Business is about to boom in the Central African country, but at what cost to accountability?
Multinational companies are queuing up to do business in Gabon, despite questions being raised about the validity of President Ali Bongo Ondima’s rule.
Among these are South Africa companies, including Sustainable Forestry Management, run by conservationist Alan Bernstein. It entered Gabon in late 2007 and has a concession for 780 000 hectares of land in the south near the town of Mayumba.
Bernstein said the concession was being used for a fisheries programme, agribusiness, timber processing, ecotourism and conservation.
The country is blessed with 22 million hectares of rainforest, one million hectares of exploitable arable land and 13 national parks, which will allow for significant development of the timber, agriculture and high-end tourism sectors.
Gabon is larger than the United Kingdom, half the size of France and one-fifth the size of South Africa, but it only has a population of 1.5-million people whereas the UK is home to 62.3-million and SA to 48.8-million.
The rainforest, commonly referred to as the planet’s second-largest green lung, captures 70-million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.
Numerous international timber companies have signed up to work with the Gabonese government and a 1 000-hectare special economic zone, developed mainly to the wood-processing industry, is being set up at Nkok.
Two million hectares of rainforest nearby have been allocated to the timber sector companies that are investing in the special economic zone.
Mail & Guardian June 29 – July 5 2012