BARC 2022 Parallel Sessions Report: Bamboo Value Chains for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development in Africa
The crucial role of bamboo in Africa’s industrial development highlighted at key session of BARC 2022.
Organized as part of the proceedings of the Second Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress (BARC 2022), Session 4.8 entitled “Bamboo Value Chains for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development in Africa” convened on 8 November 2022. Bamboo provides numerous development opportunities for bio-based industries in Africa owing to its fast growth rate, resilience and versatility. This enables a wide range of applications, from uses in construction materials and furniture-making, to uses in food, fiber, and energy. This session highlighted examples of development across the bamboo value chain in Africa, its contribution to inclusive and sustainable industrial development as well as challenges and critical conditions for achieving success. The session aimed to analyze and pinpoint the scalability of lessons learned across geographies and different regulatory environments.
Four specific goals were identified:
- To showcase successful examples of bamboo value chain development.
- To illustrate the supply side of resources, value addition, market development, specific contextual challenges and lessons learned.
- To identify the extent to which cases are replicable in other contexts.
- To highlight contributions to the inclusive and sustainable industrial development trajectory and potential opportunities for collaboration.
Session 4.8 featured bamboo-related experts from development organizations and government as well as leaders in the private sector. Knowledge, lessons and experiences were shared, with each speaker contributing from his or her specific field’s pursuit of harnessing bamboo value chains for the sustainable industrialization of Africa.
Ms. Bernice Mclean of the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) introduced her new division at AUDA-NEPAD and its industrialization strategy. Her presentation highlighted Africa’s industrialization imperative, particularly regarding operationalization and acting as a nexus within industry, impacts of COVID-19, concurrent crises, and the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA3), as well as links to the continental free trade area, the current processes for bamboo value chain development, and the role of enabling actors to identify opportunities for specialists. Lessons can be drawn for industrialization such as accelerating human capital investment, fostering innovative approaches in business, developing alternative industrial pathways, promoting continental business engagement, and supporting thought partnerships and evidence-based decision-making. Several initiatives are currently being undertaken to strengthen key regional value chains at continental scale in Africa.
Mr. Niels Schulz of UNIDO focused on presenting the approaches of UNIDO as a specialized UN agency working in poverty reduction, inclusive globalization and environmental sustainability. He presented UNIDO’s strategic priorities and enabling functions to achieve those outcomes, which include: Technical cooperation and practical project work; analytical and research functions; policy advisory services and normative functions in work with standards and quality-related activities; and convening partnerships for knowledge transfer, networking and industry corporation. UNIDO is contributing to the IDDA3 approach which extends to joint initiatives in favor of industrialization and presents ambitious and broad strategies to achieve its goals. At the same time, bamboo value chains could help address the high level of African import dependence of secondary- and tertiary-level wood products, while also addressing issues of large-scale deforestation and massive trade deficits. Bamboo is particularly promising for increasing the volume of renewable biomass materials, which can replace many non-renewable resources in other industrial sectors.
Mr. Grant Ballard Treemer of the Ecolt Group presented on potential funding opportunities for international development projects to promote bamboo for the regenerative circular bio-economy. He discussed opportunities for accessing environmental funds, emphasizing the environmental credentials of bamboo to enhance ecosystems and biodiversity, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation, and to improve resilience, water retention and poverty reduction. He also spoke on some of the challenges standing in the way of accessing such funding like lack of common knowledge regarding bamboo value chains, misperceptions in biomass and bamboo, and difficulties to access funds, particularly from the private sector. He also mentioned the case study of Selva Fund and lessons learned. International environmental funds aiming to achieve objectives on global environmental priorities are often related to conventions or multilateral agreements (for instance, UNCBD, UNFCCC, POPs, UNCCD, etc.), which were introduced as being capable of providing immediate climate-related finance for relevant areas.
Mr. Michael Gebru of Bamboo Star Agroforestry Plc. introduced the characteristics of bamboo and its value in industrialization and value chain development, as well as his company, products and portfolio, deficit modality and activities alongside challenges and bottlenecks. As we learned from his talk, vast natural resources are located in the vicinity of his company and are capable of supporting local and export consumption. He expects to attract further investment, allowing his company to diversify its products and increase margins of benefits.
Mr. Adane Berhe of Adal Industrial Plc. presented on his business activity and portfolio, which have been evolving since 1987. His company’s products include sticks, toothpicks, flooring, ceiling material, window blinds, pulp and paper, charcoal, handbags and more. He also reported on the positive social impacts of his company, since most company staff are women, as well as the company vision, mission and future orientations.
Mr. Yong Li of China Bamboo International Holdings (Zhejiang) Co., Ltd. provided suggestions and ideas for collaboration also from the perspective of the private sector. In particular, he noted the important role of bamboo paper branding and distribution, and also talked about the feasibility of exporting premium products to high-end markets. Product and value chain development were highlighted, including resource supply, value addition and knowledge-sharing. He spoke about developing markets and how to obtain recognition as a brand, challenges to be faced and lessons learned as well as opportunities for upscaling, replication and inclusive development in other markets.
Summary and recommendations
The session gave a comprehensive review of the needs and constraints of bamboo resource development in Africa, as well as potential opportunities and ambitions. International development finance, particularly environmental finance, can potentially play a significant role in helping raise funds with co-financing. Entrepreneurs are well acquainted with the reality on the ground, and also understand which exact market demands are capable of creating value chains for bamboo resources, which, as must be reiterated, are widely distributed across Africa. To responsibly and fully develop this natural resource, forest assessments must be conducted with the support of national governments as well as international organizations and financing mechanisms. Finally, entrepreneurs and practitioners must be linked with well-informed markets and customers to complete the chain.