Gabon is leveraging on its agricultural potential away from traditional income from oil exports.
According to Agriculture Minister Biendi Maganga-Moussavou, Gabon which has been a major exporter of crude oil from its offshore wells has been experiencing low returns following the fall in petroleum prices on the global market.
“Oil prices went down from US$110 per barrel to less than US$40 per barrel, and this affected us very much,” said Maganga-Moussavou.
He noted that apart from fluctuation in oil prices, the exchange rate pegged on the CFA against the Euro was affected in 2016 causing an economic crisis.
Speaking at the 14th Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) Private Partnership Conference in Libreville, Gabon, the Minister noted that the country has decided on a paradigm shift from oil to Agriculture which he said will change the fortunes for the country.
“Using the agriculture value chain we intend to turn our fortunes around,” said the Agriculture Minister, and added, “We intend to utilize the youth in our country to engage in agricultural research, develop innovations and technologies that will ensure that we are able to have an edge in our agricultural productivity.”
He said Gabon is keen on implementing the seven Malabo Commitments passed in 2014 that include, Recommitment to the Principles and Values of the CAADP Process, Commitment to Enhancing Investment Finance in Agriculture and Commitment to Ending Hunger in Africa by 2025.
The others are; Commitment to Halving Poverty by the year 2025, through Inclusive Agricultural Growth and Transformation, Commitment to Boosting Intra-African Trade in Agricultural commodities and services, Commitment to Enhancing Resilience of Livelihoods and Production Systems to Climate Variability and other related risks and Commitment to Mutual Accountability to Actions and Results.
While Gabon is a net importer of agricultural commodities especially food from neighboring countries wants to turn the page and with it, the Minister hopes will reduce the huge import bill that has been compounded by low returns from proceeds from petroleum exports.
“We import 90,000 metric tons of rice from Asian countries and 150,000 metric tons of chicken from Cameroon,” said the Minister and added, “We are shifting to domestic production as envisaged by President Ali Bongo.”
Among the plans in place is the reduction in the time needed to register a company in Gabon in order to encourage companies to invest in the agricultural sector in the country.
Maganga-Moussavou who spoke at the 14th Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) Private Partnership Conference said the establishment of the Gabon Fertilizer Company will see the government get into a public private partnership arrangement to produce fertilizer for both domestic use and for export to the regional countries.
Noting that the central African country intends to grow the Palm oil sector, the Minister noted that his country has the potential of supply the vegetable oil needs for the region and for export.
He noted that the government will also provide credit to the women and the youth to enable them participate in agribusiness.
“Our plan is to see that Gabon is able to produce all their agricultural needs especially food,” said the Minister.
While it is has one of the lowest population densities in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Agriculture Minister Biendi Maganga-Moussavou, around 86% of the country’s 1.8m inhabitants have opted to live in the major urban centers in Libreville, Port-Gentil and Franceville.