Working wood locally in Congo Basin poses challenge
By Laudes Martial Mbon, AFPBRAZZAVILLE -- Countries of Africa's Congo Basin would like to grow richer by making and selling products from their abundant supply of timber, but experts see a path strewn with obstacles.
October 28, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
A first difficulty is that electrical power for sawmills and factories “is not available, because its production is problematic,” Emmanuel Ze Meka of the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) told AFP.
“There is also a lack of transport infrastructure” and “taxation is too high,” he said, adding that an unqualified workforce needs much training.
Ze Meka was speaking on the sidelines of an international forum on the development of the Congo Basin wood industry, which covers much of west equatorial Africa and includes some of the world's largest tropical rainforests, after the Amazon.
Experts met in Congo's capital Brazzaville on Monday and Tuesday to debate the pros and cons of banning raw timber exports in order to promote the development of local industries that offer products ranging from plywood to furniture.
Cameroon was the first country to ban the export of its valuable hardwood timber in the mid-1990s, but it rapidly eased up on the restrictions.
Since 2010, no raw timber has left Gabon, where logging was the main export earner until oil came onstream. But the country is having difficulty in finding outlets for its wood products because of stiff competition.
“Gabon isn't a country with a big industrial tradition. Its industries are not capable of matching international competition. Their plywood isn't competitive when faced with China's,” said Alain Karsenty, who works for the France-based International Center for Agronomic Research and Development (CIRAD).