Angry oil workers brandishing banners reading, “Unlimited general strike against the abusive employment of foreign workers” may have the Gabonese government over a barrel.
The oil industry is crucial for Gabon, making up a large part of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
President Ali Bongo Ondimba had announced consultations on the employment conditions of foreign workers on Wednesday.
But this does not seem to have satisfied the unions.
Around 17 per cent of the executive positions in the country’s oil industry are held by locals, leading to much resentment, according to Patrick Raleigh, a specialist on the Gabonese oil industry, from the Economist Intelligence Unit.
The government has agreed in principle to demand that a much higher proportion of workers are Gabonese citizens but this may take some time.
There are also concerns that some foreign multinationals will push to get around these requirements, for example securing Gabonese citizenship for some of their executives.
Petrol pumps are unlikely to run dry but the strike is pushing the government to invest in training and skills, while forcing it to keep an eye on the ratio of foreign workers.