Africa has supplied the world with raw materials for centuries. Along with gold, diamonds, platinum, iron ore, salt, copper, coal, tea, coffee and, more recently, oil and gas, Africa has exported wood and wood products in large quantities, most notably in the form of tropical hardwood logs and pulp. With approximately 180 million hectares (ha) of tropical forests in the Congo Basin (the second largest rainforest in the world after the Amazon) and a globally significant area of arable land—about half of the world’s remaining undeveloped cultivable land—many believe Africa will potentially fill the growing gap between the world’s supply and demand for wood.
However, Global Environment Fund’s (GEF’s) close analysis of data from recent research suggests that Africa will increasingly become a large net importer of wood products, as opposed to a net exporter. Africa is now beginning to experience a wood supply crisis, particularly near population centers close to the coast. In addition to the implications for Africa itself, this development will have significant ramifications for wood markets elsewhere, including trade flows and pricing.
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