, have looked on
          enviously.

          "There's no work in Cameroon so I came here," said Mohamed, a taxi
          driver who lives in a shanty town behind the National Assembly. "But
          the Gabonese don't like migrants ... they always want to get
          something from you."Girls won't talk to you when they realize you're
          a foreigner and police in Libreville hassle you for money."

          For many migrants, the journey ends in the wooden shacks and breeze-
          block houses in the shadow of Libreville's offices. These slums are
          full of poor workers from Senegal, Nigeria, Cameroon, Benin, Togo and
          elsewhere in West Africa.

          Meanwhile, in wealthy neighborhoods supermarket shelves are stocked
          with expensive European imports, everything from eggs to champagne,
          for the minority benefiting from the oil boom. Consultants ECA
          International ranked Libreville as the 8th most expensive city in the
          world for expatriates last year, continuing almost two decades near
          the top of the index.

          Despite outward signs of prosperity, there are not enough well-paid
          jobs for Gabonese themselves, let along migrants. Gabon's population
          is estimated at 1.5 million, a third of whom live below the poverty
          line, according to the United Nations, despite a theoretical gross
          domestic product of more than $7,000. No-one knows the population of
          the city's slums, which lack reliable water and electricity supplies
          and house a migrant underclass that includes taxi drivers, waiters
          and laborers. Migrants to Gabon from West Africa can pay about $450
          for a place on an open wooden boat packed with up to 300 people for
          the three-day journey.

          With only two patrol boats to police the country's 800-km (500-mile)
          coastline, the chances of detection are slim. There are other risks:
          the bodies of 12 West African migrants washed up in Libreville in
          December after their boat was smashed by the Atlantic rollers.

          The peoples of West and Central Africa have a nomadic tradition.
          Migration is encouraged by ethnic and family ties that criss-cross
          national borders established by colonial powers. Nonetheless
          migration in Africa has become a sensitive topic, with friction
          between ethnic groups sometimes flaring into conflict. In Ivory
          Coast, the massive influx of labor from landlocked Burkina Faso
          helped spark a 2002-2003 civil war.

          The Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) was
          supposed to tear down economic barriers between the six states of the
          region, but it has stalled over rivalries among its leaders, notably
          Bongo and Cameroon's Paul Biya. "CEMAC just doesn't work. The
          presidents don't like each other," said Mohamed, who paid 550,000 CFA
          francs ($1,209) for his residence permit in Gabon, a huge sum in
          Africa.

          Most migrants are happy just to have work. Felix, another taxi
          driver, fled Togo when violence broke out after a presidential
          election two years ago and hundreds were killed. His wife and two
          children are still missing although the 40-year-old has scoured
          refugee camps. "In Togo, it's not like here, you cannot find work,"
          he said. "I came here with nothing, now I can save perhaps 100,000
          francs every month."

          According to the CIA's "World Factbook", Gabon's unemployment rate of
          about 20 percent remains well below neighboring countries such as
          Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Angola. However, many people here say
          the number of jobless has crept up and living standards have fallen.
          With oil output subsiding and questions looming over who will succeed
          the 72-year-old president, the future appears less assured.
        • Gary Marsh
          Bob, Remember that in 1962 the population of Gabon was about 400,000. Most of the people lived in small rural villages. They might not have been well fed but
          Message 4 of 6 , Jan 9, 2008
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            Bob,
            Remember that in 1962 the population
            of Gabon was about 400,000. Most
            of the people lived in small rural villages.
            They might not have been well fed but
            they weren't starving either. (except for
            the little kids with the bloated bellies)
            The do-gooders and movers-and-shakers
            of the world have to realize that the first
            step in improving a country's welfare is
            the improvement of agriculture and the
            ability of a country to feed itself. Attacking
            health problems comes second because
            many health problems can be avoided or
            overcome by a well nourished body.
            You can't eat oil.

