Over the last decades, logs had been the most important commodity in the Congo Basin international forest products trade. In recent years, national legislation in most countries of this region has more or less gradually introduced log exports bans, aiming at the promotion of local investments in wood processing.
For multiple reasons the level of investment in new manufacturing facilities or expansion of existing ones, has been very limited. The majority of export products remained traditionally sawn timber, veneer and plywood directed towards European markets and increasingly to new regions, such as China.
While the European markets are slowly recovering from the economic downturn, there is a need to develop stronger market opportunities within the African regions or sub regions, including fostering national wood product markets. In order to be in a position to serve these markets, it is a prerequisite to create an enabling environment to invest in local further processing facilities.
There are various good initiatives in Congo Basin countries promoting different aspects related to the development of the forest industries, most of them lacking a strategic national framework for their activities.
As a follow up to the “Accra Action Plan” resulting from the International Conference on the “Promotion of Intra-African Trade in Timber and Timber Products”, held in Ghana from 30 June to 2 July 2009, organized by the International Tropical Timber Organization; ITTO, Interafrican Forest Industries Association (IFIA) and the FAO National Forest Programme Facility (NFP) are joining forces to promote the formulation and implementation of national forest industry development strategies. This is also in line with the fifth strategic axis of the “Plan de Convergence” of the COMIFAC, which is about the sustainable valuation of the forests resource.
A strategy to promote the development of the forest industry is an important instrument to create a favourable environment for investment and to facilitate and strengthen local and sub regional markets. Some of the issues identified in a strategy could be implemented within a short period of time; while others can become part of long term processes.
The meeting will focus on the following objectives:
• Priorities are identified for the formulation of national strategies in selected countries of the Congo Basin for the development of forest industries, from the resource base to the markets.
• A road map is agreed upon for the formulation and implementation of national strategies, with focus in short and medium term results.
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