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
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.
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
The Port of
is a trade centre
for a timber