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Part III: Company Profiles

The EU parent companies profiled in this section have been selected because they all control large areas of forest in Central Africa. Not all are exclusively or even primarily timber companies; they are, however, all involved in processing logs into value-added wood products, although for many their primary processing facilities are in Europe. Recent moves by the producing countries to increase investment in downstream processing has meant that many of the companies are only now making serious investments in such facilities in the countries where they log. Table 1 on page 11 summarises the EU companies and their Central African operations. The maps on pages 34-39 and the corresponding data tables in the Appendix indicate as far as is known the location of companies’ concessions. The information in the report is mainly taken from published reports and articles, official sources and field visits. Each company profile presents a brief overview of the parent company, followed by a description of the forestry-related operations in each Central African country where they operate. Every effort has been made to verify the information included in the report but data is often difficult to obtain or contradictory. We would welcome corrections and updates and also details about EU parent companies whose operations are not included in the report.


DLH Nordisk
Vasto Legno


Alpi Spa is one of Italy’s leading timber companies. It specialises in the production of wood-based panels and has a substantial presence in the timber industries of Cameroon and the Ivory Coast.1 Alpi’s sales turnover for 1998 was US$120 million compared to US$ 69 million in 1996. Although it is listed on the Milan Stock Exchange, the company is largely controlled by the Alpi family.2


Alpi has been logging in Cameroon for over 20 years and operates through two subsidiaries, Alpicam and Grumcam (see below). The company’s primary interests are veneer and plywood,3 and its processing facilities at Bonabéri, near Douala, are the largest and among the best equipped in Cameroon. During the season 1996-7, Alpi subsidiaries produced 202,000 cubic metres of logs, of which 61,000 cubic metres were exported.4 According to unpublished official statistics, the company exported approximately 10,000 cubic metres per year of plywood and 30,000 cubic metres per year of veneer sheet in the late 1990s.5

Alpi appears committed to retaining a major timber business in Cameroon, particularly as a timber processor, but also as a logging company. It is expanding still further its large processing facilities at Bonabéri6 and has recently been awarded a large new concession, bringing its total concessions to over 214,261 hectares. It also buys logs from third parties to supply its processing facilities.7

During the early 1990s, a consultancy report for the International Tropical Timber Organisation found that forest management in the concessions of Alpicam and Grumcam was unsustainable, partly as a consequence of the then forestry law.8 As with most operators in Cameroon, the group’s commitment to implementing sustainable forest management remains unproven.


Alpicam’s processing facilities at Bonabéri have an input capacity of 120,000 cubic metres per year.9 In July 2000, the company was awarded a new concession (UFA 10-026),10 which consists of 128,449 hectares in the East Province.11


Alpi acquired Grumcam from the German company, Danzer (see Danzer) in 1992.12 Through Grumcam, Alpi has processing facilities near Mindourou in the Kadey district of the East Province. This facility has a processing capacity of 47,000 cubic metres per year.13 Grumcam has one current concession (UFA 10-051) of 85,812 hectares which was awarded in 1997. The company plans to log two sub-divisions of the UFA, known as assiettes de coupe, until June 2001, half the amount foreseen by the forestry law.14 In December 1999, a field inspection by the ministry responsible for forests (MINEF) in the East Province noted that Grumcam should be congratulated for being the only company inspected which was managing its operations in accordance with the forestry law.15 Although the inspection report is unclear in its findings, the MINEF team recommended that the company be exceptionally awarded an additional assiette de coupe so that its operations did not become illegal.16 The team also noted that Grumcam had not elaborated its first management plans, although the parent company states that its plans are ready and have been awaiting approval for over a year.17


Basso Legnami Srl is a small, family-owned Italian timber company. The company has 40 employees in Italy and sales turnover for 1999 was 10 million euro (US$ 8.5 million). Its main markets are the EU and USA, and it specialises in logs, lumber and parquet flooring.18


Basso Timber Industries Gabon (BTIG)

Basso has a logging and processing operation in Gabon called Basso Timber Industries Gabon (BTIG). BTIG has 484 employees and its turnover in 1999 was 9 million euro (US$ 7.7 million).19 The company has concessions totalling 450,000 hectares and has log processing capacity of 80,000 cubic metres per year.20 It specialises in logs, sawn wood and veneer and plans to establish plywood, laminated products, parquet and electricity projects in the country.21

Basso used to have links with Compagnie Forestière du Gabon (CFG),22 a part Gabon-owned forestry company, but has now broken the relationship.23


The Bolloré Group is a French conglomerate quoted on the Paris Stock Exchange. Bolloré Investissement (formerly Albatros Investissement) is the parent company of the Bolloré Group, and Vincent Bolloré is the President and Director General of both companies.24 The Bolloré Group is a powerful force in Africa with wide interests, including freight transportation, timber, agro-industry, and the production and marketing of cigarettes. Through its acquisition of strategic industries over the past ten years, the group has become the number two French-African conglomerate (after oil company Elf-Total) and is linked at high levels to French political interests in the region.25

Non-timber interests in Africa

Some 65% of Bolloré’s turnover is derived from transportation.26 Its principal companies in this sector are Saga and SDV (Scac Delmas Vieljeux). Both are leaders in transportation and freight handling, particularly between Africa and Europe, Africa and Asia (timber is a major cargo on these routes)27 and within Africa itself. Bolloré’s grip on shipping and overland transport in Africa will become stronger as a result of acquiring the UK company OT Africa Line,28 a leader in the shipping of timber from West and Central Africa primarily to Europe but also to East Asia and the USA. Bolloré also owns Bolmet Inc. in the USA.29 Bolloré is responsible for running the railways in Cameroon and Congo (Brazzaville) and the railway between Abidjan in the Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso. In CAR, it manages the port of Bangui.30

Bolloré’s agro-industrial interests are concentrated in its subsidiary, Rivaud. They include palm oil, tobacco, rubber, coffee and cocoa, primarily in Africa (particularly Cameroon) and South-East Asia. Through Rivaud, which owns French hardwood distributor GIPAT, Bolloré is interested in buying the recently privatised Socopalm (a former palm oil parastatal) in Cameroon.

The links between transport and timber

The synergies between Bolloré’s various interests in Africa, and the opportunities afforded by a dominant presence in the region, are exemplified by the group’s interests in transport and logging. In 1998, as part of a US$ 90 million World Bank-mandated privatisation and investment scheme of the railway in Cameroon — the Bank lent US$ 15 million — the operation of the railway was conceded to Bolloré’s transportation subsidiary, Saga. The railway, Camrail, derives much of its revenue from the transport of logs. Another Bolloré subsidiary, the logging company HFC (Forestière de Campo), see below, received a contract for supply of timber to the railway in June 2000.31 Links between the supply of timber to the railway, World Bank funding and Bolloré’s timber companies have all been a source of concern.32 An agreement between Camrail and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to address the transportation of illegal bushmeat by rail has not yet been concluded.33

Bolloré also owns a majority share in another former Cameroonian parastatal SEPBC (Société d’Exploitation des Parcs à Bois du Cameroun), which runs the main dockyard in Douala, through which over 90% of Cameroon’s official timber exports pass,34 and the port in Kribi, from which timber is also exported and which has recently been expanded to cater for an increase in timber shipments.

The Bolloré group is active in the timber trade in the CAR through warehousing and transport operations, shipping timber from Bangui to Brazzaville and Pointe Noire in neighbouring Congo (Brazzaville).35

The Bolloré group is involved in running the Congo-Océan railway from Brazzaville to Pointe Noire in Congo (Brazzaville), a traditional transport route for timber.36 The railway is not only the economic axis of the country, but also of immense strategic significance in the civil war.37 Through its interests in the country, the Bolloré group supports the camp of President Sassou Nguesso to a high level.38

In Gabon, one of Bolloré’s principal transportation companies, SDV, owns a majority in the former Gabonese parastatal shipping line, Sonatram (Société Nationale des Transports Maritime).39 Bolloré manages timber handling activities at Gabon’s four timber ports through the company SEPBG.40


During the early 1990s, Bolloré acquired subsidiaries which in turn owned two timber companies in Cameroon: HFC (Forestière de Campo), whose concessions are in the south-west, and SIBAF (Société Industrielle des Bois Africains), whose concessions are in the south-east (see below).41 Bolloré arranged for international journalists to visit SIBAF and HFC logging sites during the 1999 Yaoundé Forest Summit promoted by WWF.42 Bolloré is discussing sustainable forest management with WWF and Tropenbos (the Dutch tropical forest research programme) and has recently decided to pursue Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for both HFC and SIBAF concessions.43 If it does obtain FSC certification, the group will have made considerable progress in addressing some of the serious legal, environmental and social issues associated with current forest management practices in Cameroon.

