The paradox is that Angola is rich in opportunities for external investors in a number of very fast-growing industries. One of these is timber. Angola is one the world’s fastest growing lumber exporters but it is still importing processed wood products from abroad because it doesn’t have a wood processing industry to speak of. In the short-term, Angola has the ability to significantly increase forest products exports which would bring a number of positive socio-economic benefits. Yet government policies are making it hard for timber companies to export to other African countries and right across the continent demand isn’t being met.
Angola is in a strong position to achieve that win-win scenario. When it comes to the timber industry Angola is in pole position to win the race and Sepex as company aims to be in the driving sit. The country’s climate and landscape are perfect for the planting of new forests, and since there is currently an enormous shortfall in supply right across the African continent, Angola is perfectly placed to meet demand. In Africa, that shortfall is spiralling because of the pace of economic growth and the rising population. If wood is not used to support the construction of towns and cities, the alternatives are concrete, metals and plastics: which have a less carbon friendly footprint than wood. And, unlike wood, they are not biodegradable (every piece of plastic that has ever been made is still here – in our seas, forests, fields and streets). Yet where wood is essential, developers that cannot source timber from planted forests may turn to wood from our planet’s natural rainforests.
One of our main supplier is a timber company that is building a world class timber industry to bring economic prosperity to ordinary Angolans. The company was created to develop Angola’s timber sector through sustainable forestry practices. It takes eight to twelve years of careful forestry management to raise tree seedlings to maturity, which means that companies of such need to maintain and re-establish plantations in order for the industry to be sustainable. Right now, our supplier has old and over-mature plantations that need to be harvested in order to make way for new trees. However, harvesting old wood and subsequent replanting is frustrated by well-meaning but problematic policies and regulations. New restrictions on exporting raw timber materials are holding back a virtuous forest lifecycle and this is not only bad for the forests but bad for economic diversification. The key concept here is sustainable fibre supply: sustainably managed forests that can supply wood and fibre without harming the environment and surrounding communities. Sustainability means that supply doesn’t end – this is precisely the kind of economic sustainability that African countries are striving for as they look to meet their pressing economic challenges.