Port Gentile is the main port and industrial center for Gabon in western Africa. Located on Lopez Island at the mouth of the Ogooue River on the westernmost point in Gabon, Port Gentil is the center of the country’s timber and petroleum industries. Port Gentil’s main industries are sawmilling and plywood and veneer production. It is an important export point for many tropical and exotic woods like ebony, kevazingo, and okoume. Port Gentil is also home to a construction company, a chemical plant, a brewery, a furniture maker, and factories that process palm oil, rice, and fish. In 2003, over 116 thousand people called Port Gentil home.
Lopo Goncalves, a Portuguese navigator, first entered Cape Lopez in 1473, but it remained little-known by Europeans until the 19th Century. By the late 19th Century, several businesses were established there, and export of Gabonese mahogany was an important source of income.
The French established a settlement by treaty with the Orungu people on Mandji Island in 1873. They used Port Gentil as a base for explorations into the interior. In 1894, they established a customs post that became the center of a busy trading area. The first important products of trade were ivory and rubber, and tropical woods were soon added to the mix.
In 1900, the town was named for Emile Gentil, the French colonial administrator. From the end of World War I until the mid-20th Century, Port Gentil remained a trading point for timber. In 1947, almost five thousand people lived in Port Gentil.
When oil was discovered offshore in the 1950s, Port Gentil began to grow rapidly. A port soon appeared for the export of petroleum, and an oil refinery was built at Point Clairette. By 1960, 21 thousand people lived in the port.
Today, Port Gentil is a busy city with hotels and a lively nightlife. Its major attractions include its beaches, a casino, a golf course, and a zoo.
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