The Importance of the Timber and Forestry Industry in Africa
Updated: Apr 2
The timber/forestry industry is slowly growing in Africa. Forests and trees play an important role in the economic, environmental and social landscape of the continent. Forestry is often a key economic driver in rural areas across Africa. This can be seen through the establishment of new plantations and the resultant secondary processing and value addition industries arising from increased timber resources. Furthermore, timber provides foreign exchange as well as a considerable amount of employment. For countries with few other natural resources and low manufacturing capabilities, timber exports have become essential to their development strategies.
Africa’s timber resources have long garnered investments from all over the world. Considering that a quarter of Africa’s land is made up of forest, it is quite understandable. In fact, the Congo basin houses the second-largest investments tropical rainforest in the world. In central and West Africa, forestry accounts for a large part of GDP in the form of timber exports. Some of Africa’s major timber producers are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo, Gabon and Cameroon-who supply Europe with most of their tropical timber exports. Gabon’s timber exports are projected to reach around $500m by this year. Liberia is now one of Africa’s largest timber producers and, according to Global Witness, has seen more than 60 percent of its rainforest licensed to logging companies since President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf came to power in 2006 – nearly a quarter of its total landmass. As such, timber has become a large-scale enterprise for many African countries.
More than just providing a form of investment, the timber/forestry industry is supporting communities. Forestry can bring much promise for development, seen in rural KwaZulu Natal. According to FDA Managing Director Darlingston Tuagben, the forestry sector plays an important role in the socio-economic development of Liberia in the form of providing employment, industrial output, national income, and revenues. The employment opportunities are looking strong. South African forestry, in particular,in particular, holds much potential for young graduates. Graduates are highly in demand in the industry, with most finding work quickly. Thus, there is a wealth of forestry opportunities throughout the African continent.
Africa’s forests could greatly contribute to the continentsdevelopment, considering the multiple uses the resource can provide. As a result, in many African countries, there has been a concerted shift in farmers focusing on commercial tree production as a strong source of income compared to other crops. Globally, there is a shift towards high-productivity forest plantations. The greatest opportunities for growth in the forest plantation sector will be developing countries, and particularly in Africa, where land availability is greatest, growing costs are relatively low, biological productivity is amongst the highest in the world, and demand growth in the coming decades will be strongest.
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