logo Thinking beyond the canopy

Welcome to the website for ‘Chinese trade and investment in Africa: Assessing and governing trade-offs to national economies, local livelihoods and forest ecosystems.’

At the beginning of the 21st century, changes in global economies, geopolitics and industry are causing new patterns of development and production that affect the volume and direction of natural resource flows. Tropical forests and the people who depend on them are particularly vulnerable to changes in the sources and volumes of demand for resources including timber, minerals and fertile land for agriculture. CIFOR research on the impacts of globalised trade and investment on forests and communities seeks to understand the main global trends affecting resource and capital flows and their impacts. We also assess the efficacy of tools – such as national legislation, or voluntary adherence of companies to guidelines of corporate responsibility – and make recommendations to key players about how to manage the impacts of trade and investment on forests.

The People’s Republic of China has increased its demand for natural resources from Africa and its investment in African industries and infrastructure; CIFOR has identified this trend as a priority research area. The China in Africa project addresses the question: How does trade and investment between China and Africa affect national economies, local livelihoods and forest ecosystems in sub-Saharan Africa? Through this research, we aim to provide the best possible information to decision makers in African countries and in China to improve the degree to which forest-dependent people can benefit from China–Africa partnerships. We also aim to increase awareness of how to better manage the impact of resource and capital flows on forest cover and quality.

This project identifies the economic, social and environmental trade-offs associated with Chinese investments in different economic sectors, including forestry, agriculture and mining. The role of governance instruments at diverse levels (global to local) in shaping identified outcomes or impacts will be assessed. Research results are shared with key audiences who can influence policies and decisions affecting forests and livelihoods in Africa and China.

CIFOR engagements with regional initiatives on the African continent suggest that demand for such research is high. For example, a regional stakeholder workshop held by the Common Market for Eastern and Central Africa in collaboration with CIFOR highlighted lack of information on the long-term economic and ecological impacts of foreign investment as a major hindrance to the forestry sector having a voice in decisions, with potentially significant consequences for forests. Participants expressed a need to finance balanced research on the costs and benefits of investments penetrating forest landscapes. The Congo Basin Forests Partnership also called for objective research about the impacts of Chinese trade and investment on the sustainable management of Congo Basin forests, which led to the financing of this project.

We expect our research results to contribute to more informed investment and trade policies and decision making in sectors and locations where China is emerging as a major player.