On 21 and 22 June, the ATIBT organized the Racewood in Libreville, as part of Gabon WoodShow, the first timber fair in the Congo Basin.
ATIBT has decided to take advantage of the launch this year of Gabon WoodShow, Gabon’s first wood and technology show in Gabon, to join the event and hold a new edition of the Racewood.
The International Technical Association of Tropical Timber (ATIBT) is used to organizing two main events around developments in the tropical forest-wood sector, which alternate every other year:
Gabonese timber industry undergoing restructuring
This first timber show was launched in Libreville in a context of major changes in the sector, under the patronage of the President of Republic, with a strong ambition: to become the best platform for creative ideas and new technologies, and an exhibition of innovative resources in Africa. The fair had reserved a large collective booth for ATIBT and its African forestry unions, and it also welcomed some members of the ATIBT operating in Gabon (Rougier, Precious Woods, FRM, TEREA, Termolegno…). After the opening ceremony by the President of the Gabonese Republic, the African Timber Forum was launched with the participation of the Ministers of Water and Forests of Gabon and other Central African countries, representatives of COMIFAC, as well as other representatives of the industry, from public and private sector. The Forum concluded with the signing of the Libreville Declaration, with recommendations for the development of a profitable, waste-free, carbon-efficient and socially inclusive African timber processing industry.
ATIBT Racewood : a multi-faceted expert conference on the hot topics of the industry
The Racewood, which started the day after the launch of Gabon WoodShow, was organized with the support of STRATEGIC company, and the financing of various donors (AFD, EU, PPECF), as well as the Gabon Special Economic Zone (GSEZ), a key player in this week devoted to the timber trade.
Opened by the Ministry of Water and Forests of Gabon with the presence of COMIFAC, this new edition of the Racewood was an opportunity for ATIBT to continue its action of reflection and exchanges with its partners on the all main topics concerning the future of the Congo Basin forests, such as the legality of logging, the certification of sustainable management and its promotion, the valorization of certified African timber, the training, the processing of tropical timber and the qualities of timber in terms of sustainability and competitiveness among the greatest number. The issues of forest plantations were also addressed.
COMIFAC and ATIBT took the opportunity of this meeting to strengthen and concretize their collaboration through the signing of a five-year collaboration agreement and a specific protocol for the collection and valuation of data on the forest sector and forest concessions in Central Africa.
The Racewood was marked by the signing of a five-year collaboration agreement between ATIBT and COMIFAC (Commission of Central African Forests) and a specific protocol for the collection and valuation of data. on the forest sector and forest concessions in Central Africa. This document sets the framework for collaboration in the implementation of the subregional convergence plan for the sustainable management of forest ecosystems in Central Africa. COMIFAC thus undertakes to provide ATIBT with the necessary information for projects of common interest, and ATIBT, for its part, to implement the convergence plan in a concerted manner and to provide tools for decision support and evaluation of projects.
Experts in legality, timber technicians, marketing managers, certification bodies, donors, NGOs, States or inter-state organizations (COMIFAC), market analysts, forestry unions, academics and researchers, research departments, technological laboratories, program coordinator technical training, representatives of the private sector from Gabon and the other countries of the Congo Basin, but also from Spain, Italy, Belgium, the United States, the United Kingdom and France, succeeded each other in five round tables on legality and certification, on flows, logistics and management, on the future of concessions and on industrial development.
Topical themes in direct contact with the current concerns of the sector, supported by quality speakers, a fruitful synergy with Gabon WoodShow, the African Wood Forum, and events organized by other actors of the forest (FSC, FAO, Global Timber Forum, African Development Bank) on the sidelines of the fair, as well as significant local participation, were undoubtedly the success factors of this new edition, which brought together an average of 160 people from various regions of the world and professional horizons, and denied the most skeptical predictions.
For administrative reasons, the ATIBT had not organized Racewood for several years; the success of the event was not obvious, as was the first edition of Gabon WoodShow, which was also a challenge. In fact, it soon became clear that the event had a real audience, filled a need and had a real scope, which encourages a renewal of the experience. The challenge of ATIBT is to raise awareness of its activity, to enable the various stakeholders to communicate together and to advance the sustainable management of tropical forests.
A new deal « products » and « operators » in African forestry
The other important observation of this event was the very clear reconfiguration of the landscape in terms of products, but also of forestry actors in Gabon, and more generally, in the Congo Basin. There is a greater variety of products, including many furniture and other products from the 2nd and 3rd transformation. In addition, the entire industry, including machine manufacturers, are involved. Finally, the presence of companies from Asia, especially Chinese and Indian – and the surface of the show occupied by these stands was a good testimony – is real. A new deal with which we must now rely and to which European companies must adapt.
For ATIBT, it is important to help Asian companies improve their supply and collaborate with those in demand for forest management. These companies also need to be able to access the European and American markets, and thus be able to meet their requirements in terms of legality and certification. ATIBT and its members have already made this shift, by deepening relations with these players who have entered the game, and by considering choosing China as the next destination of its 2019 Forum.
Focus : Two expert analyzes on the situation of the tropical timber sector in Central Africa
Analysis on short-term problems, but also on the root causes of the difficulties of this sector, on the issue of the sustainability of certified or not logging, and the increasing hegemony of Asian actors. Public policy proposals to restore credibility to the option of « sustainable forest development » undermined by the current crisis of many certified European companies.
Press review (in French)