The Republic of Gabon faces the Atlantic coast of central Africa, covering about two-thirds of Japan's land area, and is located in the Congo Basin, which has the world's second largest tropical forest after that of the Amazon River basin. Eighty-five percent of the country is covered with tropical rainforest, surrounded by abundant nature such as chimpanzees, gorillas, elephants and other animals and plants.
Gabon is also the 32nd to 35th oil-producing country in the world, with a small population of about 2.17 million (2019, World Bank), and the GNI per capita is about 7,210 US dollars (2019), a human development index. (UNDP) is also 119th out of 189 countries (2019), which is a relatively high level compared to other Sub-Saharan African countries. For this reason, there are number of foreign workers from neighboring countries.
On the other hand, in rural areas, productivity is low due to delays in infrastructure development and underdeveloped agricultural technology, and the gap between rich and poor in urban areas and rural areas remains large. For this reason, the current President Ali Bongo has launched a "lGabon Emergent" policy aimed at breaking away from dependence on the oil-related industry and entering emerging countries by 2025, improving infrastructure, diversifying the industry, and fostering the processing industry (Gabon Industriel), environmental conservation (Gabon Vert), and service industry development (Gabon des Service).
JICA's cooperation with Gabon began in 2000 with the dispatch of a fishery expert. In 2005, the JICA office (currently Gabon branch) was opened, and the first six Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) were dispatched. Since then, the JICA programs expanded steadily, and at one point, more than 30 JOCV volunteers were dispatched. Several Technical cooperation projects have been undertaken including those related to infectious diseases, forest conservation, and eco-tourism for gorilla observation. In addition, we dispatch international students and trainees to Japan every year. Some ‘follow-up activities' for the past Grant Aide projects such as ‘Artisanal Fishermen's Center (CAPAL)' made it possible for more local population to frequently visit the Center.
However, in March 2020, as soon as the new corona infection was discovered, all the personnel concerned including JOCVs were evacuated, leaving the representative behind. All the JICA's activities were thus temporarily suspended. After that, the first wave of corona converged due to the efforts of the Gabon government. By December 2020, all the personnel had resumed travel. As of September 2021, 13 JOCVs and 5 Japanese experts (infectious disease-related projects and maternal and child health technical advisors) are now in business as usual.
About 20 years ago, I visited Gabon for a preliminary survey for the dispatch of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers, so it is a memorable place for me. I would like to make the best use of my 10 years of experience in Africa to help build the country as much as possible. Thank you in advance for your kind cooperation.
JICA Gabon Branch