Alain Karsenty, research economist at the “Environnements and societies” Cirad Departement publishes an article on the subject of the geopolitics of Central Africa Forests. Article published in the journal Hérodote in November 2020. Here is the summary of the article.
In contrast to other regions of the world, Africa could soon become the continent of deforestation, with DRC losing more than 1 million ha of tree cover per year. In Central Africa, small-scale agriculture is the main driver of deforestation. Its expansion is associated with demographic patterns and the desire to build up a land heritage. Land grabbing of forestland by agribusiness remains limited, as most of the impressive announcements have turned out to be short-lived due to local people resistance and government reluctance.
Forest exploitation is still mostly carried out under the concession regime, but European interests have become a minority in the face of Asian conglomerates, particularly Chinese. The emergence of Sino-Indian rivalry in the forestry sector is emerging in Gabon. Successive international initiatives have not achieved convincing results, and the REDD+ process remains essentially a showcase for donors with no real grip on the ground. Gabon has been able to take advantage of a skillful climate diplomacy that gives it a leadership previously hold by the DRC.
The 2020 crisis could reduce some pressures on forests (infrastructure and extractive activities), but may increase others, as many neo-unemployed people will have to resort to subsistence farming.