New CBA study explores forest-based bioeconomy in Africa

How could the circular forest-based bioeconomy contribute more to Africa’s wellbeing and prosperity, while helping to tackle climate change and other sustainability challenges?

A new CBA publication analyses the situation in five different countries – Gabon, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania – and offers recommendations for the short, medium and long-term.

Woman watering the land

Africa is at a crossroads. The last 20 years have been marked by a profound turn-around in perceptions of the continent, both within its borders and internationally. This change has been driven primarily by exceptional economic growth in many parts of Africa, and expectations of its increasing global role in the coming decades.

Today, Africa’s population is 1.34 billion and the UN medium variant projection expects it to be 2.08 billion by 2040. Renewed confidence among many African states is reflected in the Agenda 2063 of the African Union, a blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future. It puts an important focus on the rapid urbanization of Africa – by 2030 more than one billion Africans are projected to be city-dwellers.

However, as well as the expected development and potential future opportunities in Africa, there are many questions and challenges. African cities face challenges in terms of infrastructure, energy, housing, technology, and mobility. Is it possible to manage an urbanization wave in a sustainable manner? What are the impacts of the changing climate and possibilities to adapt and build resilience to it? What role do governments play, and what type of policies are most promising for a sustainable future in Africa?

A new publication from the CBA explores the role the circular forest-based bioeconomy could play, to fulfil African aspirations and answer many of these current and future challenges. As Africa consists of 54 countries with vast differences between them and the forests which they contain, the study takes an in-depth look at five different countries: Gabon, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Tanzania.

Recommendations from the authors include:

  • Launching a dedicated national bioeconomy strategy is an essential tool for forest bioeconomy development.
  • Good governance is a pre-condition for a flourishing forest bioeconomy.
  • A circular bioeconomy can help to support biodiversity and climate mitigation – and biodiversity and climate mitigation considerations are necessary for a successful forest bioeconomy.
  • There is an immediate need to stop subsidising fossil fuel production in African countries in which subsidies are in place. This not only provides funding opportunities for the forest bioeconomy (and other societal needs), but drives the demand for non-fossil solutions, such as forest bioeconomy.  
  • Investments in research, development and innovation need to increase to strengthen the foundations for a circular bioeconomy.
  • The bioeconomy needs to be seen as a key strategy for cities and urban areas, not only for rural areas. An evidence-based circular forest bioeconomy narrative and its efficient communication is needed to support engagement with society.

More information

Download the study

Hetemäki, L., Tegegne, Y.T., Ochieng, R.M. 2023. Outlook for Sustainable Forest Bioeconomy in Gabon, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania. Circular Bioeconomy Alliance.

Lauri Hetemäki is Professor of Practice at the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki.

Yitagesu Tekle Tegegne is Director of Programmes at the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance, and a Senior Researcher at the European Forest Institute.

Robert Mugabe Ochieng is an independent consultant based in Nairobi, Kenya.

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance, or of the funders.

Photo: P.Augenstein/SEE-Intl