Gabon is a former French colony and gained its independence in 1960. Since then, Gabon has enshrined a multi-party political system, as well as a democratic constitution; paving the way for a fair, open electoral process. Gabon’s progressive political and economic environment meant that in 2010 to 2011, it was eligible to be a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
The healthcare services in Gabon are reasonably developed, certainly in comparison to contiguous African nations. In 2004, it was reported that around 90% of Gabon’s population had some access to healthcare services, working out at approximately 30 physicians for every 100,000 people. However, at the beginning of the century 30% of population still didn’t have access to safe drinking water.
As well as these healthcare services, the Gabonese government has implemented vaccination programs designed to protect against diseases, including tuberculosis, malaria, sleeping sickness, leprosy, filariasis, and intestinal worms. As a result, the coverage of these immunizations is high and some vaccinations are required for all people living in Gabon. .
In spite of the healthcare services that exist in Gabon, the specter of HIV/AIDS is still a persistent threat, with around 5.2% of the adult population aged from 15 to 49 estimated as having the disease. Expats considering living in Gabon should take the necessary precautions to avoid endangering themselves of contracting HIV/AIDS.
Gabon has managed to avoid the widespread conflict that afflicts many of its neighbors. Nevertheless, the country is still prone to occasional periods of unrest, most recently as a result of political demonstrations and strikes, especially in the country’s capital Libreville. Expats living in Gabon should keep abreast of any developments during periods of instability, trying to avoid demonstrations and large gatherings wherever possible.
There is a minor threat of terrorism in Gabon so expats are advised to be alert and cautious, especially whilst frequenting areas known to be populated predominantly by expats.
Crime levels in Gabon are not excessive, but expats considering moving to the region should still keep in mind that incidents of armed attack, robbery, and rape do occur. Precautions such as not traveling at night, alone in isolated areas and not carrying high value goods can mitigate the possibility of incidents such as these occurring.
If traveling within Gabonese urban areas, expats should note that taxis operate more like buses, allowing more passengers into the car should there be spare seats available. This system has been abused and there have been reports of robberies and assaults taking place during taxi journeys. Expats living in Gabon should therefore only use taxi firms with good reputations, or booked through a trusted institution.
There exists a widespread but poorly maintained road network in Gabon. When traveling by car expats should take great care, as the road conditions are generally poor, especially during the rainy season that takes place from October to mid-December.
There are a number of air carriers that have been banned from, or are restricted when flying to the EU.
If traveling by boat around the coast of Gabon, expats are advised to plan security arrangements, as incidents of piracy and armed robbery have been known to occur there.