Friday, 20 August 2010

Gabon knows how to celebrate! 50 years this week!

Gabon, the Central African nation with a small population and big ambitions, celebrated fifty years of independence this week. 14 African heads of state joined President Ali Bongo Ondimba for the celebrations in Libreville. The day was marked with the opening of an Exhibition commemorating Gabon’s arts, culture and economy, as well as a military parade, fireworks and two concerts.

If you are unable to travel yourself to see the Exhibition in Libreville (it is open until November), then why not take a tour of the nation’s newly launched Virtual Museum of Culture and Arts. It’s well worth visiting -

http://www.legabon.org/livre/livredor_en.php

On the eve of the celebrations, the Gabonese government announced that it had recently signed infrastructure investment contracts totalling $4.5bn dollars. These foreign direct investments are expected to create 50,000 jobs.

A catchy song and music video were released too. View it here – the rhythm is contagious!

http://www.gabon50ans.ga/article/l-hymne-du-cinquantenaire

Extracts from President Ali Bono Ondimba’s Independence Day Speech:

History

We are commemorating the 50th anniversary of Gabon’s independence. For every one of us, it is a day to rejoice and celebrate our unity and peace.

I have the great honour today to recall the memory of the father of our independence, President Leon Mba, first President of the Republic of Gabon. Gabon and its citizens remain grateful to him for steering our country to independence. .

We must remember too President Omar Bongo Ondimba, second President of our Republic, who left us almost a year ago, and who was a great architect of modernity in our country. He consolidated our national unity and built our state on solid foundations, bequeathing us a great and significant heritage that we must protect and conserve.

Building the Republic

Beyond the festive nature of this great day, we should recall what Gabon was during colonisation: a simple site of exploitation of wood and mineral resources. At independence, Gabon inherited nothing. Almost everything needed to be constructed. We had to get to work resolutely, with little in the way of a framework available at that time, to establish a state and to endow it with modern infrastructure – schools, hospitals, universities, roads, ports, airports, railways etc..

Those are the achievements of the Gabonese - Gabonese by origin, by adoption or who have come from elsewhere and who have made Gabon their home. Through the many efforts and sacrifices of a nation, they have constructed with love and devotion, stone by stone, our country. Each has been able, at his time and in his own style, to give the best of himself to build a nation based on the essential values of union, work and justice – the foundations of our Republic.

National Cohesion/Collective Spirit

These values that have been bequeathed to us remain the key to our national cohesion and our continued political stability. Quarrels do happen and we do argue, but we always manage to remain united, thanks to the emphasis we place on what unites us rather than what divides us. It’s important to protect ourselves from the devil of division, especially ethnic division. In 50 years of independence, our country has forged and consolidated institutions of which can be proud.

Transition/Good Governance

Healthy governance is vital. The political transition we went through last year is the perfect illustration of the quality of our institutions and the calibre of the men and women who lead them. It’s an occasion for me to pay a great homage to Madame Rose Francine Rogomb√© who diligently oversaw and ensured such a smooth transition.

We must recognise the elders who initiated the construction of our country; they have done their share of the work. It is now for our generation to take up the mantle, without egoism, without sectarianism. We must adapt ourselves to a modern age and embrace competence, competitiveness, excellence, and a culture of good governance and selflessness.

Gabon ‘Emergent’

Conscious of the confidence you have shown in me and the challenges and the responsibilities I must meet, I propose that we construct a common future underpinned by a common ambition to transform Gabon into an emerging country like certain countries in Asia, the Americas and Africa, who have designed their own paths.

‘Gabon Emergence’ is not a slogan, a stylistic effect or magic invention. Those criteria that will enable us to develop into an emerging economy are objective and known. They include standards of education, economic performance, sustainable development, infrastructure development, human development and, notably, health. In this domain in particular, I’m encouraged by our achievements and the setting up of mandatory health insurance and the construction of an Institute of Cancer Research at Agondj√©, which will permit us in future to treat cancer patients on our own soil.

