Gabon

Gabon Gabon is a country on the west coast of Africa.

Gabon, or Gabonese Republic, a country on the west coast of Africa. It lies on the Atlantic Ocean on the Equator and is bordered by Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, and the Republic of the Congo. Gabon's area is 103,347 square miles (267,667 km2).

Except for a fairly wide coastal plain, the terrain consists mainly of hills, plateaus, and mountains, which reach a maximum height of almost 5,200 feet (1,585 m). The Ogooué River, together with its many tributaries, drains most of Gabon. The climate is tropical, with temperatures ranging between 75° and 80° F. (24° and 27° C.) during the year. Rainfall is abundant, 100 or more inches (2,540 mm) annually, and comes mainly from September through May. There are dense tropical rain forests nearly everywhere.

Gabon's economy is heavily dependent on petroleum, which accounts for a third of the gross domestic product and more than three-fourths of the country's exports. Manganese and other minerals are also important in Gabon's export trade. Lumbering and farming are also major parts of the economy. Gabon's basic currency unit is the CFA franc.

About two-thirds of the people work in agriculture. Cash crops include palm kernels, cacao, and sugar. Okoume, a softwood, is the chief forest product. Gabon has abundant mineral resources; petroleum is the most valuable. Also important are manganese and uranium. Manufacturing consists mainly of the processing of the country's agricultural and mineral products. Chief activities include petroleum refining and the processing of food and of timber.

Gabon has very few roads and most are not hard-surfaced. The Trans-Gabon railway links Owendo and Franceville. There is an international airport at Libreville.

Gabon's population at the 1993 census was 1,011,710. Libreville, the capital, had an estimated population of 352,000 in 1988; Port-Gentil, 164,000.

Almost all of the population is of Bantu origin. The largest Bantu groups are the Fang (30 per cent) and the Eshira (25 per cent). French is the official language, but indigenous tongues predominate. About 60 per cent of the people are Christians; most of the rest are animists. Primary education begins at age six and lasts six years; secondary education lasts up to seven years. The literacy rate is about 60 per cent. The national university is at Libreville.

Under the constitution of 1991. Gabon is a republic headed by a president, who is popularly elected for a five-year term. The legislature consists of two houses: the National Assembly and the Senate. Voters elect most of the 120 members of the National Assembly to five-year terms. A few members are appointed by the president. The Senate has 102 members. Senators are elected by regional and local councils to six-year terms.