HFC (Forestière de Campo)

HFC operates in the South Province and currently holds a total of 162,790 hectares under concession in and around the Réserve de Campo and Campo Ma’an protected areas. It has two concessions: UFA 09-024 (76,002 hectares), awarded in July 2000, and UFA 09-025 (86,788 hectares).

HFC produced 169,000 cubic metres of logs in 1996-7 of which 82,000 cubic metres were exported.44 It has a sawmill at Campo with an annual input capacity of 60,000 cubic metres.45 Its principal timber species is Azobé. According to the company, its maximum annual production is usually 120,000 cubic metres of logs and 15,000 cubic metres of sawn timber.46

Most of the company’s exports leave from Campo bay direct and accounted for around 5% of Cameroon’s official timber exports in 1995-6.47 For decades, HFC has been the only concessionaire of any consequence around Campo and so the town is entirely dependent on HFC’s continued operations for its survival. Therefore, unless HFC is committed to long-term sustainable forest management in the area, Campo could collapse once the logging "boom" has finished, as other logging towns have done. In one recorded incident, HFC earned a bad reputation locally when its promise of improved transportation for the villagers of Nazareth and N’Koélon came to nothing.48

SIBAF (Société Industrielle des Bois Africains)

SIBAF currently has control of two concessions in the East Province, totalling 134,765 hectares;UFA 10-063 (68,933 hectares) awarded in July 2000 and UFA 10-018 (65,832 hectares). These concessions are in biologically and culturally important primary forests, close to the company’s earlier concession at Kika, which is now part of the Lobéké protected area.49 The company produced 162,000 cubic metres of logs in Boumba Ngoko district during 1996-7, of which it exported 46,000 cubic metres.50 SIBAF’s sawmill at Kika has an input capacity of 60,000 cubic metres.51 The main species harvested is Ayous. As with HFC, the company’s usual maximum production is around 120,000 cubic metres of logs and 15,000 cubic metres of sawn timber.52 In March 2000, SIBAF was fined CFA Fr 6 million (US$ 7,799) for unclear marking of logs.53

The economy of Kika, a small village of only 25 people ten years ago, but now a town of around 6,000, has developed as a direct result of SIBAF’s operations.54 Many of the townspeople were brought to the area by the company from other parts of the country. The influx has added to the disruption of the Baka and Bangando people whose traditional territories are in this part of the forest.55 The construction of forestry roads and the subsequent traffic facilitated the hunting of bushmeat, while the population increase as Kika expanded provided a market for it.56 A joint survey by the Cameroonian ministry responsible for forests, MINEF, and the German government development agency, GTZ, in 1999 of firearms in the East Province found 146 illegal firearms originating from Congo (Brazzaville) in the SIBAF concession area,57 weapons which pose a threat to local peoples’ security as well as to the wildlife, such as elephants and lowland gorillas.

The near-exhaustion of SIBAF’s former concessions left the town in 1999 facing collapse, dependent on SIBAF being awarded new concessions.58,59 That year, half the population left after operations wound down and workers were laid off.60 SIBAF has since been awarded two concessions in the area, and believes that, with new laws and forest management practices, the concessions should not become exhausted in the future, thus offering greater security of employment.61

Central African Republic (CAR)

SESAM (Société d’Exploitation Forestière de la Sangha-Mbaéré), one of the largest logging concessions in CAR, used to be owned by Bolloré’s subsidiary, Saga. In the early 1990s, SESAM drew on a large loan (in effect, a subsidy) from the French government to prepare a forest management plan,62 but as it did not have sufficient in-house capacity, the work was in fact prepared by the French government. It is not known whether the plan accommodates, or indeed was ever intended to accommodate, the needs of the settled and nomadic forest people. SESAM has two concessions in CAR, one of 107,000 hectares awarded in 1991, the other of 307,000 hectares awarded in 1995, in a region where many Pygmies live.63 Since Malaysian logging company WTK64 bought 51% of SESAM65 in the mid-1990s, it is not clear whether this management plan is being implemented or not, although there remains a French interest in SESAM.

Bolloré used to operate in CAR through EFBACA (Enterprise Forestière des Bois Africains Centrafrique), a subsidiary of the group’s principal logging company in the Ivory Coast. It had a 200,000 hectare concession in Sangha province.66 The current status and ownership of EFBACA is not known.


Bruynzeel is a Dutch group which specialises in the production of wood-based panels, mainly Okoumé plywood, through its Bruynzeel Multipanel division and of kitchen furniture through Bruynzeel Keukens en Kasten. The company trades in the UK as Bruynzeel Multipanel (UK) Ltd, in Belgium as Bruynzeel Multipanel NV and in Germany as Bruynzeel Multipanel GmbH.

Congo (Brazzaville)


During the 1980s, Bruynzeel jointly owned the company Placongo, with the Dutch government (through FMO, the Dutch government development agency) and the Congo government. Placongo was restructured and renamed as Boplac in 1990.67 The equity of the new company is held by Bruynzeel (43.5%), the Danish company DLH Nordisk (43.5%) (see below) and the German trading company M & P Pruchtnow (13%).68

During 1997, Boplac produced 43,000 cubic metres of logs from its five concessions which total 500,000 hectares in the Lékoumou region in the south of the country.69 Most of this was Okoumé. Boplac is the leading veneer producer in Congo and in 1997 output was 23,000 cubic metres.70 Because of the political difficulties of operating in Congo (Brazzaville), the operation declared a loss in 1998.71


During 1999, Boplac imported logs into Congo (Brazzaville) from neighbouring Gabon to sustain throughput at its veneer facility, which could not obtain sufficient supplies from within the country because of militia activity.72


The Danzer Group, now a global timber business, is primarily a German operation, held through a Swiss holding company, ANBE.73 Group sales turnover for 1998 was DM 900 million (US$ 392 million).74 Danzer, one of the world’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of veneers, producing around 150 million square metres per year in the early 1990s.75 Less than 10% of the group’s sales, however, are derived from tropical timbers. Most of the tropical timber used in their veneers is from African species, with a limited amount from Asian logs and none from Latin America.76

Danzer’s principal operations in the European Union are in Germany (notably Danzer Funierwerke, based in Reutlingen), Austria (Karl Danzer GmbH), Belgium (Coplac), France (Jura Placages), Sweden (Fanérimporten), and the UK (Karl Danzer Ltd).77, 78 Danzer’s Swiss business is conducted through Interholco.79 Its subsidiaries, such as Coplac in Belgium, are believed to buy timber from a number of different sources outside the group.

Danzer also has forestry operations in West and Central Africa. The West African operations are primarily through SIFCI (Société Industrielle et Forestière de Côte d’Ivoire) in the Ivory Coast.80


Danzer sold its interest in its main subsidiary in Cameroon, Grumcam, in 1992. Italian company Alpi now has a majority share in it (see Alpi).

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

SIFORCO (Société Industrielle et Forestière du Congo)

Danzer’s principal operating company in the DRC is SIFORCO, known during the Mobutu era as Siforzal (Société Industrielle et Forestière Zaïre-Allemande).81 In the early 1990s, the company accounted for 40% of the country’s commercial production of logs (then totalling 500,000 cubic metres per year)82 and roughly half the country’s annual timber exports of 200,000 cubic metres.83 It produces the majority of the country’s veneer exports, most of which is of Sapelli. SIFORCO’s production in 1996 and 1997 dropped to 140,000 cubic metres of logs per year and still further during 1998 to 105,000 cubic metres. The company has currently ceased logging in DRC because of renewed fighting in the region.

The German government’s investment and development institution, DEG, has a 33% stake in SIFORCO (DM15.5 million / US$6.8 million).84 DEG’s role, as an arm of the German Development Ministry BMZ, is to implement government development policy. Its stake in a forestry company raises questions as to whether DEG actively encourages Danzer to implement sustainable forest management or not. DEG states that it does promote aspects of sustainable forestry in their ongoing co-operation with Danzer.85

SIFORCO has two processing facilities in DRC, the newer one at Bumba and the other at Maluku near the capital, Kinshasa, at the end of the navigable reaches of the Congo River.86 Danzer also has a transport subsidiary, Cotraco,87, 88 and has therefore been able to operate independently of the vagaries of the state-owned river transport and freight handling company, ONATRA.

Since 1983, SIFORCO has had access to nine concessions in DRC totalling 2.9 million hectares; 60% is in Equateur Province near Bongondanga and Bumba and the rest in the province of Orientale, near Aketi. SIFORCO’s largest concession (K9) is believed to be of one million hectares between Bumba and Basoko on the northern bank of the Congo river near Lokoko.

