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Tunis, 16 June 2008 – The Congo Basin Forest Fund, a multi-donor facility established to take action to protect the forests in the Congo Basin region, will be launched on Tuesday, June 17, 2008, in London, UK, in the presence of the Fund’s Co-Chairs Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai, and former Canadian Prime Minister, Paul Martin; along with representatives of international development partners, civil society, private sector and high level officials of the British government. The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group, Donald Kaberuka, is expected to deliver a major speech at the launch.
The partnership involves the AfDB, 10-member States of the Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC) - Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe, and Rwanda - as well as the UK and Norway.
The launch will serve as a venue for these organizations to map out innovative ways of deploying the Fund over a ten-year period up to 2018, to finance COMIFAC’s Action-Plan in ten different strategic areas aimed at conserving the Congo Basin rainforest.
The strategy to attain this goal includes providing help to local communities in order for them to find livelihoods that are consistent with forest conservation and developing transformative approaches to sustainable forest management. The fund will support activities aimed at complementing particular aspects of the Central Africa Forests Commission (COMIFAC) Convergence Plan.
Each week, an area the size of 25,000 football pitches is cut down in the Congo Basin rainforest. According to the UN, if action is not taken now, more than 66% of the rainforest will be lost by 2040. This fund provides the best opportunity to the world to protect the second largest rainforest in the world after the Amazon.
The UK has already committed US$ 100 million (£50 million) to the fund, but other donors are expected to announce their support at the official launch. In addition, the UK will be unveiling new start-up projects that will have an immediate impact on the lives of the over 50 million people living in the rainforest.
The AfDB Group has played a key role in the establishment of the Fund that will be hosted by the institution. In February 2008, the Bank Group reaffirmed its commitment to support COMIFAC) and its partner institutions to mobilize additional resources from donors and development partners. The reaffirmation of the institution’s commitment was made during a conference on the mechanisms for the sustainable management of Congo basin forests ecosystems which took place in Tunis, Tunisia. One of the major decisions of the Tunis conference was that the fund be hosted by the Bank Group.
In line with its policy to help protect the environment, the Bank Group is currently funding 80 ongoing operations to the tune of US$ 2.7 billion in all sectors of activity in ten countries of the COMIFAC.
Speaking during the Tunis conference, the President of the Bank Group, Donald Kaberuka disclosed that the institution was planning to invest US$ 814 million in 13 operations, including five multilateral projects on natural resources management in Central Africa. The institution is also preparing a regional integration programme on the conservation of biodiversity and the improvement of ecotourism in the Great Lakes region worth US$ 65 million. The programme, which will equally include a component on institutional support to the COMIFAC Executive Secretariat and partner organs, will be presented to the Bank Group’s board of directors this year, Mr. Kaberuka said.
"The forests of the Congo Basin cover a large part of central Africa and represent the second largest remaining humid tropical forest in the world. In terms of size, these forests, which play major economic and climatic roles, constitute a vast water basin and potential carbon reserve. But unfortunately, their existence is under threat mainly due to factors relating to poverty and governance crises, including prolonged conflicts," Mr. Kaberuka emphasized.
He noted that through conservation, sustainable management and improvement of the Congo Basin ecosystems, the process of carbon extraction could be improved to benefit the local population, in particular, and the world, in general.
Last year, the African Water Facility, which is also hosted by the Bank Group, allocated a grant of € 2 million to the riparian states for the preparation of a strategic action plan for the sustainable management of the basin’s water resources, which is looked after by the International Commission of the Congo-Oubangui-Sangha Basin.