Ghislain Fomou: “Cameroon needs a real wood industrialization policy”. – News from Cameroon

Ghislain-Fomou-forestry expert

In charge of programs at the NGO Support Service for Local Initiatives and Development (Salid) and also an expert at the European Forest Institute, Ghislain Fomou analyzes the decision to postpone log exports to CEMAC countries.

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The Council of Ministers of the Monetary Union of Central Africa (UMAC), announced the indefinite postponement of the entry into force of the ban on exports of timber logs by the CEMAC countries. How do you comment on this decision?

This is too much. In the case of Cameroon, the 1994 forestry law provides that the cessation of timber exports will take effect from the 2000s. Nearly 30 years later, we find ourselves speculating on a possible ban on the export of logs, means that we have signed texts that we are unable to respect. That didn’t surprise us either. Since being in this sector, we have already seen several postponements of this decision. It is true that we thought that the decision that had been taken for the end of 2022 could materialize. We have already seen a number of countries follow suit. So we said to ourselves that the right time had come to apply it.

What will be the consequences of this new postponement?

It is clear that we will continue to operate with an economic fabric of the forestry sector that is eternally oriented outward. In other words, we will continue to slow down the industrialization of the forestry sector. When we observe the dynamics of this sector, we see that several companies are interested in investing in the wood processing sector. You have to see the big cities where a flourishing number of shops that make furniture are developing. We are missing with this postponement an opportunity to develop this sector of opportunities which is opening up to us and which offers a certain number of opportunities to reduce unemployment. Finally, we are missing an opportunity to promote the consumption of locally produced products.

Beyond the official reasons which are among others, the fact that this measure will lead to economic losses. What do you think could be the unofficial reasons that motivated this decision?

I think there was an unpreparedness. Developing the industrialization of the wood sector is not only the responsibility of the Ministry of Forests. This requires a real government policy in the industrialization of the wood sector. I think it was an announcement without any real preparatory work. To have an industrial fabric, sufficient energy is needed. Yet currently we are experiencing real energy problems.

To talk about industrialization, we have to talk about access to machinery and processing equipment. We note that this side, there is no attraction in terms of machine cost reductions. There is certainly a text that was signed under pressure from unions in the wood sector, on the exemption of a certain number of pieces of equipment, but we have to think about the matter a little further.

Some believe that this postponement was decided under pressure from the forest industries. What do you think ?

Who has the sovereign power over the issue of forests? If we give this responsibility to companies, does this mean that these companies are more powerful than the State? It must be understood that companies are in search of profit and are ready to take all the options that allow them to win. And this because they themselves do not realize that there is real work to be done and which allows them to guarantee the same financial income.

What are the solutions to achieve a ban that would not create new problems?

It is obviously necessary to prepare better by restructuring the vision of logging in Cameroon. We have to get out of the vision of wood export for a vision of wood processing. We have a policy that is still oriented towards the outside. We need to put in place an incentive framework for investment in wood processing. In Gabon, for example, an industrial zone has been created for wood processing; we have to work on access to energy and the acquisition of machines.

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Ghislain Fomou: “Cameroon needs a real wood industrialization policy”. – News from Cameroon

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