Gabon Woodshow puts spotlight on Africa

History was made in the Gabonese capital, Libreville, when it hosted the first-ever woodworking and furniture manufacturing show in West and Central Africa, from 20 to 22 June, 2018.

Gabon has the ambition to become a world leader in certified tropical timber by the year 2025.

There were 74 exhibitors – including government agencies for the promotion of their woodworking industries – from 47 countries, even from outside the African continent, for the three-day event, which aimed to highlight the potential and dynamism of the timber industry in the sub-region.

An estimated 2,800 visitors were attracted to the exhibition and concurrent technical conference and timber forum at the 3,000-square-metre facility at JardinBotanique, in the heart of Libreville.

The President of Gabon, Mr Ali Bongo Ondimba, inaugurated the event, the first of its kind in wood, woodworking machinery and forestry equipment in West and Central Africa.

He said Gabon has an ambitious vision in the forest and woodworking sector, to make Gabon a world leader in certified tropical timber by the year 2025. “Wood is one of the 21st century’s building materials par excellence. It is inexpensive, sustainable, renewable and energy-efficient,” he noted.

Innovations in woodworking could offer the opportunity to revolutionise the market of building materials and housing in Gabon, in terms of cost and efficiency, offering new opportunities to the local wood industry in particular and those in neighbouring African countries, he said.

Technology talks

The Racewood Technical Conference, organised by ATIBT (the International Technical Association on Tropical Wood), in collaboration with UFIGA (Industrial Forestry Trade Union of Gabon), was hosted within the Gabon Woodshow.

The symposium deliberated wood market certification and legality, wood and logistics strategy, strategies for sustainable development and product improvement, and scale of manufactured products along with the state-of-the-art techniques.

The event offered its participants the opportunity to meet and network with timber, woodworking machinery and forestry professionals to develop ideas in increasing the range and quality of the industry in Africa.

The African Timber Forum, organised by Gabon’s Ministry of Forests, Environment and Sustainable Development, discussed the future of the African wood processing industry by the year 2030. Organised in partnership with the Forestry Commission of Central African States (Comifac), there were deliberations on developing a profitable, waste-free, carbon-efficient and socially inclusive wood processing industry in the sub-region.

Important producers

The West and Central Africa sub-region is an important producer of wood products, but production is dominated by industrial round wood and primary processing, mainly the production of sawn wood and wood-based panels.

Historically, countries in the sub-region have been log exporters. It comprises of 230 million hectares of forest covering Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Congo.

It is the second-largest mass of tropical rainforests in the world, and is home to more than 100 species of hardwood trees – among them the famous Okoumé (Aucoumeaklaineana), Sapelli (Entandrophragmacylindricum), Ayous (Triplochitonscleroxylon), Limba (Terminaliasuperba), Moabi (Baillonellatoxisperma), Ebony and Wengue.

Timber trade in the sub-region is influenced by local, regional and overseas demands, with the European Union, China and the US being the important markets. However, much of the demand for wood products within the region is for rough-sawn and low-grade timber used in construction and joinery. That is what Gabon Woodshow 2018 is seeking to change!

– Dhananjay Sardeshpande

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