Last updated in May 2018
Germany’s political relations with Gabon are untroubled, but there is still room for improvement. The two countries cooperate closely within the framework of international organisations. Germany has maintained diplomatic relations with Gabon since the country gained independence in 1960, opening an embassy in Libreville in 1962. In 1994, Germany – together with other partners of Gabon – was asked to mediate in negotiations between the Gabonese Government and the opposition that resulted in the Paris Accords.
Gabon frequently supports German interests within the United Nations and other international organisations, except in cases where African solidarity is called for. A joint German-Gabonese resolution to combat illicit wildlife trafficking, which also carries weight in terms of security policy, was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 30 July 2015. Follow-up resolutions were adopted in 2016 and 2017.
In recent years, individual members of the Gabonese Government have visited Germany. The most recent official visit to Germany by a Gabonese Head of State was that in 2005 by then President Omar Bongo Ondimba, who died in 2009.
From 8 to 10 November 2017, a delegation of three Members of the German Bundestag visited Libreville, accompanied by German business representatives. The visit underlined the importance that Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel attaches to cooperation with Africa and helped revitalise parliamentary relations between the two countries.
Gabon’s Foreign Minister Pacôme Moubelet-Boubeya and Health Minister Léon Nzouba paid a visit to Germany in 2017.
In November 2017, Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba, along with seven other African Heads of State, had a nearly hour-long meeting in Bonn with Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in connection with the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 23).
Member of the German Bundestag Volkmar Klein (CDU) travelled to Gabon in May 2018, accompanied by Reinhard Schlinkert, the founder and Director of dimap ‒ The Institute for Market and Political Research. On his two-day visit to the town of Lambaréné, he held discussions on neglected tropical diseases and familiarised himself with the work of the Centre de Recherches Médicale de Lambaréné (CERMEL) and the Albert Schweitzer Hospital. CERMEL works closely with the University of Tübingen’s Institute of Tropical Medicine and receives funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
There is still much unexploited potential in economic relations between Germany and Gabon. Gabon is rich in natural resources and is seeking to diversify its industrial sector, which has so far been dominated by timber and oil exports. At present, however, implementation of this policy is being hindered by financial constraints as a result of shrinking revenue from petroleum exports due to the fall in the price of oil on the world market. So far, only a few German companies have been active in Gabon, in the country’s health care, timber, service and infrastructure sectors. The country’s orientation towards France, which remains strong, as well as its limited market size, shortage of skilled labour, high production and living costs, continued widespread corruption and a public procurement system that sometimes lacks transparency, make it difficult for foreign companies – including German companies – to enter the local market. As a middle-income country, Gabon does not benefit from German bilateral development cooperation.
There is notable interest in learning German in Gabon: some 5000 students are taught German as a second foreign language at 27 schools in Gabon, two of which have been partner schools under the Schools: Partners for the Future (PASCH) initiative since 2008. In January 2010, a German Department was established at the Université Omar Bongo in Libreville. There are now more than 100 students enrolled in the department. There are two partnerships between higher education institutions of the two countries. Since 1982, the Gabonese Government has awarded scholarships enabling students to study in Germany, where they mainly pursue scientific disciplines. There are a total of approximately 200 young Gabonese studying in Germany, who are looked after by the Carl Duisberg Centres. German commitment to the work of the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné is one of the priority areas in bilateral relations. Germany supports the jungle hospital, which was founded in 1913, though the International Foundation of the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné. The Faculty of Medicine of the University of Tübingen runs a research centre for tropical diseases in Lambaréné, which focuses on malaria research but has recently also been engaged in the development of an Ebola vaccine. There is an intensive exchange of students, researchers and academics. German research institutes, including the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, also cooperate with the Centre International de Recherches Médicales de Franceville, whose research focuses on primates and HIV.
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