Communist China has been at the forefront of looting Africa’s forests for several years, with the ultimate goal of shipping tons of timber to serve its resources-hungry economy.
This practice, which is damaging Africa’s environment and made possible with the help of ‘corrupt’ African politicians and businessmen, has led to a huge degree of frustration and anger in the ‘dark continent’, where anti-China sentiments are already running high.
Many are wondering if repressive China, which seems determined to plunder the continent’s mineral resources until Judgment Day, will ever be stopped from looting Africa’s silent forests.
However, some experts said it could be a matter of misunderstanding and misinterpretation of China’s involvement in the timber business in Africa, arguing that governance of Africa’s timber can be improved in various ways, including dialogue and research.
London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) has recently published a report that it said can shed light on the positive and negative effects of Chinese investment in African forests, and show how to improve governance of timber trade.
IIED spokesperson Mike Shanahan said the report summarises the first meeting of the China-Africa Forest Governance Learning Platform, a new group that aims to ensure that such investments are environmentally sustainable and provide benefits to local communities.
Platform participants proposed research on:
The discrepancies between data on African forest product exports and Chinese imports.
• Guidelines, standards, principles and legislation in Africa and China that affect the activities of Chinese forest enterprises in African countries
• Practices and models of scales and types of effective forest management, and related issues such as land and forest tenure, in China and African countries
• Cross-sectoral analysis to understand how Chinese investments in non-forest sector investments impact on forest governance
• Timber trade and forestry investments involving Chinese companies in specific African countries – through case studies and investigative reporting by Chinese journalists.
• Chinese domestic market regulations and consumer priorities, and their potential to encourage overseas Chinese companies to apply sustainable forest management principles.
“China’s relationship with Africa is maturing and there is great potential – through research, dialogue and joint action – for forests, and local people’s forest rights and benefits, to be amongst the winners from this,” head of IIED’s Natural Resources Group James Mayers said.
“There is much work to be done to improve compliance with laws protecting forests and local benefits, and there is great scope in efforts to foster sustainable enterprises and to develop timber legality verification programmes,” Mayers said.
“Our hope is that others will join in to develop the China-Africa Forest Governance Learning Platform so that this exciting potential can be realised.”
The meeting of the China-Africa Forest Governance Learning Platform was co-hosted by the International Institute for Environment and Development, the Chinese Academy of Forestry and the Global Environmental Institute in March 2013 in Beijing, China.
Photo by National Geographiic