I am delighted to be here in Libreville and to have had the opportunity to meet President Bongo today, particularly so soon after the President’s recent visit to London for the Illegal Wildlife Trade conference in February. The United Kingdom and Gabon have had a long and mutually beneficial relationship stretching over many years: cultural, economic, political, security and commercial. It is my intention as the British Ambassador to Gabon to work to strengthen this relationship across all areas.
Today we find a large number of British companies investing in Gabon, recognising the potential offered by a growing young, urbanising population, and the attraction of a country with so many diverse opportunities in fields such as mining, increased industrial production, education, agriculture, mining and tourism.
The United Kingdom, with more than a thousand years of established democracy, has a world class reputation for sensitive development, respect for the environment, defence of human rights, and an ability to manage complex projects to ensure they are delivered on time, to budget, incorporating the highest quality and latest technology. We want to build on this to support President Bongo’s vision for the modernization of Gabon, the “Gabon Emergent” across the three pillars: Green Gabon, Service Gabon, and Industrial Gabon. We also want to work together with Gabon to support the diversification of the economy and the modernisation of the workforce.
In October 2012, Gabon declared its intention to add English as a second official language. We, with the British Council, stand ready to assist with this goal. Similarly I have been working closely over the past few months with the United Kingdom Visa’s organisation to explore options to bring a quicker visa issuing service to Gabon. We have not yet reached agreement but we are looking at the feasibility of a mobile visa application centre being established in Libreville to reduce the need for visa applicants to have to travel to other countries to apply for visas. I intend to pursue this vigorously as I believe this would bring very significant benefits to both Gabon and the United Kingdom allowing applicants from Gabon to pursue education and training courses more easily, to encourage closer cultural exchanges, and to reinvigorate the business relationship between our two countries.
Regrettably, over the past few years conflict and insecurity has increased in many countries around the world including in Africa, and in particular in the regions bordering Gabon. I note the positive role that President Bongo has played, in both sending troops to Central African Republic and in hosting meetings in search of longer term solutions. Similarly we are all faced by the threat of terrorism today. A priority for me over the coming years will be to work closely with the Gabonese authorities to assist in the fight against extremists and terrorists.
Finally I should like to return to the subject of illegal wildlife trade and the conference that I referred to earlier hosted by the Prince of Wales and the Foreign Secretary last month. I should like to emphasise the respect and gratitude that the United Kingdom feels for the personal efforts of the President in this respect. President Bongo has, through his personal involvement and courageous decisions, been steadfast in driving forward the world’s efforts to combat the terrible illegal killing of wildlife, protecting the animals and Africa’s heritage for future generations. We have much still to do but with the example set by Gabon in establishing, and working to protect national parks, we are now better able to work with partner organisations and countries, to ensure that our children will be able to benefit from the diverse wildlife in the same way we have.