Danzer presents itself as a responsible company, stating: "We try not to see ecology and economy as conflicting forces" and "Our success has always allowed us to take on social responsibilities".89 There has, however, been no independent social and environmental audit of the group’s operations which would verify these claims. Evidence from the ground, such as it is, suggests a rather more complex picture of impacts. Criticisms from conservationists prompted the company recently to attempt to control some of the environmental impacts of its operations, particularly with regard to the commercial hunting of bushmeat (see below).

A 1998 investigation by a conservationist of SIFORCO operations in the Mentole concession on the southern bank of the Congo River revealed social and environmental problems. Local people refuted company claims that it gave supplies of millet, rice and manioc to its employees. The company also claimed to provide free medical care to employees and their families and free schooling to children, but the dispensary was staffed by a nurse only, no doctor was available, and parents paid for schooling, employing the teacher through a co-operative.90

As to environmental sustainability, Danzer’s logging operations have led directly and indirectly to a decline in the numbers of bonobo, a rare and endangered species of primate unique to the DRC which is present in viable populations primarily in the vicinity of the Lomako and Yekokora rivers.91,92 At least one of the company’s concessions is near a forest which used to contain high densities of bonobo.93 The bonobo population is estimated to number between 10,000 to 25,000 animals. Danzer sought to pre-empt the efforts of local conservationists by procuring in advance a substantial area of forest south of Bumba which the conservationists wanted to be legally protected.94 Although in 1989 Danzer returned 821,000 hectares between the Lomako and Yekokora rivers to the government, the company nevertheless continued to log in this area.95

The 1998 investigations found that logging crews in one of the company’s concession areas transported bushmeat hunters into the forest and that company employees used company facilities and transport to facilitate the hunting and trade in bushmeat.96 As a result of these investigations, Danzer has taken steps to reduce its facilitation of the bushmeat trade by ordering employees to halt their involvement. The company has also set up environmental education programmes for its employees, with the help of conservation organisations, to raise awareness locally of the problems caused by unsustainable and illegal wildlife hunting.97 The company is also involved in initiatives at the international level regarding bushmeat.

Congo (Brazzaville)

IFO (Industrie Forestière d’Ouesso)

Danzer has a subsidiary in northern Congo (Brazzaville) called IFO (Industrie Forestière d’Ouesso).98


In August 1999, Danzer bought the former parastatal known as SCBO from the Congolese government. This deal included a saw and veneer mill in the north of the country and the UFA Est concession of 1.3 million hectares connected to the mill. Danzer is currently refurbishing the mill, which was non-operational and in bad condition, and production was planned to start in Autumn 2000. Danzer is also preparing a management plan for the concession. 99


DLH Nordisk A/S, part of the Dalhoff, Larsen and Horneman (DLH) group, is a Danish shipping and timber company. In January 2000, the company acquired EAC Timber Ltd to form one of the world’s largest independent timber trading companies.100

DLH Nordisk obtains timber from Africa, Eastern Europe and South America. EAC acquires it particularly from East Asia, but also from Africa and South America. The sales turnovers of the timber businesses of DLH and EAC were each approximately DKr 1 billion (US$ 114 million) in 1998. In 1999, gross profit for the DLH group was D Kr 538 million (US$ 61 million). The group has sales subsidiaries in Belgium (Indufor), France (Indubois and Nordisk Bois), The Netherlands (Indufor), the UK (DLH Timber) and the USA (DLH Nordisk).101

The enlarged DLH Nordisk company’s interests in Central Africa include offices in Cameroon, Congo (Brazzaville) and Gabon.102 It buys timber from exporters in the region, rather than exporting itself. DLH Nordisk is seeking to expand its sales of timber purchased from this region.103

DLH’s environmental policy claims that the company aims to trade in wood and wood-based products which have been sustainably produced and, "at the very minimum, the products of DLH comply with statutory requirements, including the provisions of environmental law".104 The company states that it is committed to FSC certification standards, both in its own operations, for example in Brazil and Ghana, and for its suppliers. The group provides assistance to suppliers in Brazil, Poland and Russia to obtain FSC certification.105 But given recent revelations of large-scale and widespread illegal practices in the forestry sector in Cameroon in particular, and the lack of forest law enforcement in the Congo Basin region more generally, the group’s current timber purchases from Central Africa cannot be proven to come from legally-produced sources; the company faces an uphill struggle to raise standards of forestry operations in Central Africa, where it operates as a purchaser of timber and as a forest manager.

Cameroon and CAR

In May 2000, DLH opened a purchasing office in Douala to cover the CAR and Cameroon. The office is buying on an FOB basis "from the most reliable exporters" and aims to increase DLH’s turnover of hardwood from the Central African region.106

Congo (Brazzaville)

DLH Nordisk SARL operates a small office in the Congolese town of Pointe Noire for the procurement of hardwood logs, sawn timber and veneers for the European, North American and Asian markets.107 The civil war in Congo (Brazzaville), however, has adversely affected operations. The Danish management were withdrawn from the country, the Danish manager moved to the new Douala office, and in July 2000 the business was being run by one local employee.108


DLH Nordisk holds 43.5% of Boplac (see Bruynzeel section) but because of the political difficulties of operating in Congo (Brazzaville), the operation declared a loss in 1998.109 Because militia activity in Congo prevented logging, Boplac imported logs from the neighbouring country of Gabon during 1999 in order to sustain throughput at its veneer facility.110


DLH Nordisk has an office in Libreville for the procurement of hardwood logs for Europe and Asia.111


Hinrich Feldmeyer GmbH & Co is based in Germany.112 Internationally, Feldmeyer works as a producer and trader of tropical timber from Africa (as HIF) primarily in association with tt Timber International (a Swiss company), but also with tt Tropical Timber based at the port of La Rochelle in France and Tropisch Hout Nederland of the Netherlands.


Feldmeyer used to operate as CIFOA (Compagnie Industrielle et Forestière de l’Ouest Africaine), a logging company whose average annual output during the late 1980s was 70,000 cubic metres of logs and 15,000 cubic metres of sawn wood.113 CIFOA harvested one tree per hectare in a felling cycle of over 25 years.114 The company was sold in 1988. Feldmeyer recently established a timber transit and supplies trading company, SAT (Société d’Approvisionnement et de Transit), in Douala.115


CIB (Congolaise Industrielle du Bois)

Feldmeyer’s subsidiary in Congo is CIB, headquartered in Ouesso.116 Feldmeyer has a majority interest in CIB, which was created in 1968, and tt Timber International has a minority interest.117 The company has been the only commercially successful operation in the north of the country on a consistent basis.118

CIB has three concessions in the north of the country, totalling 1.15 million hectares - Pokola, which is its main base (480,000ha), Kabo (280,000ha) and Loundougou (390,000ha), the latter being held in reserve for future exploitation.119 The concessions are located in primary rainforest of high biodiversity. The area has a rich cultural heritage, being home to a relatively large number of forest hunter-gatherers, such as the Mbendjele and Baka, as well as many farming and fishing, Bantu and Ubangian language speaking sedentary ethnic groups, notably the Sangha Sangha, Bongili, Kabounga, Pomo and Kaka.

Annual production is currently 250,000 cubic metres, with around 60% being processed in two sawmills at Kabo and Pakola.120 The company exports about 100,000 cubic metres of logs and 40,000 cubic metres of sawn timber each year.121 The two main species harvested are Sapelli and Sipo.122

CIB used to float its logs down to Brazzaville and then send them to Pointe Noire by railway. This route has become so unreliable (due to civil war and problems with the run-down railway) that CIB has been obliged to construct a 150 kilometre road from Pokola to connect to the Cameroon road network, so it can send its logs by road through Cameroon for export from the Cameroonian port of Douala.123 This has enabled CIB to maintain production, even during the recent civil war, unlike other European operators in the country (see Congo (Brazzaville)). The road also, however, facilitated the commercial bushmeat trade in the area.124

CIB is reported to be well regarded by most local people. There is some resentment among certain local groups who feel their traditional heritage is being exploited without adequate redistribution of the benefits. Yet the CIB is also perceived of as the local agent of development and provider of basic services,125 which the government has had difficulty doing. Its employment and living conditions are reported to be good and it operates within the law.126 The concessions are adjacent to the Nouabalé Ndoki National Park and are home to a substantial Pygmy population — a number of whom work for CIB rather than Bantu villagers.127 The very success of CIB’s venture has attracted newcomers to the locality and Pokola has grown from a small fishing village of 120 in 1972 to one of the largest centres in north Congo, with a population of around 8,000.128 The increased activities in the area have significantly increased pressure on natural resources and, according to a World Bank study, wildlife has been largely decimated in a 20 kilometre band around Pokola.129