Gabon’s Own Destiny

Blaming the coloniser is finished. Laying fault with others is finished. We are facing our own destiny, and no one can construct it for us. Development is not a tranquil river. It’s a process that challenges us; the way we think and act. We must break from the past to emerge stronger and to provide a brighter future for our children.
Realising this ambition requires sustained and continuous efforts, sacrifices even, from all and for a term far exceeding political mandates.

Economy

Gabon is able to meet the challenge of transforming into an emerging economy by 2025 thanks to the wealth and employment that our mineral reserves can create in all sectors. Combine these with knowledge and know-how and we begin then to realise our nation’s real potential.

Analysis shows that traditional engines of growth are in decline, particularly hydrocarbons. They cannot provide us with sustainable growth up to 2025. Our ambition for development as well as the necessity to diversify our economy forces us to find other motors of growth. In this regard, 4 sectors stand out: timber, metals, ecotourism and energy.

Developing our timber industry will created hundreds of thousands of sustainable jobs and will encourage the growth of new poles of economic activity on our territory. The contracts signed last week for the creation of a Special Economic Zone in Nkok are part of this drive and infrastructural work will start in only couple of weeks. ... Regarding metals, Gabon can leverage on its traditional managanese exploitation and on its reserve of iron to become a world leader in metal production. The opening next September of a petrol and gas institute at Port-Gentil signals the reinforcement of our capacity in this sector and our desire to develop a pole of excellence in these industries. We have the potential too for growth in the electricity sector, through the exploitation of our hydro-electric resources.....The plant being built in Poubaba in the South-East, the launch of a dam project on the Okano in the North, the plans for another plant at Empress Eugenie Falls in the south, all form part of a national integrated energy development plan that will span our whole territory and sustained our industrial development. Regarding tourism, our exceptional biodiversity and our policy of protecting our national parks underscores our ambition to become a destination for ecotourism. Equally, business tourism offers real possibilities.

Governance

But our ambitions will not be realised if we don’t put into place mechanisms of good governance. That means structures and solid institutions that are well managed and capable of taking on new challenges.

More than ever, we must advance a national programme of good governance. In order for that to happen we must look at the quality and the integrity of the men and women in charge of managing our public offices and state enterprises.

Rule of Law

Our relationship with the law must evolve, because it’s the law that will guarantee social equality and will neutralise future antagonisms. All of our work will be in vain if this elementary thing is not integrated. We cannot stand by and see important investments reduced to nothing by irresponsible and unpatriotic attitudes. No country that favours laxity, impunity, the diversion of public funds or disorder, develops. More than ever we must oppose deviant behaviours of another age, another era.

Infrastructure

Development must include our country in its entirety. I attach great importance to our transport infrastructure, which provides the arteries for economic activity and development.

My recent trip into the interior of the country has allowed me to better understand the needs and the expectations of our people there and gives me confidence in our decision to launch what constitutes the ‘backbone’ of our economy, that is to say, the Libreville-Franceville road, for which the finance is coming thanks to a partnership with some emerging countries that believe in the economic capacity of Gabon. In the same spirit of ‘opening up’ and of balanced development, I launched a month ago the construction of the road between Tchibanga and Mayumba, and the bridge over the Banio. This important site opens up real potential for the construction of a port at Mayumba and the Tchibanga Koula-Moutou Road.


Partnerships

I face the future with confidence. I’m counting not just on all of you to work with me, but also on our partners to help realise our great ambition to transform Gabon into an emerging economy. This is our ambition and our destiny.

During the last 5 decades we have united to build a nation. We had to be patient and determined and also to cultivate a culture of openness and cooperation.

We have been able to count on the support of all our partners, and at the forefront is France, whose traditional and historic proximity to us has enriched us in many cultural, economic and political ways. Through mutual respect and out of collective interest, our partnership has adapted to the demands of today

I would also like to say to our American, European, Asian and Arab partners, how much we continue to recognise their support, which takes many forms and which contributes in many ways to our enrichment and to our development.

Africa

To our brothers, our African friends. Without a shadow of doubt we remain here always at your side, to defend our dignity and our people. Resolutely convinced of our collective destiny, our country will continue ceaselessly to join in with the efforts of those other members of the African Union. On a regional scale, I share the idea that united together, we will meet the challenge of sustainable development together.

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