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Research Report

Chinese trade and investment and the forests of the Congo Basin: Synthesis of scoping studies in Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon

Louis Putzel
Samuel Assembe-Mvondo
Laurentine Bilogo Bi Ndong
Reine Patrick Banioguila
Paolo Cerutti
Julius Chupezi Tieguhong
Robinson Djeukam
Noël Kabuyaya
Guillaume Lescuyer
William Mala
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2011
Pages: 54
OPEN ACCESS
https://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep02301
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-3)

    Over the past decade, in line with trends throughout Africa, the magnitude of Chinese interest in Congo Basin (CB) resources and investment opportunities has soared, and the now familiar debate about the economic benefits to Africans of cooperation with China vs. the potential environmental and social costs of working with the colossal newcomer are applicable here, as they are in other regions of the continent. However, certain features of the CB and China’s interests there lead to a particular set of questions relevant to the future of the region’s forests and the wellbeing of forest-dependent people.

    The most prominent feature...

  2. (pp. 4-6)

    In order to select three CB countries for preliminary scoping exercises, the project team reviewed available data on trade and investment between CB countries and China. The countries initially considered included Cameroon, CAR, DRC, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Congo-Brazzaville. The countries were examined according to various criteria, including forest cover and forest cover change (Table 2), total trade with China, dependency on Chinese trade, key commodities exported to China as a share of total exports to China and current investment dependency (the percentage of Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) as a share of total FDI stock). Based on the overview...

  3. (pp. 7-18)

    In this century’s first decade, especially after Beijing implemented its ‘going abroad’ policy (Luo et al. 2010) with many new advantages for Chinese businesses operating internationally, flows of natural resources from Africa to China and of investment (and people) from China to Africa ballooned. An intense and ongoing international debate in many disciplines about the potential benefits vs. the social and environmental costs of China’s Africa policy was sparked by the combination of bullish trendlines published in business magazines, news of increasingly frequent official visits and subsequent aid and loan packages, the formation in 2006 of the Forum on China-Africa...

  4. (pp. 19-23)

    By one popular account, the involvement of Chinese timber companies in Gabon dates back to the late 1980s, when Gabon’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean Ping (now Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union), who is of Chinese and Gabonese descent, invited a relative from China to come to Gabon and develop the lumber industry (Michel and Beuret 2009). Since then, many entrepreneurs from China have arrived and found many lucrative opportunities to access Gabon’s rich timber resources. Now, Chinese-owned companies currently directly hold rights to around 25% of Gabon’s forests, more than half of which belong to just...

  5. (pp. 24-30)

    The DRC mining sector is of interest to forestry in part because of the high degree of overlap between mining concessions and forested areas, including national parks, and because little systematic study has been undertaken of the effects of the national mining industry on forest cover and quality (Figure 7). At least three main types of mining are in DRC: large-scale industrial mining, which entails major infrastructure investments and requires a large permanent work force; small-scale and medium-scale mining, which can be carried out without major initial investments and relies more on casual labour; and artisanal mining, in which individuals...

  6. (pp. 31-33)

    To date, Chinese investments in agriculture in the three countries have been limited to demonstration projects funded as part of China’s development assistance, relatively minor private agribusiness investments, generally of a pilot nature, and small farms belonging to individual Chinese expatriates. All three countries import significant volumes of food, and hunger is a continuous problem in DRC, while Cameroon is vulnerable to food price shocks; these resulted in civil unrest in 2008 (Crisis Group 2010). Thus, development is a priority, a fact that Chinese policy makers have long been aware of. Food security has been a key feature of Chinese...

  7. (pp. 34-36)

    The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of the overall trends of Chinese trade and investment in the forestry, mining, and agricultural sectors of the Congo Basin. In order to achieve this, we selected Cameroon, DRC and Gabon as focal countries and conducted a scoping exercise, comprising document review, key informant interviews, and several field visits. The preliminary findings associated with this work are a composite of factual elements for which we were able to find evidentiary support, as well as the views of informants as presented to us in interviews.

    The Congo Basin’s mining and...