            GM



            To: gabondiscussion@yahoogroups.comFrom: bobutne@...: Wed, 9 Jan 2008 15:07:09 +0000Subject: Re: [Gabon Discussion] World Bank Infrastructure Projects begin in Gabon




            Tom, Before we 'break out the champagne', see todays Reuters story below:By Daniel FlynnLIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Bodies of African migrants wash up on the beaches and those who survive the ocean voyage complain of discrimination and police harassment. This is not Italy or Spain, but the small central African country of Gabon. While Western Europe attracts thousands of African migrants each year, many making a perilous journey by sea only to find poverty, Africa itself has a similar story.Gabon has long been a magnet for the poor of neighboring countries, lured by a mirage of prosperity. The discovery of petroleum in the 1960s, just a few years after independence from France, made Gabon one of Africa's first oil exporters and, on paper, gave its small population one of the highest incomes per head in the world's poorest continent. Futuristic government buildings have mushroomed along the main boulevard of the capital Libreville, while plush offices and hotels jostle for space on a seafront highway where slick dark limousines and four-wheel-drives glide by.Forty years of peace under President Omar Bongo, Africa's longest-serving ruler, have helped make Gabon an oasis of stability in a region torn by civil wars and coups. Neighboring states such as Cameroon, with a population nearly 10 times larger, have looked on enviously."There's no work in Cameroon so I came here," said Mohamed, a taxi driver who lives in a shanty town behind the National Assembly. "But the Gabonese don't like migrants ... they always want to get something from you."Girls won't talk to you when they realize you're a foreigner and police in Libreville hassle you for money."For many migrants, the journey ends in the wooden shacks and breeze-block houses in the shadow of Libreville's offices. These slums are full of poor workers from Senegal, Nigeria, Cameroon, Benin, Togo and elsewhere in West Africa.Meanwhile, in wealthy neighborhoods supermarket shelves are stocked with expensive European imports, everything from eggs to champagne, for the minority benefiting from the oil boom. Consultants ECA International ranked Libreville as the 8th most expensive city in the world for expatriates last year, continuing almost two decades near the top of the index.Despite outward signs of prosperity, there are not enough well-paid jobs for Gabonese themselves, let along migrants. Gabon's population is estimated at 1.5 million, a third of whom live below the poverty line, according to the United Nations, despite a theoretical gross domestic product of more than $7,000. No-one knows the population of the city's slums, which lack reliable water and electricity supplies and house a migrant underclass that includes taxi drivers, waiters and laborers. Migrants to Gabon from West Africa can pay about $450 for a place on an open wooden boat packed with up to 300 people for the three-day journey. With only two patrol boats to police the country's 800-km (500-mile) coastline, the chances of detection are slim. There are other risks: the bodies of 12 West African migrants washed up in Libreville in December after their boat was smashed by the Atlantic rollers.The peoples of West and Central Africa have a nomadic tradition. Migration is encouraged by ethnic and family ties that criss-cross national borders established by colonial powers. Nonetheless migration in Africa has become a sensitive topic, with friction between ethnic groups sometimes flaring into conflict. In Ivory Coast, the massive influx of labor from landlocked Burkina Faso helped spark a 2002-2003 civil war.The Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) was supposed to tear down economic barriers between the six states of the region, but it has stalled over rivalries among its leaders, notably Bongo and Cameroon's Paul Biya. "CEMAC just doesn't work. The presidents don't like each other," said Mohamed, who paid 550,000 CFA francs ($1,209) for his residence permit in Gabon, a huge sum in Africa.Most migrants are happy just to have work. Felix, another taxi driver, fled Togo when violence broke out after a presidential election two years ago and hundreds were killed. His wife and two children are still missing although the 40-year-old has scoured refugee camps. "In Togo, it's not like here, you cannot find work," he said. "I came here with nothing, now I can save perhaps 100,000 francs every month."According to the CIA's "World Factbook", Gabon's unemployment rate of about 20 percent remains well below neighboring countries such as Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Angola. However, many people here say the number of jobless has crept up and living standards have fallen. With oil output subsiding and questions looming over who will succeed the 72-year-old president, the future appears less assured.