The company is considered to be one of the more economically sustainable and well-managed operations in the Central African region.130 However, CIB’s operations have not been without criticism. The facilities provided in Pokola are of a high quality but are provided by the company primarily for employees based in the town — other local people have varying degrees of access to them.131 Additionally, the provision of services attracts outsiders to come and settle in Pokola, at least temporarily, in order to benefit from the service provided. This increases the demand for food from the forest areas around Pokola. A study conducted by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) in 1996 found that traditional tenure, resource access rights and resource management systems, particularly those of the Pygmies, were rapidly breaking down within the Pokola concession. Also, commercial bushmeat hunting was being indirectly facilitated by the company’s operations, with common reports of CIB trucks and drivers transporting bushmeat.132 The study noted that the company had no forest management plan nor did it conduct post-harvest inventories. In response to this, the company asserted that forest management plans in the modern sense do not yet exist in West and Central Africa, and thus this could not be considered to be a failure on the part of CIB.133 CIB acknowledged the usefulness of the report’s assessment of the company’s operations against sustainable forest management standards established by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO).134 The study found that of 53 criteria for sustainable forest management, CIB met only 34 in part or whole and 16 were not met at all.135 According to the company, actions for further improvements were started immediately.136

The company has great influence in the area and does not welcome potential critics. It invited selected international conservationists to visit the pilot projects in 1999, as long as the company approved the composition of the visitors. To date this visit has not taken place.137 In 1996, the company was reported to have used its influence to prevent a potential critic from visiting its concession area.138

Recent field missions to the CIB concessions by the international environmental NGO World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) found that the company still has some way to go to demonstrate its commitment to achieving sustainable forest management to FSC standards.139 The company takes only the very best trees, about one per hectare, but there is considerable damage to surrounding forest. CIB was urged to take measures to conserve Sapelli because of regeneration problems likely to occur following the removal of the best trees in this way. WWF also expressed concern at the amount of forest opened up, the company driving roads into relatively large areas to extract a small number of target trees. The field mission reported that not enough effort was being made by the company to valorise other timber species. WWF complemented the company, however, on its professional harvesting techniques and technical capacity to improve its operations further and praised the collaboration with WCS regarding bushmeat hunting.140

CIB has received positive attention over recent years for its activities regarding the commercial bushmeat issue, particularly a joint initiative with the US-based NGO Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) (see below). The company has taken steps to discourage bushmeat hunting and to prevent the commercial exploitation of bushmeat in its concessions. It has established an education programme for local people and issued instructions to its workers not to illegally hunt endangered species. A "Protocole d’Accord" was signed in December 1995 to this effect by members of the local communities of Pokola and Ndoki and by CIB.

A partnership agreement between CIB, WCS and the Ministry of Forest Economy (MEF) was signed in June 1999, consolidating work to establish CIB’s forest management units as buffer zones to the Nouabalé Ndoki National Park and to reduce the levels of bushmeat hunting in the concession areas.141 The park is being managed by WCS and is considered to be of considerable importance because of its high biodiversity. In the two pilot areas, WCS claim that bushmeat hunting has declined by 60%.142 However, recent evidence in the nearby community of Pokola, which is the largest timber-based settlement in the area, suggests that hunters may have simply switched their activities to other parts of the forest.143

CIB is actively pursuing certification and argues that to achieve a sustainable cut they require a large concession area. Thus they now have three concessions totalling over one million hectares and are undertaking an extensive survey of the flora in the concessions in collaboration with WCS. The social aspects of sustainability may prove more of a challenge to the company, such as offering compensation to local people for lost non-timber forest products, involving local people in management and decision-making and securing local land rights. WCS and CIB are sceptical that local communities have the capacity to manage resources responsibly.144 Partly in consequence of this belief, WCS employ eco-guards armed with automatic rifles to patrol the buffer zone and logging roads around the national park. This is very unpopular with local people who see this as a gross violation of their traditional rights.145

In some cases, important elephant poachers are made eco-guards in an attempt to take them out of the poaching circuit. It has been reported in the past that these guards often intimidated local people, and allowed their former poaching colleagues to pass freely through checkpoints but confiscated local people’s small amounts of game. The system has created distrust and antagonism between some conservation workers and local people and, in certain places, may have strengthened the position of some of the best-connected poachers who are commissioned to hunt trophy animals.146 If these issues are not tackled in an open and transparent manner, based on input from local people, this potentially positive initiative may not bear the fruit it should.

Accepting the contributions that CIB has made to the provision of local services, and its partnership approach with WCS regarding bushmeat hunting, it appears that the company still has some way to go before obtaining independent proof of sustainable forest management. Whilst the company may be better than many other timber companies in the region, the woeful records of many of these other operators does not provide an acceptable base to which companies genuinely striving to achieve sustainable forest management should compare themselves. Independent audit and verification of the environmental and social benefits and impacts of the joint CIB/WCS initiative and CIB’s operations by experts acceptable to all parties would seem to be an appropriate next step prior to further judgements being made on the merits or shortcomings of the operations.


Groupe Interwood SA is a French company which was until recently a subsidiary of the French conglomerate Pinault Printemps Redoute.147 The principal owners are now listed as DF Synergies (40%), Siti Ste D’Investissements et de Transactions (40%) and Mr Gueit (19%).148 The turnover figures for the company at the end 1999 were US$ 28,808,000.149 Interwood has operations in Cameroon and Gabon.


Interwood Cameroun SARL

Interwood’s company in Cameroon is Interwood Cameroun SARL which carries out logging, processing and international trade in logs and sawn timber.150 According to 1999 French press reports, Interwood’s logging permit was renewed by the Minister of Forests and it was being approached by BOTAC (a Cameroonian forestry company) concerning a possible partnership.151 It is not clear which concessions Interwood Cameroun SARL holds.


Interwood has recently acquired EGTF RC Coron’s interests in Cameroon.152 Coron has been operating in Cameroon since 1938. Until its acquisition by Interwood, it was a family-owned company with close links to the French establishment — its Managing Director represented French interests in Cameroon.153 Since Interwood’s recent acquisition of Coron, however, the new management structure is unknown.

Coron currently holds two concessions (UFAs 08-001 and 08-002) totalling 136,760 hectares in Haute Sanaga district, Centre Province. It has processing facilities of 48,000 cubic metres input capacity. In 1996-7, it produced 40,677 cubic metres of logs of which 20,131 cubic metres were exported.154 Coron exports timber (from logs to semi-finished manufactured items) primarily to Europe, both in its own right and through traders, most notably a French expatriate company, FCA (Forestiers Camerounais Associés).155

Coron acquired its concessions in 1996 through a Presidential Decree ("gré à gré") rather than by auction, as required by the 1994 law, and has a contract which does not envisage a management plan nor a probationary period.156 Obtaining a licence in this way means that companies do not have to abide by the 1994 law.157 The World Bank has requested the Cameroonian government to revoke all contracts for concessions that had been granted in a manner contrary to the 1994 law, but to no avail.

In December 2000, Coron was fined CFA fr 16,783,308 (US$ 21,815) for exploiting unauthorised species.158


Société de la Haute Mondah (SHM)

Interwood owns Société de la Haute Mondah (SHM) in Gabon, one of the largest operators in the country.159 The company is believed to own around 300,000 hectares of concessions. A field trip in June 2000 by the Gabonese NGO CIAJE to the SHM site at Mboumi found that the managers had potable water from a specially constructed water tower but the workers had to walk more than one kilometre to a river polluted with wood treatment chemicals. "In effect, this river is a rubbish dump or dustbin for wood residues and other detritus", concluded the investigation.160 Workers’ camps were poorly constructed and vulnerable to precipitation and subsidence.161 Field investigations found that the dispensary at the Mboumi site had no medication at all, not even basic painkillers, and a lack of qualified staff and basic facilities.162 Education provision is described in the field report as "a catastrophe", with incompetent staff. In 1998-9, the success rate at the school was less than 10%. As a result, workers send their children to school in Ndjolé nearly 40 kilometres away.163 The field visit report also noted damage caused by heavy machinery, soil erosion on slopes, and excessive timber wastage.


Pasquet is a building materials manufacturer based in France (annual sales US$ 40 million).164 It has control over some of its raw material supplies through R. Pallisco, its logging subsidiary in Cameroon. It is known particularly for its range of hardwood doors and windows.165 Pasquet’s principal raw material is Moabi,166 a species that has traditionally held great value to local people (see The Moabi issue).


