The area of what is today Gabon was inhabited by the Bantu people when Europeans began to explore the west coast of Africa. The population was subjected to the slave trade, and the territory was colonized by the French in the 19th century. Gabon became independent in 1960. It has remained in the French sphere of influence. Rich offshore resources have made it a major oil producing country. However only a minority of the population benefit from the income. The traditional economy of Gabon is based on timber, coffee, cocoa, palm oil and subsistence agriculture. The country has been governed by the same president since 1967. In the early 1990s, some democratic reforms were introduced. About half of the population belongs to the Catholic Church. The Evangelical Church is the largest Protestant church, followed by the Christian Alliance Church. Several African indigenous churches exist which have about the same number of followers as the Protestant churches together. Gabon is the country where Albert Schweitzer exercised his ministry.