“Le Gabon Emergent que je vous propose sera un pays bien gouverné, respectueux des droits de tous: un pays pleinement inséré dans les réseaux mondiaux d’échanges d’idées, des biens et des capitaux…” Président Ali Bongo Ondimba
Ali Bongo Ondimba’s presidential campaign in both 2009 and 2016 focused on his goals to make Gabon an emerging power on the continent. The quote above is taken from the beginning of his strategic plans to mold Gabon into an emerging power in the region, but also outside of the continent. After reading his vision and strategies, many of them are important and if realize would help Gabon move forward. Among the most important goals Bongo Ondimba has set for Gabon in the international arena include, but are not limited to Gabon becoming “un acteur important de la paix, ainsi qu’un pionnier et un modèle de l’économie verte, assumant un role primordial dans la lutte contre le changement climatique et la promotion de l’economie verte.” These goals are valid and desirable. However, Gabon is not able to successfully accomplish these goals, nor to maintain them in the future if they were ever to occur. I would advise the leaders of Gabon, primarily the president, to put their international relations dreams on hold, and focus their energy and resources to address domestic issues such as education and combating corruption among others for Gabon to even have the chance to be consider as an emerging power house on the continent and globally.
Corruption in Gabon is not mainly defined by ethnic divisions nor simply a neo-patrimonial state. It can best be defined as a dynasty. Whether it is in government offices, businesses, and even as seen with the president of the country itself, familial ties determine the position that one will hold and their success in the country. As the recent political unrest after the first and second election of Ali Bongo Ondimba showed, the Gabonese people are tired of being ruled by a system that has privileged family ties over the well-being of its citizens. Gabonese citizens do not trust the government nor the other institutions that are supposed to help them because it is assumed that they will be most helpful only if they have a family member in the government or in these institutions. As William Sumner hypothesizes in his in-group or out-group theory, a state will not be successful internationally and citizens will not have allegiance to their government if there exist distress within the in-group. Similarly, Gabon cannot be successful internationally because of the political conflicts and high distrust of the government. Furthermore, a divided country makes Ali Bongo Ondimba less credible in the international arena because he will not be taken seriously diplomatically by other leaders since he does not have stable institutions to keep him publically accountably to his words. It is important that before Ali Bongo Ondimba even attempt to adventure Gabon into the international arena, that he first stabilize the country and actively take steps towards eradicating corruption – starting with his own family.
Gabon should prioritize paying its instructors from elementary school to the university level. When the words “Année Blanche” are put into google, Gabon is the second country that appears. An “Année Blanche” occurs when the school year is rendered void because there have not been enough classes for students to successfully finish the semester. It is a term that is often heard in Gabon because instructors strike every school year and often several times during the year because sometimes they are not paid and others they are not paid adequately. Given the corrupt system of the country, it can be predicted that among the students who have not received an adequate education, many of them will still hold high position in business companies or even in the government because of their familial ties. In the long run, the entire system will collapse because of the lack of experience diplomatically and the lack of knowledge or experience to address internal problems as well. Furthermore, each year students do not go to school nor have been employed exacerbate the countries resources because crime rates rise since there are no older alternative, but also an uneducated population cannot adequately hold the government accountable nor help the country move forward socially and economically.
In these conditions, I would advise Ali Bongo Ondimba to cultivate the positive relationships that he has harness with other countries worldwide, but to focus his strategic interests into addressing the problems of corruption and of the lack of proper education in the country, as well as diversifying natural resources for trade long term. Without addressing these issues, Gabon will not be successful in emerging internationally, but to also grow and function as a country.