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Ali Bongo: Saudi Arabia is a Role Model | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Ali Bongo in 2014. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

Dubai – The newly elected president of Gabon, Ali Bongo, said that his country has launched new plans to diversify its economy, on the footsteps of Saudi Arabia.

In an interview via email with Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Bongo said his country was inspired by Saudi Vision 2030, to promote oil-free industries and boost its economy.

“Just like Gulf States, Gabon has launched a process to diversify its economy away from the traditional dependence on the gas and oil sectors,” the Gabonese president told the daily.

“Consequently, we share many common interests with Gulf countries,” he added, noting that Saudi Arabia has tremendously developed its economy over the past years and has become “Gabon’s role model in economic diversification”.

Bongo said, however, that too much work was still needed to fight poverty and unemployment in his country.

“My goal is to transform the Gabonese society into an environment of equal opportunities for all,” he said.

He also said that Gabon was open to investments, especially by businessmen from the Middle East and the Gulf.

Bongo has been sworn in as Gabon’s president for a second seven-year term in August, amid tensions raised by Gabonese opposition figures, who accused him of committing fraud.

The Gabonese president said he will devote all his efforts to achieve the best interests of his people, adding that he will work to ensure the respect of the constitution and the rule of law.

Bongo said that a new program was launched in February, under the slogan of “Equal Opportunities”, which is based on five pillars. Those include equal opportunities in education, employment and health care, women empowerment and the fight against class differences.

He added that he is currently working on providing one hundred thousand new job opportunities to Gabon citizens by the end of 2020.

Asked about measures taken in light of the decrease in the price of oil, Bongo said the key to face the resulting crisis was economic diversification. He added that since the adoption of the reform strategy in 2009, the government has invested 6.5 billion Euros in developing modern infrastructure within efforts to transform the country into a prosperous industrial hub in the African continent.

Commenting on the economic relations with Gulf States, the Gabonese president said his country has strong ties with Arab countries, in particular Saudi Arabia.

He noted that he was eager to learn from the Saudi experience in implementing its Vision and its National Transformation Program, stressing that the Kingdom was a role model to countries seeking to boost their economies and diversify their resources.

Bongo stressed that efforts were currently focused on attracting foreign investments.

“We are always ready to open new doors to French investments; but at the same time, we are looking forward to having business partners from South Africa, Nigeria and other countries,” he said.