The unlikely link between Norway, Gabon and kite surfing

When flying into Libreville, one will notice vast forests and a beautiful view of the ocean. Moments before you land, most likely while raining, the football stadium will appear on your left, the stadium that hosted some games during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, a symbol of the city. The cup was won by Cameroon, a neighbouring country Gabon, beating Egypt in final. As you land at Leon Mba international airport, there is no doubt that you will already be captivated by the beauty the country holds. In my many landings often from Cameroon, Ethiopia or Rwanda, I would wonder what has changed since my last visit to this country that forms part of the Congo Basin.

On a recent trip to Libreville, I noticed that sadly not much has changed since my last visit, about four years ago. During one of my first visits, I fell ill. I was whisked to a local hospital, by Kevin, a Nigerian born taxi driver living in Gabon for more than a decade. My hospital experience was incredible. Contrary to popular belief – the medical facilities were once world-class. The medical drive was spearheaded by Édith Lucie Bongo, wife of ex-President Omar Bongo, father of the current President Ali Bongo who was recently treated in London after suffering a stroke. This time I was, however, in excellent health and able to go for an evening run on the beach. I was intrigued by the number of kite surfer’s on the beach, an incredible sight – one day I hope to kite surf in Gabon – or Ivory Coast.

I have often made the trip between Libreville and to the oil-rich city of Port-Gentil, but I am aware that the country will need to shift their focus on generating revenue from other sources. This shift needs to take place to drive economic growth and development of this resource-rich country. In September it was announced that Norway will pay Gabon $ 150 million to help protect their forests. Gabon is a beautiful country, rich in natural resources and well placed within the continent from a geographical point of view in regards to the climate. I hold the view that tourism is an incredible opportunity for this country, an opportunity for many other African countries. The combination of ocean, forest and astonishing wildlife makes for quite an experience. Gabon accounts for a significant percentage of Africa’s surviving forest elephants.

Gabon has the land, people and financial resources to help shape its future. I hope that investment in infrastructure that will drive economic growth will soon be realised. A renewed focus on primary healtHRare to support the growing young demography of 2 million. Investment in education. I hope for strong, effective institutions backed by policies that will drive growth. I hope that legislation is shaped to make foster an open economy, that shifts from being import orientated to export-driven. Arguably the cost of doing business in Gabon exceeds that of many African countries. Gabon needs to allow its natural beauty to also be a driver for economic growth.

I would like to urge any visitor to the continent, driven either by business or personal reasons to pass by Gabon, not easy to do, but I have no doubt you too will be impressed by the beauty of this country.