Gabon has one of the highest per capita incomes in Sub-Saharan Africa, although it is somewhat unevenly distributed. In the urban areas, standards of living are approaching Western levels, while much of the countryside remains poor.
Foreigners, especially those who understand and speak the French language, will find much to enjoy. The country is infused with the culture, religion and business of the French. The capital, Libreville, fast becoming one of the most expensive cities in the world, has a distinctly Parisian flavor.
Gabon is a Republic with an elected president and legislature. The constitution provides for a bicameral legislature with a 91-seat Senate, and a National Assembly (Assemblee Nationale) with 120 seats. Members of the Senate are elected by members of municipal councils and departmental assemblies. Most members of the National Assembly are elected by popular vote for five-year terms, while the president appoints 9 members.
The office of the President has strong centralized power in Gabon, including the ability to dissolve the National Assembly. President El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba became president in 1967, and remains president to this day. In 2003, the President amended the Constitution to remove presidential term limits.
After 40 years as a one-party state, Gabon held multiparty elections in 1991. The ruling party, the Parti Democratique Gabonais, PDG, hold the majority of seats in parliament and has continued to win elections. Some opposition groups do exist in Gabon, including the most prominent opposition party, the Rassemblement national des bucherons, RNB.
Driven by oil, timber, uranium and magnesium industries, the economy continues to make progress and to assimilate Western ways.
There is a steady migration of population to the cities. The increasingly well-educated, elite Gabonese seek jobs created by foreign investment and the exportation and production of oil, which represents a large proportion of exports.
The country's prosperity is attracting an influx of unskilled workers from neighboring African countries. This has presented the Gabonese government with an additional challenge as they seek to reduce levels of unemployment.