African Forest : challenges and hopes in the face of deforestation

When we think of massive deforestation, most of us think of the Amazon rainforest, especially given its widespread mediatization. However, the African deforestation is by far the one that is progressing the most dramatically from year to year, negatively speaking.

African forest Map
Map of sub-Saharan Africa showing ecosystem types : Olson et al. (2001)

The United Nations (UN) estimates that nearly 4 million hectares of forest are decimated every year. By way of comparison, the French forest covers 17 million hectares. In other words, almost a quarter of the equivalent of our forests disappears every year!

Economic and social issues in African countries explain this massive deforestation. But there are other ways of accelerating growth and food self-sufficiency that don't require the conversion of forests into agricultural or industrial land.

One of the lungs of our planet is the African rainforest. This forest is retreating every year as land is used for agriculture. Forested areas play an essential role in the recapture of carbon dioxide (CO2) and the release of oxygen.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with its responsibility for monitoring the forest on its territory, is a leading force in tree planting policies.


Governments, institutions, local populations, global citizens... all have a role to play in curbing deforestation in Africa.

A series of articles about the African Forest !

house by a river in the African forest
The African forest : multiple stakes

We'll present two complementary examples: the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Cameroon. We begin with a first section on the stakes involved in deforestation, entitled Deforestation in Africa : national and international forest issues. In other words, the reasons why the phenomenon persists, and even sustains itself.
You'll also find references to consult at the end of each article!


To check its French translation : La forêt africaine : quels enjeux ?


National and international forestry issues

Logging for export

femme sol ravagé forêt africaine


Various national issues coexist within the issue of African forests. In particular, the exploitation, harvesting and sale of trees represent a major financial resource for African governments.

The exchange takes place with foreign multinationals, who can thus "green their hands", since they don't cut down these trees in their own countries. A sort of relocation of the ecological footprint, in a nutshell. 


The trees are sent to the factories of multinationals by boat (sea freight) to be transformed into consumer products (building materials, furniture sold under the name of "exotic woods" as a marketing argument, decorative objects...). Wood is also the resource used to make some of the world's paper money. This is not the case for " Euro " banknotes though, which are made from cotton fibers (via fabric recycling).

Highly sought-after minerals in the heart of the forest

A second, rather similar, point to raise concerns the exploitation of land for the benefit of multinationals, particularly the big technology firms that need minerals and metals to manufacture their digital terminals. In this way, mining contributes to deforestation in Africa, as it requires ever more land supposedly rich in minerals to satisfy the demands of large businesses. 

This makes the DRC the country with the largest cobalt mining reserves.

mining village near the African forest

Some 60% of the world's reserves are estimated to be in the DRC. However, most of these resources (around two-thirds) are owned by large Western and Asian technology companies that have signed state contracts.

As a stabilizer in electric batteries, cobalt is highly sought-after by industry. Its extraction also raises questions about working conditions, particularly child labor, and the offshoring of pollution. 

This mineral earns up to 3 times as much as agriculture, which is why populations are more inclined to cut down the forest to find new areas to exploit.

To find out more, we recommend Arnaud Zajtman's documentary "Cobalt, l'envers du rêve électrique" in French, which you can find on arte.tv under the name Cobalt Wars.

An article published in GEO also shared the fact that the government of the DRC, in order to move away from the all-mineral approach to its export earnings, was beginning to consider the development of an oil and gas exploitation sector within its forest basins. Although the government assures that it takes into account the preservation of ecosystems, the information is nonetheless worrying from a global ecological point of view.

Competition for forest land

Finally, the abundance of African forests can lead to land conflicts between local communities and landowners, or even foreign industrialists. A recent law in Cameroon seeks to formalize the land and real estate sector in order to regulate the market and achieve a more equitable situation for rural populations, in particular to avoid forced expropriations.
However, as land is a means of generating income, some communities are becoming engulfed in the mining sector and dependent on it for their survival, to the detriment of sustainable forest development.

Featured in our "Forests of Africa" series:

Article submitted by Flora, from the Run for Planet team
Find her online : linkedin.com

References :

  • Foka A., journalist for Radio France Internationale, specialist in African affairs. FR: “Comment récupérer nos richesses minières” / ENG: "How to recover our mineral wealth". Published 2021, June 8. From youtube.com 
  • GEO with AFP. FR: “Exploitation de pétrole et de gaz dans la forêt tropicale : Face aux critiques, la RDC tente de rassurer” / ENG: "Exploiting oil and gas in the rainforest: Faced with criticism, the DRC tries to reassure". Published 2022, July 29. From geo.fr
  • Ouest France. Thomas A. FR: “DOSSIER. Pour nos batteries de smartphones ou voitures, des enfants creusent en Afrique” / ENG: "FOCUS. For our smartphone and car batteries, children are digging in Africa". Published 2020, September 12. From ouest-france.fr
  • TV5Monde Info. FR: "En RDC, la face cachée du cobalt” / ENG: "In the DRC, the hidden face of cobalt". Published 2023, March 15. From youtube.com

Écrire commentaire

Commentaires: 0