Lessons from 30 years of African commercial forestry investments and implications for the future

Sustainable planted forests have a critical role to play in supporting Sub-Saharan Africa’s economic development whilst simultaneously making a significant contribution to mitigating climate change. However, the last 30 years of investments to establish new greenfield, industrial-scale forests in Africa have faced a multitude of challenges, resulting in substantial underperformance from a commercial perspective.

Recognising the important role of such forests and the difficulties faced, Gatsby Africa and Criterion Africa Partners commissioned a study to identify the challenges faced by investors, and opportunities to do things differently.

The study, led by Wellspring Development, draws on CAP’s proprietary data from tracking the last 30 years of investment transactions and supplements this with insights from key informant interviews and analysis to derive a key set of lessons from commercial forestry investments in Sub-Saharan Africa since 1990.

The study considers the opportunities of smallholder forestry, with lessons from Asia, and the role of carbon finance to support further development of the sector and draws out key lessons and their implications for the next generation of investors, development actors and governments.

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