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          • Tom LeBlanc
            Bummer... ... ____________________________________________________________________________________ Looking for last minute shopping deals? Find them fast with
            Message 5 of 6 , Jan 10, 2008
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              Bummer...

              --- bobutne <bobutne@...> wrote:

              > Tom, Before we 'break out the champagne', see todays
              > Reuters story
              > below:
              >
              > By Daniel Flynn
              >
              > LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Bodies of African migrants
              > wash up on the
              > beaches and those who survive the ocean voyage
              > complain of
              > discrimination and police harassment. This is not
              > Italy or Spain, but
              > the small central African country of Gabon. While
              > Western Europe
              > attracts thousands of African migrants each year,
              > many making a
              > perilous journey by sea only to find poverty, Africa
              > itself has a
              > similar story.
              >
              > Gabon has long been a magnet for the poor of
              > neighboring countries,
              > lured by a mirage of prosperity. The discovery of
              > petroleum in the
              > 1960s, just a few years after independence from
              > France, made Gabon
              > one of Africa's first oil exporters and, on paper,
              > gave its small
              > population one of the highest incomes per head in
              > the world's poorest
              > continent. Futuristic government buildings have
              > mushroomed along the
              > main boulevard of the capital Libreville, while
              > plush offices and
              > hotels jostle for space on a seafront highway where
              > slick dark
              > limousines and four-wheel-drives glide by.
              >
              > Forty years of peace under President Omar Bongo,
              > Africa's longest-
              > serving ruler, have helped make Gabon an oasis of
              > stability in a
              > region torn by civil wars and coups. Neighboring
              > states such as
              > Cameroon, with a population nearly 10 times larger,
              > have looked on
              > enviously.
              >
              > "There's no work in Cameroon so I came here," said
              > Mohamed, a taxi
              > driver who lives in a shanty town behind the
              > National Assembly. "But
              > the Gabonese don't like migrants ... they always
              > want to get
              > something from you."Girls won't talk to you when
              > they realize you're
              > a foreigner and police in Libreville hassle you for
              > money."
              >
              > For many migrants, the journey ends in the wooden
              > shacks and breeze-
              > block houses in the shadow of Libreville's offices.
              > These slums are
              > full of poor workers from Senegal, Nigeria,
              > Cameroon, Benin, Togo and
              > elsewhere in West Africa.
              >
              > Meanwhile, in wealthy neighborhoods supermarket
              > shelves are stocked
              > with expensive European imports, everything from
              > eggs to champagne,
              > for the minority benefiting from the oil boom.
              > Consultants ECA
              > International ranked Libreville as the 8th most
              > expensive city in the
              > world for expatriates last year, continuing almost
              > two decades near
              > the top of the index.
              >
              > Despite outward signs of prosperity, there are not
              > enough well-paid
              > jobs for Gabonese themselves, let along migrants.
              > Gabon's population
              > is estimated at 1.5 million, a third of whom live
              > below the poverty
              > line, according to the United Nations, despite a
              > theoretical gross
              > domestic product of more than $7,000. No-one knows
              > the population of
              > the city's slums, which lack reliable water and
              > electricity supplies
              > and house a migrant underclass that includes taxi
              > drivers, waiters
              > and laborers. Migrants to Gabon from West Africa can
              > pay about $450
              > for a place on an open wooden boat packed with up to
              > 300 people for
              > the three-day journey.
              >
              > With only two patrol boats to police the country's
              > 800-km (500-mile)
              > coastline, the chances of detection are slim. There
              > are other risks:
              > the bodies of 12 West African migrants washed up in
              > Libreville in
              > December after their boat was smashed by the
              > Atlantic rollers.
              >
              > The peoples of West and Central Africa have a
              > nomadic tradition.
              > Migration is encouraged by ethnic and family ties
              > that criss-cross
              > national borders established by colonial powers.
              > Nonetheless
              > migration in Africa has become a sensitive topic,
              > with friction
              > between ethnic groups sometimes flaring into
              > conflict. In Ivory
              > Coast, the massive influx of labor from landlocked
              > Burkina Faso
              > helped spark a 2002-2003 civil war.
              >
              > The Economic and Monetary Community of Central
              > Africa (CEMAC) was
              > supposed to tear down economic barriers between the
              > six states of the
              > region, but it has stalled over rivalries among its
              > leaders, notably
              > Bongo and Cameroon's Paul Biya. "CEMAC just doesn't
              > work. The
              > presidents don't like each other," said Mohamed, who
              > paid 550,000 CFA
              > francs ($1,209) for his residence permit in Gabon, a
              > huge sum in
              > Africa.
              >
              > Most migrants are happy just to have work. Felix,
              > another taxi
              > driver, fled Togo when violence broke out after a
              > presidential
              > election two years ago and hundreds were killed. His
              > wife and two
              > children are still missing although the 40-year-old
              > has scoured
              > refugee camps. "In Togo, it's not like here, you
              > cannot find work,"
              > he said. "I came here with nothing, now I can save
              > perhaps 100,000
              > francs every month."
              >
              > According to the CIA's "World Factbook", Gabon's
              > unemployment rate of
              > about 20 percent remains well below neighboring
              > countries such as
              > Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Angola. However,
              > many people here say
              > the number of jobless has crept up and living
              > standards have fallen.
              > With oil output subsiding and questions looming over
              > who will succeed
              > the 72-year-old president, the future appears less
              > assured.
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >



