By Paul Ndiho, Libreville, Gabon
On Tuesday August 17th Gabon joined the other 17 African Nations celebrating their 50th independence anniversary this year.
The Central African nation marked its 50th anniversary of independence from France by putting on a grand military parade of more than 7,000 women and men that attracted thousands of people.
Foreign Troops including French forces stationed in Gabon and soldiers from Senegal took part in the march-past. Political analysts say relations between France and oil-producing Gabon have always been close. About a dozen heads of state from neighboring countries flew in to join President Ali Bongo on the grandstand. On the eve of the celebrations, the government signed four major agreements worth $U.S. 4.5 billion with multinational companies from India and Singapore.
The deals are expected to improve Gabon’s infrastructure, build social housing projects and create over 50,000 jobs. Addressing a press conference at his residence President Bongo, said that Gabon faces many challenges but he’s optimistic about the future.
“We are going to put up an economic plan that brings more income so that it can push and boost the economy to reach economic growth. This ambitious plan will enable us to use those revenues to improve the lives and conditions of our people. “
On Education, the President confessed that Gabon still has one of the highest illiteracy rates in Africa.
“Our problem is not from kids not going to school, Kids are going to school. Our problem is to improve the level of eduction.”
Gabon enjoys a per capita income four times that of most sub-Saharan African nations, but because of high income inequality, a large proportion of the population remains very poor. Gabon depended on timber and manganese until oil was discovered offshore in the early 1970s. The oil sector now accounts for more than 50% of GDP.