Forestry economy: the ECA and its partners reflect on a "sustainable" business model for Central Africa

Published on 01/03/2024 | La rédaction

Cameroun, Congo DRC

"What business model for an industrialization of the forestry sector that is inclusive, sustainable and likely to promote innovative financing for development in the subregion?" The question was at the heart of a webinar organized on February 15, 2024 by the Subregional Office for Central Africa of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), as part of the second preparatory policy dialogue for the 56th session of the Conference of Ministers. Discussions focused on the theme: "Central Africa's forest economy: issues, challenges and opportunities for inclusive and sustainable industrialization".

Experts from the Forestry and Industry Ministries of the DRC and Cameroon, financial institutions such as the African Development Bank (ADB) and the Banque de développement des Etats de l'Afrique centrale (BDEAC), and the University of Douala shared their thoughts on the business model to be adopted in Central Africa, for a forestry economy serving sustainable industrialization.Afrique Centrale (BDEAC) and the University of Douala shared their thoughts on the business model to be adopted in Central Africa, for a forest economy at the service of sustainable industrialization. The ECA wants to take a holistic approach, integrating the ecosystem services associated with forests and the development of the carbon market.

Forest capital: a new paradigm to be taken into account in Central Africa's economic diversification and industrialization process

At a time when Central Africa, like the rest of the continent, continues to face a number of challenges to its economic development, its income comes essentially from raw materials and the traditional agricultural sector. As a result, these revenues are insufficient to meet the exponentially growing needs of its populations. The heavy dependence of economic activity on the agricultural and mining sectors, as well as on other natural resources with no major added value, is a major brake on the sub-region's economic and social development. Unfortunately, the Central African sub-region does not yet benefit fully from the advantages of its forests, and is one of the least developed in the world.

Yet, beyond their ecological and environmental role, timber and forests are seen as a whole industry and a significant source of income, driving development in many countries. The forestry sector plays an important role in world trade, accounting for around 1% of global GDP. In fact, most of the world's forests are found in Africa, in the Congo Basin, considered to be the world's second largest forest mass after Amazonia. The forests of Central Africa are also a significant reservoir of carbon and biodiversity for the countries of the sub-region and for the planet as a whole, sequestering around 40 gigatonnes (one billion tonnes, editor's note) of carbon - more than the Amazon.

Their biomass and peatlands store around 80 billion tonnes, or almost ten years' worth of the world's total CO2 emissions. This gives them considerable potential for attracting funding, particularly in the form of financial compensation for the effectiveness of REDD activities, carbon credits, investments, monetization of stored carbon, and so on. The forestry and ecological potential of the subregion, which is considered the world's second largest forest lung, makes it a potential destination for green climate financing, particularly for the protection and sustainable use of forests.sustainable forest management, with significant socio-economic and environmental consequences for the sub-region.

Resources from sustainable forest management could finance development programs

What's more, Central Africa's forest resources, and the ecosystem services they provide to the entire planet without compensation, as part of the subregion's natural capital, are assets that can be used to finance development programs.gion's natural capital, are assets likely to generate the additional financial flows needed to finance the subregion's development and economic diversification programs. The economies of the sub-region should therefore make use of their forestry capital, a considerable asset on the international sustainability agenda, to take advantage of the various instruments of green finance as part of the financing of its economic diversification.

The development of Central Africa's forest resource potential through sustainable and environmentally-friendly exploitation, using innovative means of financing, would therefore promote development through economic diversification, in line with the Douala Consensus. This will lead to better conservation of biological diversity, reduced ecological costs and improved storage of atmospheric carbon. According to the Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD), one hectare of forest represents an average of 200 tonnes of stored carbon. Furthermore, industrialization of the forestry sector, integrating sustainable forest management and harvesting practices, would contribute to achieving some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the sub-region.

Forests as bulwarks against global warming

Forests account for over 30% of the earth's surface, or almost four billion hectares, and play a vital role in human well-being. Statistics show that almost 25% of the world's population - some 1.6 billion people - depend on forests. For individuals, forests are a source of food, income and employment. But human beings are not the only ones to enjoy the benefits of forests, which contribute to sustainable development, the maintenance of biodiversity and good health.

Forests also play a part in the fight against climate change by sequestering atmospheric carbon, the main cause of global warming, and as such store almost 547.8 million tonnes of carbon for those located in tropical and subtropical regions. The conservation and sustainable management of forests therefore consolidates their role as carbon traps, helping to mitigate climate change and regulate the climate. On the other hand, deforestation and forest degradation, which are also considered carbon sinks once the carbon has been sequestered, and potential sources of greenhouse gas emissions, are not.and potential sources of carbon emissions, can cause considerable environmental damage.


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