              ____________________________________________________________________________________
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            • Tom LeBlanc
              GM: While I agree that is is paramount for a country to feed itself if it is going to develop, I don t think you can do one without the other. In fact, I would
              Message 6 of 6 , Jan 10, 2008
              • 0 Attachment
                GM:

                While I agree that is is paramount for a country to
                feed itself if it is going to develop, I don't think
                you can do one without the other. In fact, I would
                argue that you need to do agriculture, health,
                education, and private sector development so that you
                can develop an economy.

                Tom

                --- Gary Marsh <garymmarsh@...> wrote:

                >
                > Bob,
                > Remember that in 1962 the population
                > of Gabon was about 400,000. Most
                > of the people lived in small rural villages.
                > They might not have been well fed but
                > they weren't starving either. (except for
                > the little kids with the bloated bellies)
                > The do-gooders and movers-and-shakers
                > of the world have to realize that the first
                > step in improving a country's welfare is
                > the improvement of agriculture and the
                > ability of a country to feed itself. Attacking
                > health problems comes second because
                > many health problems can be avoided or
                > overcome by a well nourished body.
                > You can't eat oil.
                >
                > GM
                >
                >
                >
                > To: gabondiscussion@yahoogroups.comFrom:
                > bobutne@...: Wed, 9 Jan 2008 15:07:09
                > +0000Subject: Re: [Gabon Discussion] World Bank
                > Infrastructure Projects begin in Gabon
                >
                >
                >
                >
                > Tom, Before we 'break out the champagne', see todays
                > Reuters story below:By Daniel FlynnLIBREVILLE
                > (Reuters) - Bodies of African migrants wash up on
                > the beaches and those who survive the ocean voyage
                > complain of discrimination and police harassment.
                > This is not Italy or Spain, but the small central
                > African country of Gabon. While Western Europe
                > attracts thousands of African migrants each year,
                > many making a perilous journey by sea only to find
                > poverty, Africa itself has a similar story.Gabon has
                > long been a magnet for the poor of neighboring
                > countries, lured by a mirage of prosperity. The
                > discovery of petroleum in the 1960s, just a few
                > years after independence from France, made Gabon one
                > of Africa's first oil exporters and, on paper, gave
                > its small population one of the highest incomes per
                > head in the world's poorest continent. Futuristic
                > government buildings have mushroomed along the main
                > boulevard of the capital Libreville, while plush
                > offices and hotels jostle for space on a seafront
                > highway where slick dark limousines and
                > four-wheel-drives glide by.Forty years of peace
                > under President Omar Bongo, Africa's longest-serving
                > ruler, have helped make Gabon an oasis of stability
                > in a region torn by civil wars and coups.
                > Neighboring states such as Cameroon, with a
                > population nearly 10 times larger, have looked on
                > enviously."There's no work in Cameroon so I came
                > here," said Mohamed, a taxi driver who lives in a
                > shanty town behind the National Assembly. "But the
                > Gabonese don't like migrants ... they always want to
                > get something from you."Girls won't talk to you when
                > they realize you're a foreigner and police in
                > Libreville hassle you for money."For many migrants,
                > the journey ends in the wooden shacks and
                > breeze-block houses in the shadow of Libreville's