R. Pallisco

Pasquet’s subsidiary in Cameroon, R. Pallisco, on its own or through associates, notably SABE, has held concessions covering over 700,000 ha in the East Province since it started logging in 1972.167 Pallisco and SABE produced a total of 79,287 cubic metres of logs of which 35,892 cubic metres were exported during 1996-7.168 Pallisco has a sawmill at Massaména with input capacity of 45,000cubic metres per year.169

Having failed to obtain a new concession in the July 2000 allocation round, Pallisco no longer has concessions of its own, although it logs on behalf of others, namely the Cameroonian companies Assene Nkou and AVEICO. Assene Nkou has been awarded UFA 10-039, which covers 47,585 ha in the East Province.170 AVEICO has been awarded UFA 10-041, which covers 64,460 hectares in Boumba and Ngoko district of East Province. For many years, Pallisco has been the leading exporter of Moabi from Cameroon.171

Pallisco was seeking new concessions in recent allocation rounds on which it intended to establish sustainable forest management practices and has been working on a bushmeat substitution programme at Mindourou. It has also expressed an interest in buying products from community forest operations should any be successfully established (see Cameroon). Having failed to obtain any concessions of its own, however, it remains to be seen to what extent Pallisco can implement sustainable forest management on those concessions where it acts as a sub-contractor.


The Rougier SA group is a timber company which has been operating in Central Africa for 50 years and is one of the region’s principal loggers.172 It is listed on the Paris Stock Exchange but is still 46.3% owned by the Rougier family.173 Rougier usually produces roughly 500,000 cubic metres of timber each year in Central Africa; logs account for 43% of its turnover and earn some FFr 442 million (US$ 57.5 million).174 The Rougier group is divided into three main business divisions: forest exploitation and processing in Africa; international timber trade and imports to France; and timber processing in France.175

The group’s French trading and importing subsidiaries are Rougier International, Rougier Panneaux and Rougier Sylvaco. Rougier Panneaux distributes plywood; its products include timber from a wide range of species, especially Okoumé from Gabon and Ayous from Cameroon.176 Rougier Sylvaco is a trader and importer of timber.177

Its French processing divisions are Marotte and CEPAM. Marotte is one of France’s leading producers of veneer and decorative timber panels,178, 179 while CEPAM specialises in flooring, facings and edgings, mainly for the French market.180, 181


Working through several companies, Rougier’s business is one of the largest in Cameroon. Its companies include SFID (Société Forestière et Industrielle de la Doumé), based in M’bang and Dimako; Cambois (Société Camerounaise des Bois), based in Djoum; and SID (Société Industrielle de Djoum), which operates south of Dja. Rougier holds 25% equity in TIB (Transformation Integrée de Bois); SIM (Société Industrielle de Mbang) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of TIB.182

Rougier, like other European companies in Cameroon, works closely with logging companies owned by Cameroonian nationals, such as Lorema and Socib. It also sub-contracts for Cameroonian companies and buys timber from third parties for its sawmills. As well as logging its own UFAs, the Rougier group has been logging in smaller areas for short periods through ventes de coupes and récupérations (see Cameroon). Rougier admits that logging in these small areas for a limited duration does not allow the implementation of sustainable forest management.183

Rougier has been developing forest management plans for its concessions for the past two years, but they are not yet complete.184 In the meantime, its current operations do not indicate progress towards long-term sustainable management. Group director François Rougier said in the year 2000 in an industry journal article that logging operations in Africa generally had been the equivalent of mining for the past 40 years.185

SFID (Société Forestière et Industrielle de la Doumé)

Rougier SA owns 56% of SFID186 which was established in 1955 and was the first European company to start logging in East Province.187 It has processing facilities in M’Bang, with a production capacity of 120,000 cubic metres per annum, and in Dimako, with a production capacity of 50,000 cubic metres per annum.188 SFID has a concession of 68,292 hectares (UFA 10-054) in Haut Nyong and Kadey districts, at Lomié and M’Bang,189 and operates in smaller, limited period licences. It also buys from third parties and operates as a contractor to other licence holders. SFID’s operations have moved further east into primary forest as timber supplies have become exhausted.190 It has logged more than 360,000 hectares since operations began in 1955.191

One of the consequences of this "migration" of logging operations is the associated increase in population density. The town of M’Bang’s population increased from 14,000 in 1985 to 23,000 in 1989 because of increased logging operations, adding to stresses on the surrounding natural environment.192

One of the timbers which SFID M’Bang processes is Moabi,193 traditionally used by local people (see The Moabi issue). In the area around Dimako, where SFID has logged in the past, Moabi is now locally extinct.194 Villagers in M’Bang have complained about the logging of Moabi near villages. In 1993, a SFID manager was reported as saying "if we see a Moabi, we’ll log it, no matter if the trees are felled in the neighbourhood of settlements or below the minimum diameter".195 According to the company, Moabi accounts for just a small percentage of SFID’s production.196

In 1991, senior villagers of M’Bang wrote to Jean Christophe Mitterand, son of the then French President, François Mitterand — Mitterand junior had opened the SFID sawmill at M’Bang in 1989197 — to complain about SFID’s operations in the area and the company’s failure to fulfil its obligations to the local people.198,199 One of their complaints was that SFID burnt wood waste rather than allowing villagers to use it.200 The company says it is not aware of this correspondence.201

SFID has benefited directly and indirectly from subsidies, loans and other assistance from the French government and the EU. A pilot sustainable forest management scheme, the Aménagement Pilote Intégré (API), commenced in 1992 at Dimako, with SFID as the industrial partner.202 France’s government development agency, Caisse Francaise Développement (CFD, now known as Agence Française du Développement-AFD) and the Ministry of Co-opération both contributed funds. The project enabled SFID to acquire a 100,000 hectare concession area particularly rich in commercial species for a period of 30 years.203 Rougier’s projected investment of FFr 56 million (US$ 7.3 million) included FFr 13 million (US$ 1.7 million) borrowed from CFD.204

Although the API project was supposed to put in place long-term sustainable forest management with due care towards local populations, the forest was quickly logged. The project attracted much protest locally and became highly controversial. Villagers sent letters of protest to the Cameroon government and to President Biya.205 People within the forestry ministry, MINEF, have been reported as opposing the project,206 although, as the company states, MINEF was a co-signatory to the project.207 The company failed to fulfil its commitments to establish a forest management plan. According to a consultant associated with the project, SFID was free to do whatever it wanted, with no forest management rules being established at the local level.208 As a result of this and the numerous conflicts that had arisen with local people, including road blockades, the second phase of funding for the project was frozen.209

In July 2000, an official MINEF mission found that SFID was logging outside their récupération permit (ARB 167) boundaries near Ngoro, Centre Province. The récupération should have been only two kilometres wide but was over four kilometres wide from the western boundary to the last log pond being operated.210

CAMBOIS (Société Camerounaise des Bois)

Rougier owns 57% of CAMBOIS.211 In the July 2000 allocation of new concessions, CAMBOIS was awarded UFA 10-038, one of the largest concessions in the country at 145,176 hectares, even though the company had the lowest score for technical merit of the four companies who bid for the concession (see Cameroon).212,213

In June 2000, MINEF started official proceedings against CAMBOIS for destruction of marks used by forest administration (Law 94/01 art. 150) and refusal to obey injunctions from MINEF agents (Law 94/01 art.162).214

In December 2000, CAMBOIS was fined CFA fr 79,963,608 (US$ 103,940) for logging outside its allocated area.215

SID (Société Industrielle de Djoum)

SID has a processing facility at Djoum with an input capacity 50,000 cubic metres per year.216 The exports of this company were 30,000 cubic metres in 1998-9.217

TIB (Transformation Integrée de Bois)

Rougier holds 25% of TIB, which has a sawmill with an annual processing capacity of 50,000 cubic metres.218 SIM (Société Industrielle de M’bang) is a forest subsidiary 100% owned by TIB.219 SFID (see above) and SIM are believed to act as sub-contractors to TIB and to supply logs to the company.220 SIM was fined CFA fr 10,311,122 (US$ 13,402) in December 2000 for not respecting logging norms.221

Central African Republic (CAR)

Rougier used to own SCAD (Société Centrafricaine de Déroulage),222 but sold it in 1984.223 It is now owned by a CAR national of Syrian origin.

