BEIJING (Oct. 24-26, 2016) – Diplomats, academics, business professional and pundits alike have highlighted Africa’s development as increasingly influential in the coming decades. A continent that is wildly diverse in terms of economics, geography, natural resources, culture and governments, Africa’s challenges are bested only by its opportunities.
“It has been showed that Africa’s forests have the potential to help keep the global temperature rise below 2degrees; there are many opportunities for synergies between Africa and China,” said Mr. Gaster Kawuubye, Team leader of Tree Talk Plus (Uganda).
China has been exploring Africa’s forestry sector aggressively over the past decade through exporting timber and timber processing. GEI has reported on Chinese investment in Africa through two main research projects, one analyzing Chinese land-use investment in Africa that may have an impact on African forests and another addressing imbalanced timber import and export records that may be a result of a burgeoning illegal timber trade.
As Africa continues to open up its borders, China and Africa have a rare opportunity to implement best business and policy practices early on. Through debate and conversations, the China and Africa can work together so to ensure the timber trade and other timber business is sustainable and mutually beneficial as possible. The China-Africa Forest Governance Learning Platform began in 2013 so to have conversations about these issues and present solutions before problems erupted, thereby paving a path for sustainable development in Africa.
“This is the third meeting of the Learning Platform and is an opportunity to further emphasize and advance sustainable development. We are grateful to all the partners for traveling so far for this important meeting,” said Mr. Peng Ren, Program Manager, GEI.
GEI, along with several other international partners and Chinese government representatives, held the third meeting of the Learning Platform from October 24-25 in Beijing. The co-hosts and partners of the platform are Chinese Academy of Forestry-Institute of Forestry Policy and Information (CAF-RIFPI), China’s State Forestry Administration-Centre for International Forest Products Trade (SAF-CINFT); International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED); European Forest Institute-EU FLEGT Facility, GEI and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) China. Over 100 representatives from twelve countries attended the platform; represented countries include the United Kingdom, China, Gabon, Uganda, Cameroon, Congo (DRC), Spain and Mozambique.
The China-Africa Forest Governance Platform was a huge success thanks to the efforts of all partners – GEI 2016
With a focus on sharing and discussion, the platform was facilitated several large scale panel discussions, breakout sessions and even a nine-small round-robin discussions. Throughout the two days, each attendee the chance to share their expertise, voice questions, draw from personal experience and work with people from other nations to propose new solutions.
Through the conversations, two main concerns emerged: Chinese representatives emphasized the need to develop a value-added timber processing in Africa with African partners while the African counterparts stressed means to improve cooperation between Chinese firms and African partners for more sustainable growth.
Quotes and Feedback from our Partners
Mr. Jianquan Fu, Director, Department of Development, Planning and Finance Management SFA
“During this meeting, we learned a lot about how to focus on local development and protect the local environment.”
Mr. Sun Lihui Director of Liaison Department, China Chamber of Commercial of Metals, Minerals & Chemicals Importers & Exporters
“Corporate social responsibility is a major thing holding back development. … Chinese firms need to have integrative CSR that is creative and localized.”
Mr. Teodyl Nkuintchua Tchoudjen, Senior Programme Coordinator, Centre for Environment and Development (Cameroon)
“Aid has proven ineffective in Cameroon, we need more investment and people want good development. However, we need stronger guidelines for participation as no good business happens with opacity.”
Mr. Stanley Chung Dinsi, Network for Environment and Sustainable Development – Central Africa (Cameroon)
“This platform was definitely necessary and worth organizing. We need international participation with people from different backgrounds and countries sharing their experiences.”
Sr. Seth Cook, senior researcher at IIED
“The small group sharing activity was the best part of the workshop as it allowed for many different ideas and sharing.”
Presenting Innovative Solutions in a Rotating Classroom
The afternoon of the second day took a classroom approach as nine innovative thinkers shared their research and ideas for addressing the development of the China-Africa timber industry.
The rotating classroom highlighted the diverse perspectives and expertise of the platform attendees – GEI 2016
Set up like a rotating classroom, participants joined small groups and traveled around the room learning about topics ranging from Chinese CSR matrix, on-the-ground perspectives of Chinese investment in Africa, mapping Chinese forestry investment in Mozambique, and community research for land-use investment in Congo (DRC).
Jingwei teaches a meeting attendee about her Chinese NGOs Going Out Report – GEI 2016
GEI’s Overseas Investment Trade and the Environment Program officer, Jingwei Zhang, was one of these nine teachers and lead her students to explore the role of Chinese NGOs in Africa. Entitled “Chinese NGO’s Going Out” Jingwei’s presentation was voted the most “innovative” of the conference and introduced how NGOs can bridge the cultural, communications and policy gaps between Chinese and African partners.
As the two-day workshop came to an end, GEI and all our partners are hopeful that innovative perspectives, like Jingwei’s and the Forest Governance Platform, will lead a charge for a more sustainable Africa, overseas business and the world.