Forest concessions in Central Africa are being subjected to a combination of pressures from agribusiness investments, population growth and the informalisation of the domestic timber trade. This puts them at a crossroad. Despite REDD+, the forest sector is not a policy priority for governments whose ambition is to achieve emerging country status.
This article takes stock of the forest concessions and management rules in Central Africa, the slow progress of forest certification, and the difficulties facing the FLEGT/VPAs process, and proposes a preliminary assessment of the impact of the log export ban imposed in Gabon since 2011. Examples are given of the mounting influence of Asian companies, and the growing concentration of large corporate interests. The concession regime must be restructured to include multiple uses and take better account of local land rights inside and outside the concessions. The legitimacy of forest concessions depends on their transparency, their strict compliance with laws and regulations, and their provision of social and ecological guarantees.
Certification has been a lever for improving the practices and the self-regulation of certified companies. Recognising the public interest of certification would legitimate financial and nonfinancial incentives for companies to become certified, and international transfers may contribute to the implementation of such incentives. We therefore propose a reduction in annual area fees for certified concessions (FSC or equivalent) of €0.63 per hectare, the average specific cost of certification according to a recent study, accompanied by an international programme that fully compensates for the corresponding decrease in tax revenues of Governments.