Congo (Brazzaville)


Rougier has recently acquired the 370,000 hectare Mokabi concession which it planned to be fully operational by the end of 2000.224,225 The concession lies next to the Ndoki-Nouabalé National Park and along the border with CAR. The terms are supposed to be so generous that the company expects to recover its capital investment in two years (see Congo (Brazzaville)).226


Rougier Gabon

Rougier SA owns 86% of Rougier Gabon227 which is one of the largest timber companies operating in the country, and is estimated to hold around 700,000 hectares.228 It produces 350,000 cubic metres in an average year.229 Rougier’s plywood mill at Owendo has a processing capacity of 40,000 cubic metres per annum; the company plans new investment in the mill to come on stream in 2001.230

Rougier Gabon is currently developing two forest management plans, which are due to be finished in 2001.231 Rougier’s operations in Gabon have been criticised by conservationists because the company reneged on a 1995 agreement it had signed with IUCN to manage and conserve the pristine Ipassa-Mingouli rainforest.232 These 500,000 hectares of primary rainforest along the Ivindo River in north-eastern Gabon lie between two spectacular waterfalls which act as natural barriers to the forest. Rougier has a concession which lies partly within the area and, despite its agreement with IUCN not to log there, it has driven access roads into the area and started logging amid local and international protest.233 Rougier is said to have sought a presidential decree to confirm its right to log in the area (the President’s wishes are above the law).234 A flight over the area by US conservationists in September 1998 revealed that Lots 12 and 13 had been quite heavily logged, with logging in Lot 13 appearing to be "rapid, intense, and highly destructive. It appears that already about 28,700 ha have already been exploited".235

In response to criticisms, the company signed a Convention to declare the falls of Mingouli a protected area on 11 February 1998 with the Gabonese ministry of forests.236 According to Rougier, the company has ceded back to the Government 6,750 hectares of its concessions to preserve the site of Mingouli and to ensure its protection.237

The Lopé Reserve in Gabon has also been the focus of controversy (see Gabon). Because of legal confusion, logging licences had been issued in the reserve even though it was a protected area in which such activities are prohibited. Following significant international pressure, Rougier and Leroy Gabon (see Sonae, below) agreed in July 2000 to cease logging there. Rougier agreed to hand over 18,000 hectares of Lot 31 in the Lopé Reserve to the government and proposed that Mont Iboundji be declared a Sanctuary.238

Both France and the European Union seemed committed to releasing funding during the year 2000 for the construction of an all-weather road linking the comparatively isolated northern region of Gabon both to Cameroon and to the Transgabonais railway at Ndjolé.239 Rougier, the only major French logging company to have operations near the route, would benefit, along with the Malaysian company, Rimbunan Hijau. Rougier also has a direct and indirect stake (through SNBG — see SNBG feature) in the Transgabonais railway.


SAFI SL is a Spanish company based in Valencia.240 It has a logging concession and processing factory in Equatorial Guinea. The concession covers 30,000 ha, located in the district of Mongomo — Welenzas, and the company exports timber to Spain, France, Germany and the Netherlands.241


The Sonae group, headquartered in Portugal, is the world’s largest wood board business, ahead of the US-based Georgia Pacific and Louisiana Pacific. 242 A diversified group of companies, Sonae includes several significant timber businesses that are all interconnected with each other: Tafisa of Spain, Glunz of Germany and Isoroy of France. The Sonae group owns 85% of Sonae Industria, which in turn owns 87% of Tafisa (Tableros y Fibras SA) of Spain, which in turn acquired 97% of Glunz of Germany in 1999.243 Through Glunz, Tafisa now owns Isoroy of France (which Glunz acquired from the French company Pinault — now part of Pinault Printemps Redoute - in 1992). Isoroy, Europe’s largest producer of tropical plywood, is the parent company of a number of companies operating in the Congo Basin, of which Leroy Gabon is the most prominent. Isoroy has long been criticised by environmentalists. Its recent acquisition by Sonae may herald a more ecologically-considerate approach in Gabon (see below) if the new ownership puts in practice concrete actions towards achieving acceptable long-term sustainable forest management.


Isoroy and the French company Becob (now owned by Pinault Printemps Redoute) had a minority share in the former Cameroonian parastatal timber company, SOFIBEL,244 which was privatised during 1993 after serious mismanagement.

Central African Republic (CAR)

Through Leroy, Isoroy used to own a majority share in SICA Bois (Société Industrielle Centrafricaine) which held a 100,000 hectare concession in CAR.245

Equatorial Guinea

Sonae’s principal local subsidiary, Compañia Ecuatoguineana de Okumé, was inactive during 1998.246 Isoroy had operations in and bought timber from Equatorial Guinea during the mid-1990s.247 During the late 1990s, Isoroy sought to acquire concessions which it had previously worked, but eventually gave up, frustrated by the Malaysian company Rimbunan Hijau’s relationship with the Minister of Forests (see Equatorial Guinea). Rimbunan Hijau’s subsidiary Shimmer eventually gained access to these concessions for itself.248


Leroy Gabon

Isoroy’s subsidiary, Leroy Gabon was established in 1976.249 During 1997, Leroy Gabon held 654,000 hectares of concessions and produced 154,000 cubic metres of logs.250 Producing 7% of the country’s Okoumé output, Leroy Gabon is the third largest timber company in Gabon.251, 252 Until the early 1990s, Isoroy also owned a majority interest in SHM (Société de la Haute Mondah) (see Interwood).

One of former French President Mitterand’s controversial national prestige projects, the National Library in Paris, consumed huge quantities of Okoumé supplied by Leroy Gabon.253 Leroy Gabon has tried to brand its timber as coming from sustainably managed forests, but has gained little credibility to date. It drew up its own quality mark, "Eurokoumé label",254, 255 and was granted preliminary certification by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), but such certification was soon exposed as unwarranted and the certificate was revoked in 1997.256

Leroy and a number of foreign-owned logging companies based in Gabon, notably NSG and Rougier, have held concessions for many years covering part of the Lopé Reserve.257 The Lopé Reserve, created in 1946, was the first protected area in Gabon. Since then, its status has changed over time, leading to the contradictory position where logging licences are valid in an area where all forestry exploitation is forbidden.258

Leroy’s concession in Lopé (Lot 32) was first assigned in 1983 to SONG (Société d’Okoumé de la Ngoumé), which had a relationship with the Spanish company Alena, one of the principal logging companies in colonial Equatorial Guinea.259 After several years of being dormant, the concession was acquired by Leroy in 1990.

Leroy attracted international condemnation for its logging operations inside the Lopé Reserve which is an extremely ecologically significant area of primary rainforest. International conservation pressure led to an agreement being reached between Leroy, Rougier and the government of Gabon in July 2000 to end the legal contradictions governing the Reserve. Leroy renounced its logging activities in 61,000 hectares of the Lopé Reserve. In return, the eastern flank, which is rich in Okoumé but of lesser biodiversity, has been excluded from the Reserve and conceded to Leroy.260

Leroy Gabon is constructing log processing facilities at Owendo, which will include plywood facilities. The plant was due to be fully operational by January 2001.261


The family-owned Thanry group, headquartered in France, specialises in logging, processing and trade in timber from Africa and is one of the principal loggers and international timber traders in the Congo Basin region.262 The group has logging operations in Ivory Coast and Guinea, as well as interests in Central Africa. The group’s operations in Gabon have a reputation of having higher standards than other logging companies, but its reputation for sustainable forest management in Cameroon is poor, an inconsistency which undermines Thanry’s credibility when claiming to be a good forest manager. The Thanry group also operates in CAR.


Thanry is the largest logging group in Cameroon, and operates a number of concessions through several subsidiaries: CFC; CIBC; J Prenant; Propalm; SAB and SEBC (see map 1).263,264,265 As of July 2000, it holds 767,135 hectares of concessions through its various subsidiaries. Section 158 of the 1994 Forestry Law in Cameroon states that the "acquisition of shares or setting up of a forest exploitation company with the intention of increasing the total area of exploitation to more than 200,000 hectares"266 should result in a fine or imprisonment. MINEF should hold the required information to determine whether Thanry has acted illegally in this respect. It seems clear, however, that two of its subsidiaries, SEBC and CFC (see below), have contravened Section 49 of the 1994 law, which states that "the total forest area granted to any one licence-holder… may not exceed 200,000 hectares",267 even if the Thanry group itself has not, depending on whether "licence-holder" is interpreted as the parent company or its subsidiary.

During 1996-7, Thanry’s subsidiaries produced 460,000 cubic metres268 of logs, of which 220,000 cubic metres269 and 60,000 cubic metres270 of sawn wood were exported. The main species exploited are Ayous, Sapelli and Tali.

The Thanry group and SFH (Société Forestière de Hazim — the largest and one of the most controversial expatriate Lebanese companies, see Cameroon section) are leading suppliers to East Asian markets.271 In recent years, Thanry Cameroon has been working closely with Vicwood, a Hong Kong-registered company, including providing logs under contract to Vicwood for its veneer plant.272 The volume of timber supplied by Thanry is of sufficient quantity to warrant the exceptional step of chartering boats directly rather than using established shipping companies.273 Thanry has recently built a large log yard adjacent to the Douala-Yaoundé road and is building another at Kribi for direct loading onto ships.274 The relationship between the companies is believed to have been recently formalised, with unconfirmed reports that Vicwood bought the Thanry Cameroon operations in the year 2000.

