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China-Africa special 
Logged trees for export to China at a Chinese timber company, Beira Corridor, Mozambique (Photo: Joerg Boethling/Alamy Stock Photo)
Blog by James Mayers

China’s investments, Africa’s forests: from raw deals to mutual gains?

The grand-scale Belt and Road Initiative is driving ever greater Chinese investment in Africa’s forests. But will the benefits of this ‘development’ reach local people? And will it be sustainable?

A recent IIED project in Cameroon highlights both the potential and the pitfalls of surging investment.

Meet Mr Forest video
Video about Zheng Fei and his company, Mr Forest

Meet Mr Forest


Chinese loggers, miners and farmers – from individuals and small enterprises through to multi-million dollar investments – are fast becoming a feature of many African landscapes.

This four-minute film is about Zheng Fei and his company, Mr Forest, which processes timber for export to China from its base in northern Mozambique.

Mr Forest sets an example of responsible Chinese investment in Africa’s forests – as it pursues local value-addition, decent employment, more efficient wood use and a greater concern for long-term forest sustainability.

"When entrepreneurs, community groups, and government work together with good evidence, they can bring about positive change for the forest and people of both China and Africa."


–  Zheng Fei, Mr Forest
China in Cameroon’s forests: a review of issues and progress for livelihoods and sustainability
Research report, 79 pages

China in Cameroon’s forests: a review of issues and progress for livelihoods and sustainability

Chinese investment in Cameroon is estimated to be worth two times more than all other sources of investment combined. But it comes with major implications for forests and community livelihoods. This report introduces the nature and scale of the issues involved and the project which has engaged with them. It describes efforts made to improve policy and practice in China-Cameroon forest issues and outlines some ways forward.

Download the research report.
Chinese investment in DRC: a view from the forest
IIED Briefing, 4 pages

Chinese investment in DRC: a view from the forest

China has a keen and growing interest in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC’s) natural resources. Chinese companies have secured direct access to these in return for building infrastructure and Chinese investors have made deals with local authorities to harvest resources. But such arrangements are not improving local livelihoods and sustainability. This briefing presents a summary of progress made and explores how stakeholders from both countries can work together to improve policy and practice.
China in Mozambique's Forests
Research report, 132 pages

China in Mozambique's Forests

After decades of growth in China-Mozambique economic relations, China is now the destination for approximately 93 per cent of all Mozambique’s timber exports. Meanwhile, an alarming loss of forest cover has raised concerns over the impact of this trade on Mozambique’s forest and rural development. How can the China- Mozambique timber trade foster better stewardship of forest resources in Mozambique and benefit poor men and women?

Find out in the research report from the China-Africa Forest Governance project.
Towards legal and sustainable investments by China in Africa’s forests
Research report, 57 pages

Towards legal and sustainable investments by China in Africa’s forests

China’s growing investment and trade in Africa’s natural resource sectors brings with it both challenges and opportunities. This report describes the significant progress made by the China-Africa Forest Governance project in key areas: raising awareness among Chinese stakeholders of the need for a legal and sustainable timber trade, improving the evidence base for informed policymaking, increasing dialogue and exchange opportunities between China and Africa, and bringing on board the Chinese private sector to promote sustainable timber trade and other land-use investments.
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