|Wood felled in plantations was illegally sold in China according to Greenpeace|
However, some timber exporting countries of the Congo basin like Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have signed an agreement; the Voluntary Partnership Accord (VPA) with the European Union as part of the EU Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) that brings together demand-side and supply-side to combat illegal logging.
This agreement with the EU, according to some observers is indirectly causing trade between China and these African countries in the forest sector to be increasingly illegal.
Experts say the illegal timber trade between China and Africa is facilitated by the fact that the Asian economic giant doesn’t have a strong legislation to prevent the trade.
But according to Samuel Nguiffo, secretary general of the Centre for Environment and Development, CED Cameroon co-organizer of the China-Africa forest governance learning platform, it is not possible to affirm that all the timber from these countries to China is illegal. The platform is a multi-stakeholder dialogue that brings together African, Chinese and international stakeholders discussing Chinese trade and investment impacts on Africa’s forest.
The second event of the multi-stakeholder platform took place in Yaounde from June 22-25. The first such event took place in Beijing, China in 2013.
“What we can say is that most timber illegally produced goes to China, and the reason is that we don’t have the same kind of legality standards at the entrance into China like what we have in Europe for instance. The situation now is that if you have high standard products, they are likely to go to Europe, and if you have low standard products, they are likely to go to China; that is what we want to avoid”, Nguiffo said.
Since 2013, China has been investing in Africa through the platform, but not without criticisms. Last year, Greenpeace Africa alleged that large quantities of wood felled when forest land is converted for other uses are illegally reaching international markets in China.
“By exploring the sensitive issues such as illegal and unsustainable logging, the China-Africa Forest Governance Learning Platform has already created trust and political will to confront these challenges”, James Mayers, head of the natural resources group of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) said.
Africa’s current timber exports to China are estimated at 75 per cent. “China is increasingly getting involved in land use investment projects in Africa in other sectors like mining, agribusiness, and infrastructure. All these things have effects on forest land and people’s livelihood associated with that”, Mayers said.
“In 2014, out of 700.000 cubic meters of logs exported from Cameroon, 500.000 cubic meters went to china and only 200.000 cubic meters went to Europe”, Nguiffo revealed.
The technical adviser in the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, Joseph Levodo Tsengue, said China remains a good economic partner of Africa. He said Chinese investments in Cameroon cut across several sectors including forestry.
The platform was developed by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), WWF, the Research Institute of Forestry Policy and Information at the Chinese Academy of Forest, the Global Environment Institute (GEI) and African partners from Forest Governance Learning Group (FGLG), an international alliance that promotes policymaking that serves forest-dependent communities and sustainability.
According to Dr Chen Yong of the Research Institute of Forestry Policy and Information (RIFPI), State Forest Administration (SFA) of China, the platform is a big opportunity both for China and Africa.
“In recent years we have seen an increase of closer relationship between China and Africa in the field of forestry as well as trade. Currently the trade volume between China and Africa is 200 Billion; we estimate this figure to double to 400 Billion till 2020. Currently, the direct investment into Africa from China is at 25 Billion Dollars, we estimate this figure grow to 200 Billion to double this means that the close link between China and Africa is not just a big opportunity for Africa, but also a big opportunity for China”
On the sidelines of the second meeting of the platform, stakeholders visited Cameroon’s new deep sea port in Kribi in the South region of the country and surrounding infrastructure, which was built with Chinese investment.
By Ndi Eugene Ndi