SEBC (Société d’Exploitation des Bois du Cameroun)

Thanry’s largest subsidiary, SEBC was established in 1969 and currently holds two concessions, (UFAs 10-007 and 10-058), totalling 174,330 hectares in Boumba Ngoko District, East Province, and one concession of 48,800 hectares (UFA 09-007) in Moloundou, bordering the Dja Reserve.275 SEBC concessions cover in total 223,130 hectares, exceeding the 200,000 hectares legal maximum allowed per licence holder. SEBC has processing facilities at Lokomo, with an input capacity of 110,000 cubic metres per year.276

In 1989, SEBC received French government political and financial support to secure a 91,378 hectare concession (licence no.1578) near Lokomo in an area particularly rich in Ayous and Sapelli. CFD (Caisse Française de Développement), the French government’s development agency, (now Agence Française du Développement-AFD) subsidised the concession acquisition by loaning Thanry FFr 18 million (US$ 2.3 million). The concession terms envisage logging at a rate of 10,000 hectares each year for nine years and setting up a small sawmill to process the output.277 Once it had been awarded the concession, however, Thanry established a saw mill with almost ten times greater capacity.278

In January 1993, villagers from Atsjek (25 kilometres from M’bang) blockaded the road used by SEBC to transport timber because SEBC was logging illegally, had failed to provide promised infrastructure and had felled Moabi even within one kilometre of their village (see The Moabi issue). The villagers wrote to President Biya and the Provincial Governor. Twenty-four people were arrested and it is not known what happened to five people later transferred to Batouri prison.279, 280

In March 2000, SEBC was fined and its operations suspended for three months because of "anarchic" exploitation in its UFA concession and its exploitation in areas for which it did not have a licence.281 A MINEF field inspection of SEBC’s concession (UFA 10-007) in December 1999 reported "anarchic logging of the UFA with no respect for the assiettes de coupe" and "a flagrant example of violation of forestry regulations".282 The same team visited another SEBC concession (UFA 10-058) and found similar anarchic exploitation: illegal logging outside the concession area and illegal logging of under-sized logs both within and outside it.283 The field team noted that the logging practised by this company undermined the entire forest policy and sustainable forest management promoted by the Cameroon government.284

SAB (Société Africaine des Bois)

SAB is a Thanry subsidiary established in 1955.285 It holds one current concession of 60,838 hectares in East Province286 and has a sawmill in Yaoundé with an input capacity of 35,000 cubic metres per year.287

In March 2000, SAB was fined because it had not respected the boundaries of its assiettes de coupe; in June 2000, it was fined for logging outside the limits of its UFA concession; and in July 2000, MINEF announced that SAB was disqualified from applying for new concessions in that allocation round because of the serious nature of its illegal forestry activities.288 But this disqualification was not really significant since the concessions that the company was interested in acquiring (UFAs 10.005 and 10.017)289 were not included in that round of allocations.

J Prenant

Another Thanry subsidiary, J Prenant, was awarded a 54,457 hectare concession (UFA 10-045) in East Province during the July 2000 round of new UFA allocations.290 The company has a processing capacity of 38,500 cubic metres per year at Kagnol in East Province.291

CFC (Compagnie Forestière du Cameroun)

In 1996, Thanry procured through CFC four contiguous new concessions (UFAs 10-001,002,003 & 004) through Presidential Decree ("gré à gré") rather than public auction as required by the 1994 law. The combined area of the concessions exceeds the 200,000 hectare legal maximum for one concessionaire by 15,000 hectares. CFC has a sawmill with an annual input capacity of 50,000 cubic metres at Yokodouma.

The World Bank has requested the government to revoke all contracts for concessions which had been granted contrary to the 1994 law, which would include the four Thanry concessions, but nothing has been done.

These concessions are located near the only proper road in the forest belt which links Cameroon with the Central African Republic where Thanry has logging concessions which have reportedly increased production recently. But a World Bank report on the timber industry in this part of Cameroon noted the practice of creating documents for Cameroonian timber indicating that the timber originated outside the country and not therefore liable to tax and other controls imposed on Cameroonian timber. Thanry timber could be involved, given that its concessions in the two countries are adjacent to each other (see map 1).

As with other Thanry subsidiaries, CFC was sanctioned for its misdemeanours in 2000. In March 2000, it was fined for felling under-sized logs, and in June 2000, for logging outside the limit of its assiette de coupe.292 The December 1999 MINEF inspection of its concession found systematic felling of under-sized logs, especially Sapelli, and logging outside the designated assiettes de coupe.293

Besides MINEF inspections, a more detailed assessment of CFC’s operations was undertaken in April 2000 by an independent team of Cameroonian and French experts, which not only uncovered further illegalities but also catalogued negative environmental and social impacts as a result of the company’s logging operations (see E&SIA feature). These included a decline in non-timber forest products that are important sources of nutrition and local livelihoods; and an exacerbation of economic and social inequalities, including a failure to consult with all local villages.294


Propalm has a sawmill with an annual input capacity of 40,000 cubic metres at Douala.295 In the July 2000 allocation of new UFA concessions, Propalm was awarded UFA00-004, which covers 125,490 hectares.296

CIBC (Compagnie Industrielle du Bois au Cameroun)

CIBC has processing facilities with annual input capacity of 55,000 cubic metres

Central African Republic (CAR)

Thanry has two subsidiaries in CAR, Thanry Centrafrique (228,000 hectares) and Sofokad (131,200 hectares).297 Thanry is expanding its business in CAR and has recently installed a saw mill. Thanry Centrafrique (which was formerly known as PRMI)298 has expanded its activities at its concessions around Bamban299 near Berbérati in the west. Roads between the Central African Republic and Cameroon run near Thanry concessions in each country.300


CEB (Compagnie Équatoriale des Bois)

Thanry’s largest subsidiary in Gabon, CEB (Compagnie Equatoriale des Bois), is one of Gabon’s most prominent timber companies. It has a saw mill and claims to be planning a US$ 50 million veneer facility. CEB, established during the French colonial era, had six concessions or logging permits in 1997 covering 505,000 hectares301 south of the Lastoursville-Okondja road in the province of Ogooué-Lolo. CEB produced 173,000 cubic metres of logs in 1997, of which 149,000 cubic metres were of Okoumé and Ozigo,302 and has processing facilities at Bambidie and Owendo.303 The company is also logging a further 68,000 hectares on behalf of others, a practice known as "fermage" which Gabon’s new forestry code tries to eliminate because it is associated with poor forest management. Together with other French based-companies, CEB is a minority shareholder in SNBG, which is 51% owned by the Gabonese government (see SNBG feature). CEB has an 8% share in the company which has bought the management rights to the Transgabonais railway.304

CEB’s concession is being used to test indices and criteria which can be used to determine sustainability of forest management. The test is sponsored by the African Timber Organisation, funded jointly by the EU and France’s Ministry of Co-opération, and being carried out by the forest research institution CIFOR. The Swiss monitoring company SGS has been invited to conduct a preliminary audit of CEB’s management of this concession.305 The French government has provided funds for Thanry and SHM (see Interwood) to undertake much of the work necessary to prepare their businesses for sustainable forest management. Consultants have, however, been recruited under a separate, Dutch-funded initiative to prepare wildlife management plans for them,306 which suggests a less than holistic approach to forest management on the part of the French Government.

CEB concessions are located in one of the most densely populated parts of Gabon.307 CEB practices in Gabon are said to be better than those of other logging companies in the country, but the company’s poor record in Cameroon and its past record in Gabon place a question mark over the company’s real commitment to sustainable forest management. The company currently has a rotation period of 17 years which is generally considered to be too short for proper regeneration of the stock of commercial species.308 The company also engages in fermage (see Gabon section).309

Fieldwork undertaken in June 2000 by the Gabonese NGO CIAJE around CEB’s operations in Bambidi indicate the extent to which CEB has tried to interact positively with local communities and workers.310 In its concessions in Lastoursville, CEB undertook a sociological study to identify how to ensure a good relationship with villagers living near its concessions and whose opposition to the company could potentially threaten CEB activities. The findings of the study were used to set up a programme aimed at ensuring that local people also profit from logging. In the words of the CEB public relations representative in the country, these forests are " their [local villagers’] forests".311 The company’s programme includes activities aimed at improving local people’s income, such as the development of a fish breeding site in Bambidi; setting apart one of the forest units for local people and financing processing of timber boards for the villagers. Villagers living near CEB concessions can also attend the company health centre, while children have access to a school where teachers are good (which is rare in logging areas) and they receive free reading primers. CEB employs mainly people from the villages surrounding their concessions. The company has built a road to break up the isolation of a village in Sebe (near Lastoursville). CEB accommodation for its workers is better than those of other companies. Workers also have access to recreation facilities, considerably more than workers have in logging camps elsewhere in Gabon.

