France and Gabon

Political relations

It is to Paris that President Ali Bongo Ondimba made his first bilateral visit outside of his sub-region on 20 November 2009. In addition to bilateral meetings on the sidelines of international summits, President Bongo was received at the Elysée Palace five times from December 2009 to July 2012. After participating in the Elysée Summit for Peace and Security in Africa in December 2013, President Bongo made a working visit to France on 4 April 2014. The last meeting with the President of the French Republic at the Elysée Palace on 14 September 2015 was focused on preparing COP21, regional security issues and bilateral economic relations. As the only Head of State from Central Africa participating in the Republican march on 11 January 2015 after the terrorist attacks, President Bongo also participated in the Franco-African Forum for Shared Growth held at the French Ministry of the Economy and Finance on 6 February 2015 and met with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence on the sidelines of the 2015 Paris Air Show in Le Bourget. Segolène Royal and Annick Girardin’s visit to Libreville for the fourth edition of the New York Forum Africa provided an opportunity for productive exchanges with President Bongo, especially in preparing COP21. Ségolène Royal visited Libreville again in March 2016 to talk about implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Most recent bilateral visits

2 June 2016: visit to Paris by Emmanuel Issozé Ngondet, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Met with Jean-Marc Ayrault at the French Foreign Ministry.
15-16 May 2016: visit by Jean-Marie Le Guen, Minister of State for Relations with Parliament.
14-15 March 2016: visit by Ségolène Royal, Minister of the Environment, Energy and Marine Affairs, responsible for International Climate Relations.
14 September 2015: working visit by President Bongo to Paris. Met with the President of the French Republic.
28-29 August 2015: visit by Ségolène Royal and Annick Girardin for the fourth edition of the New York Forum Africa.
16 June 2015: Visit of Ali Bongo to the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget. Met with Manuel Valls and Jean-Yves Le Drian.
5 February 2015: visit by Emmanuel Issoze Ngondet, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Régis Immongault, Minister of the Economy. Met with Annick Girardin, Minister of State for Development and Francophonie.
27-31 October 2014: Visit by Ernest Mouho Epigat, Minister of Defence for Euronaval 2014. Met with Jean-Yves Le Drian.
25 September 2014: meeting between Ségolène Royal and Noel Nelson Messone, Minister of the Environment, in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
15 August 2014: participation of President Bongo in the commemoration ceremonies of the Allied invasion of Southern France.
23 May 2014: visit by Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to Libreville for the New York Forum Africa.
8 September 2014: working visit by President Bongo to Paris. Met with the President of the French Republic.
2 January 2014: working visit by Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defence. Met with President Bongo.
3 December 2013: visit by Emmanuel Issoze Ngondet, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Met with Laurent Fabius.
22 November 2013: visit by Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defence. Met with President Bongo.
5 June 2013: visit by President Bongo to Paris for the awarding of the Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize (UNESCO) to President Hollande.
24 October 2012: visit to France by Pacôme-Rufin Ondzunga, Minister of Defence for Euronaval 2012.
4-5 July 2012: working visit by President Bongo to Paris. Met with the President of the French Republic.
3-6 February 2012: visit to Gabon by Edouard Courtial, Minister of State for French Nationals Abroad.
16 July 2011: visit to Gabon by Prime Minister François Fillon.

Economic relations

(Sources: DGT)

In 2015, Gabon ranked 70th among France’s customers (8% of all French exports) and 29th among its trade surpluses (trade surplus of €366 million). In the Africa-Indian Ocean region, it ranks 9th among France’s customers and 5th among trade surpluses.

France is Gabon’s leading supplier, ahead of Côte d’Ivoire and China. French exports to Gabon amounted to €539 million in 2015. They mainly concern mechanical and electrical equipment, agricultural products and pharmaceutical products.

French imports from Gabon amounted to €173 million in 2015. French imports concern the hydrocarbons sector (60% of imports) but also the wood and manganese sector.

