Washington — The World Bank's Board of Executive Directors has approved funds to help Gabon diversify its economy and reduce poverty by improving the business environment and fostering the development of small and medium-size enterprises (SME).
As many as 25,500 Gabonese, of which half will be women, are expected to benefit from new jobs and skills by the project's end in 2019.
The US$18 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) supports the Investment Promotion and Competitiveness Project, which aims to support the Government's strategy to promote Gabon as a sound investment spot, and build new sectors in the economy.
Key to today's project is support for a single, one-stop shop for businesses and a new streamlined business registry with a web-based, e-database. The project includes technical assistance to support the new agency, and training to enhance the skills of employees tasked with running the business registry.
"Gabon's human development outcomes fall short of countries with similar per capita income, and one-third of the country's population lives in poverty," said Gregor Binkert, World Bank Country Director for Gabon.
"We are delighted to support today's Investment Promotion and Competitiveness Project to help Gabon streamline and simplify its business environment, facilitate the creation of new small and medium-size businesses, and help to bring skills and improved income to the many families."
Despite strong economic growth over the past decade including from oil and manganese production, the country's unemployment rate is high at 16 percent, and youth and women are the most affected.
Today's project targets this group by supporting conditions to help stimulate SMEs, such as a Women's Business Center to support female entrepreneurs with advisory services, training, and access to business opportunities.
"Recognizing the drop in oil reserves, the Government is centering its new strategy on diversifying the economy by improving the investment climate, developing skills, and providing assistance to small and medium-size businesses," said Zouera Youssoufou, World Bank Country Manager for Gabon.
"This project's focus supports the Government's economic strategy and opens opportunities for many of the country's poor families, particularly those headed by women, to create their own income-generating businesses."
Today's project will also help build a Business Plan Competition, which will seek out entrepreneurs in different economic sectors who are eager to launch a new enterprise.
The project will help improve access to financial services, particularly for women and youth, as a step towards improving their chances of opening their own small businesses.
"Over the last few decades, the importance of efficient business registration procedures has been widely recognized worldwide," said Alexandre Laure, World Bank Task Team Leader for this Project.
"A business registration regime that is simple, secure, transparent and predictable will help promote formalization in Gabon's business community, as well as job creation and poverty reduction."