China-Africa Forest Governance project


Improving evidence, capacity and joint action for sustainable Chinese investment in Africa's forests.

The timber depot of Green Timber, a Chinese-owned timber concession that are licensed to operate in Nampula and Zambezia provinces, Mozambique (Photo: Mike Goldwater)

China's investment and trade in Africa's natural resource sectors have significant implications for Africa's forests. Many investments are in forested or woodland areas, some directly engage in logging and others, such as mining, infrastructure and agribusiness, affect forests and rural livelihoods.

By one estimate, 75 per cent of Africa's timber is exported to China. But despite the scale, we know little about the impacts. There is also a lack of dialogue between Chinese and African stakeholders to address emerging critical issues such as sustainable investments, illegal logging and rural livelihoods.

Our goal

Through research, dialogue and joint action, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and its partners will contribute to improving forest governance, by promoting sustainable and pro-poor Chinese trade and investment in Africa's forests.

Our goal is to achieve improved policy and investment practice in China and Africa in ways that foster good stewardship of forest resources and benefit local communities.

Where and who?

Between 2014 and 2017, we will work in China and four African countries: Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mozambique and Uganda.

Each of these countries hosts important China-Africa sustainable development challenges. They are countries in which the scale of Chinese investment and trade in forest-related sectors is significant and, in the case of Cameroon and DRC, where there is ongoing timber legality work supported by the European Commission. IIED already has established strong partnership in these countries through several years of forest governance work with influential local partners.

Our main partners in China include Research Institute of Forestry Policy and Information at the Chinese Academy of Forestry (CAF) and Global Environmental Institute (GEI).

Our lead African partners are: Centre for Environment and Development (Cameroon), Reseaux Ressources Naturelles (DRC), Terra Firma (Mozambique), Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (Uganda).

Internationally, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is a critical partner whose expertise in engaging with sustainable corporate practices is of great value.

Field visit at a timber processing plant in Tengchong and exchange between African and Chinese researchers, as part of the China-Africa Forest Governance Platform launch event in March 2013 (Photo: Simon Lim)

What will IIED and partners do?

There are three ways that the project will build on the China-Africa Forest Governance Learning Platform that IIED launched with partners in 2013:

  1. Generate evidence: With in-country partners, we aim to generate reliable knowledge about the current status and trends of China-linked investments in the forests in the four African countries – focusing on forestry, mining, agriculture and infrastructure. We will also analyse relevant laws and regulations, incentives for companies to operate sustainably and legally, and the impacts of China-linked investments and trade on rural livelihoods
  2. Strengthen capacity and dialogue: Without good dialogue in, and between, China and Africa, we cannot make real progress beyond the negative reporting by the media on China's investment in Africa. Therefore, this project will focus on building capacity among stakeholders – policymakers, private sector actors, researchers, practitioners and journalists – through national, regional and international dialogues, trainings and work exchanges
  3. Improve policy and investment practice: Through evidence, capacity building and dialogue, we aim to change specific policy and investment practices. Some of the ways that we aim to do this include:
    • Helping Chinese investors adopt and monitor codes of practice
    • Supporting companies to obtain verification of good legal practice, and
    • Engaging with Chinese and African policymakers to change policies and investment and organisational practices to support resilient African land use and a sustainable China-Africa forest products trade.

Related blog:

China in Africa's forests, by James Mayers

Project newsletters

November 2015

December 2014

Country briefings

The following 2-page briefings summarise more detailed diagnostics on the status of, and issues in, Chinese investments in forest land in the project's four African countries, including a take on the forest governance issues from China's perspective.

Country work plans


Tackling discrepancies in timber trade data: comparing China and Mozambique, Andrade F. Egas, Peng Ren, Jingwei Zhang, Ernesto U. Júnior, Narciso F. Bila, Eunice C. Sitoe (2018) Working paper

China in Africa – exploring investment in the forests, James Mayers (2017), Project update | en français | 中文 | em português)

Análise do impacto da reforma legal no sector florestal, Sheila de Menezes Advogados (2017), Country report | em português

Investimento Chinês no Sector Florestal Moçambicano, Maria Muianga, Simon Norfolk (2017), Country report

Procedimentos de registo e verificação de dados na cadeia de fornecimento de madeira, Andrade F. Egas, Ernesto U. Júnior, Narciso F. Bila, Eunice C. Sitoe (2017), Country report

Chinese aid for African forestry: progress, problems and prospects, Xu Bin, Chen Jie, Chen Shaozhi, Su Haiying, He Youjun (2017) IIED Briefing

Boosting governance in Mozambique's forests. Options for more sustainable forestry among Chinese timber traders and Mozambican partners Duncan Macqueen, Mário Falcão (2017), Research report (em português)

Invest in forest-wise people and business! A report from the 4th international learning event of the China-Africa Forest Governance Platform, James Mayers, Duncan Macqueen, Xiaoxue Weng, Khanh Tran-​Thanh (2017) Event report

    Manual on sustainable overseas forest management trade and investment by Chinese enterprises: Mozambique version, Edited by Chen Yong, Maria Muianga, Chen Shaozi, Li Ming (2017), Report (中文)

    Why Africa's forests are important for its people, the world and China (2016), Project info (en français | 中文)

    China in Africa – a fast changing relationship, James Mayers (2016), Project info (en français | 中文)

    The dragon and the giraffe: China in African forests, James Mayers (2015), IIED Briefing

    Timber flow study: export/import discrepancy analysis, You Chang, Ren Peng (2015), IIED Working paper

    China-Africa collaboration to improve forest governance, James Mayers and Xiaoxue Weng (2014), IIED Backgrounder

    China-Africa Forest Governance Project, (2014), IIED Project profile (en français)

    China-Africa Forest Governance Learning Platform, report of an inception event and future agenda, Khanh Tran-Thanh, Lila Buckley and James Mayers (2013), IIED Event report

    Platform set for China-Africa forest governance action, James Mayers (2013), IIED Reflect and Act