Published on Africa Can End Poverty

Preserving the Forest of the Congo Basin: A Game Changer for Africa and the World

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Preserving the Forest of the Congo Basin Ecoguards mapping protected areas in the Forest of the Congo basin during a field survey. Credit: LayeproPhotos / World Bank

As African leaders convene in Brazzaville to discuss the forest agenda, it is crucial to reflect on how the Congo Basin and its vital ecosystem can deliver a better future for Africans and the world.

The Congo Basin, known as the “lungs of Africa”, is the world’s largest net carbon sink and a crucial buffer against climate change. Its annual net-carbon dioxide absorption is six times that of the Amazon rainforest. According to the Center for Global Development, the value of carbon sequestration services provided by the Congo Basin Forest is estimated at least $55 billion annually, equivalent to 36% of the region’s GDP in 2021.

However, deforestation and illegal logging threaten this resource, jeopardizing its capacity to combat climate change and support millions of livelihoods. The question is, how can the forest be preserved and valorized and transformed into tangible development dividends for the people and countries of the Congo Basin?
 

Three Policy Options for Preserving the Congo Basin Forest

1. Measuring the full value of forest ecosystems and services

Preserving the Forest of the Congo Basin Community sensitization with the indigenous community in the forest of Ngotto, CAR. Credit: Layepro Photos / World Bank.

 

Currently, most wood leaves the Congo Basin as raw logs, generating only limited income and employment. By investing in sustainable forest management and value-added processing facilities, these countries can create jobs, boost economic growth, and reduce deforestation. The forestry sector contributes up to 9% of GDP in the Congo Basin countries and employs 300,000 to 500,000 individuals in the region.

To preserve the Congo Basin Forest as a global public good, it is essential t to measure and value forest ecosystems and their services, ensuring that the true value of the forests is recognized. This includes the value provided to forest-based communities, the national economy, and the global community.

Assigning economic value to ecosystem services like carbon sequestration, water filtration, biodiversity, and others justifies conservation investments and creates incentives such as payment for ecosystem services programs. Fiscal policies that reward sustainable use, reflected in tax and expenditure policies, are necessary. All forestry revenues should be captured in the national budget and guide policies to preserve and enhance forest resources and ecosystem services.

2. Reforming forest taxes for sustainability

The Congo Basin countries have made significant strides in fighting deforestation and promoting sustainable forest management by adopting new forest codes and ratifying the Paris climate agreement and the REDD+ framework, which supports countries' efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

Preserving the forests involves significant economic trade-offs, and governments have limited capacity and domestic resources. To mobilize domestic resources and incentivize greater investments in sustainable forest management, reforming forestry taxes to reflect the full economic benefits provided by forests is a solution. Participation of all stakeholders is critical to promote transparency and good governance in the forestry sector.

Peer examples offer valuable insights. Gabon, for instance, has implemented land area fees on forestry firms, reformed conflicting subsidies, and introduced an auction system for forest concessions.

Some CEMAC countries have banned the export of logs to promote local wood processing, joining the global movement for sustainable forest management. Strengthening regional cooperation through harmonized regulations, better law enforcement, and improved forest fiscal policy alignment will better equip Congo Basin countries to attract more international funding.

International funding, including results-based payments schemes, can be utilized alongside fiscal instruments to finance forest sustainability and achieve climate goals.

3. Increasing international cooperation

The Congo Basin is crucial for the world. Increased international funding, coupled with robust regional cooperation, can ensure this vital ecosystem thrives for generations to come. The World Bank Group is enhancing its support for sustainable forest management through the new initiative 'The Global Challenge Program: Forests for Development, Climate and Biodiversity.

This global forest initiative aims to expand the sustainable forest landscape and provide ecosystem of solutions to boost development, mitigate climate change, and preserve biodiversity. As part of this effort, the World Bank is preparing a regional program in the Congo Basin to scale up sustainable forest landscapes management, forest value chains and livelihood opportunities.

By uniting our efforts, we can support the Congo Basin countries to preserve this essential ecosystem. This mission goes beyond Africa's future; it is vital for securing a sustainable future for our planet.


This blog was initially published in Les Dépêches de Brazzaville. 

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