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An equatorial country on Africa's Atlantic coast, bounded inland by Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, and Congo.


Along the coast of Gabon are many lagoons, mangrove swamps, and large deposits of oil and natural gas. A broad plain covered by thick rainforest rises gradually to a plateau which surrounds a central river valley, and near the head this vegetation gives way to savannah.


Gabon is the wealthiest mainland African country, with one of the continent's fastest economic growth rates, based on substantial, albeit now falling, revenues from offshore oilfields. Gabon was a member of OPEC from 1975 until 1996. Mineral deposits also include gold and diamonds, manganese, and uranium.


In 1839 the French made it a naval base to suppress slave trade. Thus a French colony developed, exploiting the rare woods, gold, diamonds, other minerals, and oil. The country became autonomous within the French Community in 1958 and fully independent in 1960. Almost entirely on the basis of its natural resources it has had one of the fastest economic growth rates in Africa. After early years of political instability, Omar Bongo was elected President in 1967 and continued to rule until his death in 2009. Although multiparty politics was restored in 1990, Bongo and his Gabonese Democratic Party were repeatedly returned to power in elections that were widely seen as flawed. After Omar Bongo's death, his son Ali Bongo was elected President in 2009.

Source: MAPS IN MINUTES™ © RH Publications (1997)




267,667 sq km (103,347 sq miles)


1,384,000 (2005)


1 CFA franc = 100 centimes


Roman Catholic 56.6%; Protestant 17.7%; other Christian 16.3%; Muslim 3.1%; traditional religions 1.7%

Ethnic Groups:

Fang 30.0%; Eshura 20.0%; Mbete 15.0%; Kota 13.0%; Omyene 15.0%


French (official); Fang; Eshura; local languages

International Organizations:

UN; AU; Non-Aligned Movement; Franc Zone; WTO

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