CEB has taken several initiatives to stop bushmeat hunting. Workers who engage in such activities are penalised and the company plans to undertake a bushmeat awareness campaign. As to the use of timber, the company seems less concerned with wasting forest resources; researchers found discarded timber lying around the logging camp.

Prior to opening its current concessions, CEB had almost exhausted its concessions in the south-west of Gabon, close to the Moukalaba Reserve where its logging roads gave access to the Doudou Mountains312 which were once rich in animal life. The Doudou Mountains remain one of several areas in Gabon which have been recommended for several years for, but not obtained, legal protection.313, 314.


Thanry’s other subsidiaries in Gabon include EFG (Exploitation Forestière du Gabon) which has had a 100,000 hectare concession near Ndjolé since 1976; SIL (Sciages Industriel de la Lowe) which operates sawmills and was due to open at the end of 1995 a new sawmill with an input capacity of 36,000 cubic metres per year, built for US$ 3 million; Thanry Gabon; and SAFOR which is involved in logging, saw milling, moulding, railway sleepers and charcoal. Thanry Gabon Industrie, a joint venture between CEB and Batave van Hout (of The Netherlands), is to become one of the largest veneer producers in Africa when its new 50,000 cubic metres per year output processing facility between Owendo and Libreville is complete.315

If Thanry wants to be a credible actor in the market for timber from sustainably managed forests, it may have to disassociate its operations in Gabon from those in Cameroon. One commercial buyer of Thanry timber has reportedly stopped buying from the company because of its poor record in Cameroon. The easy option would be to dispose of its operations in Cameroon — some of Thanry’s competitors have particularly poor, but not necessarily worse, records for forest resource management there. Raising the standards of its forestry operations and management practices in Cameroon and CAR would, however, be a more commendable option and demonstrate the whole group’s commitment to implementing sustainable forest management.

Unconfirmed reports in August 2000, however, suggest that Thanry has taken the easy option by selling all its operations in Cameroon to Vicwood of Hong Kong. Thanry has apparently agreed with Vicwood that, for the purposes of marketing timber in Europe, Vicwood will continue to use the Thanry brand name, potentially creating misunderstanding and deception as to the sustainability of timber from Cameroon.


Vasto Legno is a family-owned Italian timber company. It has been operating for 120 years and has a modern industrial complex in Milan specialising in sawnwood, its core business, and in rotary and sliced veneers.316 The company produces about 5 million square metres of Ayous veneers each year and claims to be the world leader of Ayous production and one of the largest suppliers of exotic species such as Ayous, Limba, Iroko, Sipo, Afrormosia and Moabi.317


Vasto Legno has been logging in Cameroon for over 30 years.318 It operates through two companies, SEBAC (Société d’Exploitation des Bois d’Afrique Centrale) and SEFAC (Société d’Exploitation Forestière et Agricole du Cameroun).319 It currently operates on two legally-allocated concessions totalling 151,393 hectares as well as operating outside its allocated concessions. During 1998-9, Vasto Legno produced 187,000 cubic metres of logs of which it exported 42,000 cubic metres.320

SEBAC (Société d’Exploitation des Bois d’Afrique Centrale)

SEBAC has processing facilities at Béla with an input capacity of 36,000 cubic metres per year.321 SEBAC currently logs in East Province in a concession (UFA 10-009) which covers 88,796 hectares. It has also been logging in another concession (UFA 10-008) which covers 60,371 hectares (even though it has not yet been allocated) using a revoked licence number (1826).322

SEFAC (Société d’Exploitation Forestière et Agricole du Cameroun)

SEFAC has a current concession in East Province (UFA 10-012) of 62,597 hectares,323 and timber processing facilities in Libongo with an annual input capacity of 130,000 cubic metres.324

In March 1999, WWF President, Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh, visited SEFAC installations and reportedly welcomed the company’s actions towards sustainable forest management.325 SEFAC had publicised its contributions to local infrastructure, such as schools, a clinic and 250 kilometres of roads in the heart of the forest.326 The company also stated that it had taken over responsibility for the running of the police, post and customs service in Libongo, including paying staff salaries.327

During this high-profile visit, SEFAC announced a firm commitment to preserving the forest, stating it had been in the "avant-garde of sustainable exploitation" for 31 years, and to complying with existing forestry regulations.328 The company has been praised for its investment in high-tech processing facilities at Libongo, and has received positive media attention for its investment in infrastructure for the workers and their families in this logging town.329

But reports from the ground suggest a more complex picture with negative aspects, too. Local people have complained about the company-subsidised school, which has two teachers for 190 six- to seven-year olds, and the lack of scope for raising concerns about pay and conditions for fear of losing one’s job.330 The company’s funding of local state institutions, such as the police and customs service, is open to abuse and undermines any independence these institutions may have had. An underlying concern is for the long-term viability of Libongo, given its dependence on SEFAC’s continued access to timber sources. If the company does not manage the forest sustainably and ensure a long-term supply of quality timber, Libongo could have an uncertain future. The pattern of boom-and-bust logging towns in Cameroon, such as nearby Kika, does not contribute to long-term sustainable development for rural people.

Official reports from SEFAC’s concession do not alleviate these concerns. In December 1999, a MINEF mission to the SEFAC concession (UFA 10-012) found "anarchic" and illegal operations, including logging outside concession boundaries and cutting undersized logs, especially Sapelli. The mission noted that this concession, which the company has operated for more than 30 years, is of poor quality,331 suggesting that SEFAC has exhausted the best timber, which poses problems for the supply of its large mill.

In March 2000, SEFAC was fined and its activities suspended for three months.332 It was subsequently disqualified from the new concession allocations in July 2000 for serious wrongdoing in its forestry activities.333


Wijma Kampen BV of The Netherlands is a family firm which is a subsidiary of Koninklijke Houthandel G. Wijma & Zonen BV (GWZ).334 It has been operating for over 100 years and specialises in marine hardwoods and structures, such as bridges, boardwalks and floodgates. The Dutch government is a significant customer. Much of the company’s hardwood timber comes from subsidiaries in Africa. It also has contacts in Europe, America and Asia.335 African subsidiaries are in Cameroon, Ghana and the Ivory Coast. European subsidiaries are in France, Germany, The Netherlands and the UK.336


Wijma’s subsidiary in Cameroon is Wijma Douala SARL. It also has close links to CFK (Compagnie Forestière de Kribi), although it is not known whether CFK is a subsidiary of the Wijma group or not. Wijma has a sawmill at Kribi, with an input capacity of 50,000 cubic metres per year, while CFK has a processing capacity of 14,000 cubic metres per year.337 In 1996-7, Wijma produced 64,314 cubic metres of logs of which 24,640 cubic metres were exported. CFK produced 18,680 cubic metres of logs and exported 5,433 cubic metres in the same period.338 Wijma is one of the main exporters of Azobé from Cameroon.

The operations of Wijma in Cameroon have changed fundamentally over the past few years. The company used to log directly in a number of concessions totalling 208,650 hectares. According to MINEF documentation, these have now expired and the company acts as a contractor to and purchaser of logs from other companies, such as COFA, a company owned by the Cameroonian President’s nephew.

In recent years, Wijma worked in partnership with the Dutch tropical forest research programme, Tropenbos. In July 2000, Wijma bid for a new concession but was unsuccessful, even though it had the highest technical score (see Cameroon).339 Despite these indications of a commitment to improved forest management, given that the company no longer holds any concessions in Cameroon, it is not known whether Wijma exerts any influence over the management of concessions belonging to its suppliers or the companies to whom it acts as contractor.

A MINEF mission to the Centre and South Provinces in December 1999340 reported that CFK was logging in assiette de coupe (number 10 in UFA 09-021), a concession which belongs to COFA, without a permit to do so. The report goes on to say that Wijma management stated that the request for the authorisation to operate in the assiette de coupe was in process at MINEF: "The director of operations for the group Wijma, M. Urbaniak Francis stated that the request for the authorisation to operate in the assiette de coupe was in process at MINEF. However, he refused to sign the official infractions report attached in Annexe 1.A."


The German company Gerhard Wonnemann GmbH was founded in 1948 and is one of the largest operators in Congo (Brazzaville), where it operates in the south of the country as SOCOBOIS.341, 342 The German development agency, DEG, was reported to own 30% of SOCOBOIS in 1993,343 but recent correspondence with DEG states that this is no longer the case.344 SOCOBOIS has been operating in Congo since 1964 but ceased operations in 1999 when seven foreign employees were kidnapped and later released by the militia.345 In March 2000, government sources were reported as stating that SOCOBOIS would soon be restarting its activities.346