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OPEC bulletin 11/17

F o c u s o n M e m b e r C o u n t r i e s

L

ibreville is located in the west of Gabon on the banks of Komo

river. It also overlooks the Gulf of Guinea. The city, in addi-

tion to being Gabon’s capital and administrative centre, is

also one of its key trading hubs.

According to ‘Open Data for Africa’, an initiative that has been

developed by the African Development Bank, Libreville is spread

over an area of approximately 20,000 square kilometres. As

Gabon’s busiest metropolitan centre, its population is estimated

at around 800,000 inhabitants.

The coastal city was historically inhabited by the Mpongwe

tribe for an extensive period of time prior to French colonization.

France gained control of the area in 1839. It was keen on develop-

ing the area into a key harbour to take advantage of the city’s stra-

tegic location, a step that was deemed a cornerstone for the future

development of Libreville’s growing economy.

Some years later, several American missionaries, who origi-

nated from New England, settled in Baraka Gabon, an area that is

now considered part of the capital city. They influenced the devel-

opment of the country, bringing with them language and education.

Toward a federation

In 1910, French Equatorial Africa was formed (comprised of Chad,

the Central African Republic, Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo,

and Gabon). Libreville became its primary port. The authorities of

this federation eventually invited foreign companies to exploit the

region’s natural resources.

Locals, as well as foreigners, often used waterways, which are

ubiquitous in Gabon and neighbouring regions, to travel from one

place to another. However, due to the existence of several steep

rapids, authorities in France noted the importance of developing

railroads to facilitate and improve mobility across the region, put-

ting in motion the long-term construction of a railway network.

Libreville eventually grew steadily in the 1900s as an emerging

administrative centre and trading hub. In time, international firms

and financial institutions observed the extent of these develop-

ments, as they became interested in expanding their portfolio and

operating in Gabon. This eventually led to the establishment of the

first local bank in 1930 — Bank of West Africa.

Toward independence

The city kept growing and eventually became one of Africa’s leading

and wealthiest cities, particularly after it and the country of Gabon

gained independence from France in 1960. It has since enjoyed

one of the steadiest growth rates in the region.

One year after independence, Léon M’ba was elected as

the country’s first President. The current President is Ali Bongo

Ondimba, who was elected in 2009, then re-elected in 2016.

In recent years, Libreville has witnessed notable developments

in infrastructure. The emergence of stable export, oil and gas indus-

tries in Libreville, in particular, and in Gabon, in general, led the

country to join OPEC in 1975 as a Full Member for the first time in

its history. Gabon voluntarily suspended its membership in the

Organisation in 1995, and re-joined it as of July 1, 2016.

Since its admission to the Organization, the crude oil producer

and net exporter have been playing an important role in realiz-

ing the Organization’s mission and objectives. It also contributed

Shutterstock

The Port of

Libreville, Gabon,

is a trade centre

for a timber

region.

Alamy