The reality is that Angola’s wood processing industry is still immature, which is why the country is still importing wood products. This needs to change – but it can only do so if small, medium and large-scale wood processing industries are actively supported. Community-based plantations must be nurtured because they very often have better access to land than financial or industrial investors and they are intrinsically better at managing the fluctuating demands for labour over the seasons. Community-based plantations do, however, have their shortcomings. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) says that at the current time it is difficult to identify the state of forest plantations in Angola – but that visual studies suggest 40-50 percent of plantations are “…in an advanced critical state of degradation generally caused by illegal cutting of neighbouring populations and the lack of silvicultural treatment and management.” In addition, community-based plantations very often have limited access to improved seedlings and they are often unaware of how to widen their market access. These shortcomings can easily be rectified with support from larger private sector planted plantations.
Healthy, growing local production means that Angola can hold on to its dollar reserves and ease the pressure on its national currency. Over time, as the processing industry matures and producers begin to export to other nations, processed and unprocessed wood exports can reverse the wood trade deficit and reverse the outflow of foreign currency. And of course, there are myriad multiplier effects – job and wage growth, skills development and a stronger domestic supply chain. There is no quick fix to any nation’s economic woes, particularly in the context of today’s global economic and political uncertainties. However, it is patently obvious that there is significant low hanging fruit in fast-growing industries such as timber, that if responsibly utilised can deliver immediate short-term economic relief, medium-term industrial diversification and long-term socio-economic growth.