Current President: Ali Bongo Ondimba
Gabon (/ɡəˈbɒn/; French pronunciation: [ɡabɔ̃]), officially the Gabonese Republic (French: République gabonaise), is a country on the west coast of Central Africa. Located on the equator, Gabon is bordered by Equatorial Guinea to the northwest, Cameroon to the north, the Republic of the Congo on the east and south, and the Gulf of Guinea to the west. It has an area of nearly 270,000 square kilometres (100,000 sq mi) and its population is estimated at 2.1 million people. There are three distinct regions: the coastal plains, the mountains (the Cristal Mountains and the Chaillu Massif in the centre), and the savanna in the east. The coastal plains form part of the World Wildlife Fund‘s Atlantic Equatorial coastal forests ecoregion. Gabon’s capital and largest city is Libreville. The official language is French.
Originally settled by Pygmy peoples, they were largely replaced and absorbed by Bantu tribes as they migrated. By the 18th century, a Myeni-speaking kingdom known as the Kingdom of Orungu formed in Gabon. It was able to become a powerful trading center mainly due to its ability to purchase and sell slaves. The kingdom fell with the demise of the slave trade in the 1870s. Since its independence from France in 1960, the sovereign state of Gabon has had three presidents. In the early 1990s, Gabon introduced a multi-party system and a new democratic constitution that allowed for a more transparent electoral process and reformed many governmental institutions.
Abundant petroleum and foreign private investment have helped make Gabon one of the most prosperous countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the fifth highest HDI in the region (after Mauritius, Seychelles, Botswana and South Africa) and the fifth highest GDP per capita (PPP) in all of Africa (after Seychelles, Mauritius, Equatorial Guinea and Botswana). Its GDP grew by more than 6% per year from 2010 to 2012. However, because of inequality in income distribution, a significant proportion of the population remains poor.
Gabon is rich in folklore and mythology. “Raconteurs” keep traditions alive such as the mvett among the Fangs and the ingwala among the Nzebis. Gabon is also known for it masks, such as the n’goltang (Fang) and the reliquary figures of the Kota. Musically, Gabon boasts an array of folk styles, as well as pop stars like Patience Dabany and Annie-Flore Batchiellilys. Also known are guitarists like Georges Oyendze, La Rose Mbadou and Sylvain Avara, and the singer Oliver N’Goma. Gabonese folk instruments include the obala, the ngombi, the balafon and traditional drums.