                > offices. These slums are full of poor workers from
                > Senegal, Nigeria, Cameroon, Benin, Togo and
                > elsewhere in West Africa.Meanwhile, in wealthy
                > neighborhoods supermarket shelves are stocked with
                > expensive European imports, everything from eggs to
                > champagne, for the minority benefiting from the oil
                > boom. Consultants ECA International ranked
                > Libreville as the 8th most expensive city in the
                > world for expatriates last year, continuing almost
                > two decades near the top of the index.Despite
                > outward signs of prosperity, there are not enough
                > well-paid jobs for Gabonese themselves, let along
                > migrants. Gabon's population is estimated at 1.5
                > million, a third of whom live below the poverty
                > line, according to the United Nations, despite a
                > theoretical gross domestic product of more than
                > $7,000. No-one knows the population of the city's
                > slums, which lack reliable water and electricity
                > supplies and house a migrant underclass that
                > includes taxi drivers, waiters and laborers.
                > Migrants to Gabon from West Africa can pay about
                > $450 for a place on an open wooden boat packed with
                > up to 300 people for the three-day journey. With
                > only two patrol boats to police the country's 800-km
                > (500-mile) coastline, the chances of detection are
                > slim. There are other risks: the bodies of 12 West
                > African migrants washed up in Libreville in December
                > after their boat was smashed by the Atlantic
                > rollers.The peoples of West and Central Africa have
                > a nomadic tradition. Migration is encouraged by
                > ethnic and family ties that criss-cross national
                > borders established by colonial powers. Nonetheless
                > migration in Africa has become a sensitive topic,
                > with friction between ethnic groups sometimes
                > flaring into conflict. In Ivory Coast, the massive
                > influx of labor from landlocked Burkina Faso helped
                > spark a 2002-2003 civil war.The Economic and
                > Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) was
                > supposed to tear down economic barriers between the
                > six states of the region, but it has stalled over
                > rivalries among its leaders, notably Bongo and
                > Cameroon's Paul Biya. "CEMAC just doesn't work. The
                > presidents don't like each other," said Mohamed, who
                > paid 550,000 CFA francs ($1,209) for his residence
                > permit in Gabon, a huge sum in Africa.Most migrants
                > are happy just to have work. Felix, another taxi
                > driver, fled Togo when violence broke out after a
                > presidential election two years ago and hundreds
                > were killed. His wife and two children are still
                > missing although the 40-year-old has scoured refugee
                > camps. "In Togo, it's not like here, you cannot find
                > work," he said. "I came here with nothing, now I can
                > save perhaps 100,000 francs every month."According
                > to the CIA's "World Factbook", Gabon's unemployment
                > rate of about 20 percent remains well below
                > neighboring countries such as Cameroon, Equatorial
                > Guinea and Angola. However, many people here say the
                > number of jobless has crept up and living standards
                > have fallen. With oil output subsiding and questions
                > looming over who will succeed the 72-year-old
                > president, the future appears less assured.
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                _________________________________________________________________
                > Share life as it happens with the new Windows Live.
                >
                http://www.windowslive.com/share.html?ocid=TXT_TAGHM_Wave2_sharelife_012008
                >
                > [Non-text portions of this message have been
                > removed]
                >
                >



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