Libreville, Gabon

  • Date
  • 15 May 2000

Frustrations on the road: I spent two hours at Citibank Gabon this morning trying to have money wired from Citibank New York to Citibank Gabon. (We carry little money as currencies change frequently and if mugged we want to lose little.)

The first half-hour at Citibank Gabon, I spent insisting to the unhelpful, front-office man that I was not requesting the impossible! He repeatedly told me Citibank Gabon is not Citibank. Finally a man named Fabrice appeared saying I should return in an hour to see acting general manager Bachir Canara. Upon my return one hour later, I learned Bachir Canara had just left the bank. I insisted on seeing someone who could help me. After a 15-minute wait, Margaret Minko-Bidza, the bank’s second highest officer, said Citibank Gabon could only give money to individuals with local accounts – people they know. I explained that we have an account with Citibank in New York. And in Douala (Cameroon) and Lagos (Nigeria), we received wire transfers to the local Citibank. Margaret said the Gabon regulation exists to keep people from laundering money. I encouraged her to call NYC to verify we’re not money launders and we have enough money to cover the transfer. She said I should call back at 2:30 p.m. as the bank closed for the next three hours for lunch.

On the road, we always need maps so I visited Gabon’s Instut National de Cartographie – the Government Map Bureau – twice aiming to buy Gabon, Congo and Angola maps. Both times more than a dozen employees were present yet the sole worker with ‘the’ key to the map room was no where around. In fact I was told he had no schedule and I should just continue checking back until luck was on my side and ‘the’ key man present. The dozen or so employees seemed to be doing little and the most recent map of Gabon on the wall dated to 1994. While leaving, I saw a man in a new, silver Land cruiser speaking to one of the employees. I had a hunch he was the director general so I ran to his car knocking on his window. I explained the situation and he said, ‘it’s terrible.’ Director General Mr. Mabadi didn’t have a key either.

No money and no maps.