As host to the Congo Basin – the world’s second forest expanse, Central has to take advantage of the opportunities that the forest industry offers for the sub-region’s transformation. This would be achieved if the countries of the region progressively move toward much higher levels of transformation of their forest products by engaging in activities linked to what is referred to as the second and third ‘transformations’ of such products. Therein lies the main recommendation of the 31st session of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts (ICE) of Central Africa that ended on the evening of Friday 13th March in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.
Invited to the session by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in collaboration with the Congolese Government, the experts closely examined the challenges faced by the countries of the sub-region in their drive to leverage the forest sector as a basis for finished and diversified exports.
Developing the forest industry for the structural transformation of the economies of central Africa will act as a measure to reduce the vulnerability of the sub-region to external shocks orchestrated by the precarious nature of the prices of raw materials on the world market, observed Congo’s Minister Delegate in Charge of Planning and Integration – Mr Léon Raphaël MOKOKO.
According to the experts, even if the rate of transformation of forest raw materials, notably logs and non timber forest products (NTFPs) in the sub-region improved from 42 per cent during the period 1993-1999 to 54 per cent during the period 2005-2008, stakeholders of the sector focused mainly on the first transformation which involves only sawing and wood-planning activities after the harvesting of logs. This level of transformation brings very limited benefits to the economies concerned if compared with the advantages accruing from the second and third of transformations that usher in the much needed value addition and job creation, resulting in the production of well done plywood (second transformation), as well as quality doors, furniture and flooring (third transformation).
On the foregoing basis, the experts admonished States, economic actors and development partners of the sub-region to create the conditions necessary for the emergence of viable transformative industry by investing in technology, in high-level training in the wood sector, in the identification of new financing mechanisms and by contributing to the Green Economy Fund of Central Africa (FEVAC in French). They also recommended that Governments take the necessary steps to make their local markets more attractive through the maintenance of peace and infrastructure development, with emphasis on transport facilities. Finally, the experts advocated the strengthening of local stakeholders’ involvement in the business of forest-product exports by engaging in global value chains of the sector and kicking out tariff and non-tariff impediments to sub-regional trade in forest products.
Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).