There are 120 subsidiaries of French companies working in Gabon and around 200 French-owned companies. They employ 13,000 people and generated an estimated €3.6 billion in 2013. In 2014, French investment stock amounted to over €1 billion (source: Banque de France).

Outside of the hydrocarbons sector, French companies are mainly working in the following sectors:

Mining manganese ore: the Eramet Group is working in Gabon via Comilog, Gabon’s second leading company, in which it owns 66% of share capital (the Gabonese State owns 25%). Via Comilog, the Manganese branch of the Eramet Group is the world’s second leading producer of high-grade manganese ore.
Logging and timber processing (Rougier, CBG/Fénart Group, and Thébault Transbois).

Construction and public works: Vinci Group (Sogea Satom) and Bouygues Group (Colas, Dragages, ETDE).

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

To support the “Gabon Vert” programme, in 2008 France signed a debt-swap agreement (€60.4 million with interest), with the total amount allocated to the sustainable management of the forest ecosystems and development of the wood/forest sector economy. Co-piloted by the French party and the Gabonese party, the agreement has funded a plan to stop elephant poaching and a satellite surveillance project developed by the Gabonese Agency of Space Studies and Observation, inaugurated by President Bongo in August 2015, with Ségolène Royal, Annick Girardin and Jean-Yves Le Gall, President of the CNES, in attendance. In addition, the Agence Française de Développement supported the preparation of the National Climate Plan and the drafting of Gabon’s contribution to reducing GHGs ahead of COP21.

In the area of cultural cooperation, in 2011 the Institut Français in Gabon took over from the Centre Culturel Français Saint-Exupéry de Libreville. It works to promote French culture and develop partnerships with those working in the local art world. The main areas of action are promoting French and Gabonese performances at events (Fête de la Musique, Lire en Fête, Festival de Théâtre International), supporting the cultural development of Gabon thanks to the transfer of expertise (creation, dissemination, conservation, training, management) and developing sponsorships to help implement these major events. With a view to COP21, the Institut Français in Gabon organized several events (debates, conferences, training sessions) as part of the “300 days to understand the challenges in tackling climate change” campaign.

Scientific and research cooperation conducted with Gabon mainly concerns the medical research sector with support from the International Medical Research Centre of Franceville (CIRMF). A regional WHO reference centre for diagnosing viral haemorrhagic fevers, the CIRMF is fully mobilized in the fight against Ebola.
In 2011, France and Gabon launched a Concorde scholarship programme which, with funding from both countries, welcomes particularly qualified Gabonese students at the end of their studies in France.

In July 2013, France and Gabon together celebrated the hundredth anniversary of the arrival in Gabon of Albert Schweitz, a 1952 Nobel Laureate from the Alsace region of France, coming to Gabon and the founding of his hospital in Labaréné.

Other cooperation

France has been sending armed forces to Gabon since its independence under defence agreements of August 1960. On 1 September 2007, the French Forces in Gabon replaced the French troops in Gabon before becoming the French Elements in Gabon in 2014. The French Elements implement operational and technical military cooperation with all of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and ensure a presence benefiting host countries and French interests in the region. They actively contributed to the training of the Gabonese contingent deployed in the Central African Republic as part of MINUSCA, the United Nations force deployed since September 2014. The new defence agreement aiming to introduce in a transparent manner a security partnership as part of the African collective security mechanism, signed in July 2010 entered into force in June 2014.

France also provides it support to the military staff academy in Libreville, which has become a reference academy in this area in Africa, and the military health service training school in Melen, considered a centre of excellence in Africa. Lastly, the health service of the armed forces has very widely supported the creation of emergency medical and resuscitation services for the armed forces (SMURA) providing pre-hospital care to civilians.

As regards interior security, our resources are focused on fighting illegal immigration networks and document abuse. Migration flows are being managed jointly under an agreement signed on 7 July 2007.

Updated: 02.01.17