Sat, 03 Jun 2023

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From building roads and bridges to launching innovative businesses in Gabon's special economic zone, Chinese enterprises and investors are helping boost and diversify the local economy.

LIBREVILLE, April 20 (Xinhua) -- From building roads and bridges to launching innovative businesses in Gabon's special economic zone, Chinese enterprises and investors are now being praised for helping boost and diversify the local economy.

At the workshop of a timber processing factory on the outskirts of the Gabonese capital Libreville, 25-year-old Omanda sweated all day, polishing wooden panels in front of him amid the roar of machine engines and the flying sawdust in the air.

"We get along very well with our Chinese colleagues. Although we don't speak the same language, it is not a problem. We can understand each other through simple gestures," said Omanda, adding that his skills were taught from scratch by senior Chinese technicians.

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The timber processing factory is located at the Nkok Special Economic Zone (SEZ). About two dozen Chinese-funded enterprises have been setting up their businesses here, creating job opportunities and vitalizing local economic activities.

"In recent years, in addition to the traditional timber processing industry, Chinese investors have stepped in innovative industries such as the recycling sector," Anne Nkene Biyo'o, administrator general of the Administrative Authority of the Nkok SEZ, told Xinhua in an interview from her office overseeing the SEZ. She said the presence of Chinese investors is in line with Gabon's ambition to diversify its economy, which also leads to a new path for bilateral cooperation.

"The Gabon-China cooperation, which has lasted for almost five decades, has materialized at the Nkok SEZ for the last ten years," she said, calling for more Chinese investors to invest in the sectors full of potential at the SEZ.

"Chinese investments are effective and appreciated by the Gabonese people," said Hugues Mbadinga Madiya, Gabon's minister for the promotion of investments.

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In the eyes of the minister, investments from China, which is Gabon's largest economic partner, contribute greatly to the socio-economic development of his country.

"If you walk around the city (Libreville), you see a lot of infrastructures that were financed by Chinese investors," he told Xinhua, stressing that China is also a friendly country that helps Gabon improve its socio-economic development.

Apart from traditional sectors like timber and energy, Chinese investors are also embarking on the construction of SEZs and industrial parks, which is favorable to tapping the great potential of Gabon, he said.

Madiya said he is "completely confident" with the Chinese economy. "We have no doubt that the Chinese economy will be able to recover because the fundamentals are there thanks to its policies to fight against COVID-19."

His remarks were echoed by Ghislain Moandza Mboma, director general of Gabon's National Investment Promotion Agency, who said the stability and development of China's economy "means a lot to the whole planet."

"The more stable and more prosperous China's economy is, the more can the rest of the world, including Gabon, benefit. We (Gabon) need the stability (of China's economy)," he added.

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China has remained Gabon's largest trading partner for nine consecutive years. In 2022, the trade volume between the two countries reached 4.55 billion U.S. dollars, an increase of about 50 percent from the previous year.

Highlighting the presence of Chinese companies and investors in various sectors in Gabon, Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba said in a written interview with Xinhua that the two countries have "fully leveraged their respective strengths and their economic complementarity" for the creation of new poles of economic and commercial growth.

"As such, I would like to congratulate once again on the level of economic and trade cooperation between Gabon and China, which in recent years has become one of the major players in the economic development of my country," he said.

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