Gabon has gone through a profound process of economic reforms over the past ten years. Until 2010 i.e. before ban on export of raw logs, Gabon was the largest exporter of raw wood in the region, and its sales represent 20% of Africa’s raw wood exports. However, after 2010, Gabonese economy has opened and the Republic of Gabon initiated schemes for attracting FDI into the country and a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) was launched to boost manufacturing in the country especially to promote wood transformation industries. The Special Economic Zone was developed by Gabonese Republic in partnership with Olam International Limited, Singapore which is spread over 1126 ha at Nkok (20 Km from the capital city of Libreville).
Given the fact that Gabon supplies 90% of the world’s Okoumé, known for the production of veneer & plywood, numerous face veneer manufacturing companies have set up their manufacturing facilities in this Special Economic Zone. Okoumé is recognised as one of the world’s best materials for rotary cut veneers and face veneer peeled from Okoumé are in high demand in Europe, China and USA. Gabon’s reserves of exploitable timber estimated at 400 million cubic meters includes 130 million cubic meters of Okoumé.
Apart from Gabon’s own intrinsic raw material advantage, some regulatory changes in forestry sector in mid and end 2016 by Governments of Myanmar and Laos, the supply of raw material has been constrained in major face veneer manufacturing locations like China, Vietnam,Myanmar, Laos and India. Further two of the four West Central African countries supplying raw material to Asia have also banned export of round logs and the other two are also expected to announce a ban in next two to three years. As a result of the constrained supply of raw material for face veneer in Asia have pushed the face veneer manufacturing companies in Asian countries to set up manufacturing units outside Asia.
Given the above intrinsic raw material advantage of Gabon and regulatory changes in forestry sector inAsia, Gabon SEZ has been able to attract a lot of timber transformation industries and especially face veneer manufacturing industries. As of now, 15 peeling (face veneer) units, 2 plywood units, 9 saw mills, 8 furniture manufacturers and 1 wooden flooring unit are already operational inside this SEZ. As part of its mandate for business facilitation, GSEZ SA has ventured into Okoumé log supply for uninterrupted raw material supply to all units in the SEZ. GSEZ SA has signed agreement with two largest forest loggers and they are currently supplying about 20,000 CBM logs per month to the SEZ. Similar agreement are under negotiations with three more forest logging companies to supply additional 30,000 CBM per month to face veneer units based in SEZ.
For the manufacturing of Okoumé veneers, the raw logs comes from Gabonese forests that are under sustainable management. This eco-responsible management,which consists of restricted wood harvesting, allows the forest to regenerate naturally. It also ensures the continuity of Okoumé being available for tomorrow. Far from being an endangered wood species, the Okoumé is therefore an endless source of supply as long as sustainable management rules are applied. Okoumé veneer/plywood is a material of the future, coming from durable and renewable resource. Okoumé grows rapidly and regenerates well in clearings which makes it a very renewable.
Given the sustainable logging potential, favourable business environment and ready infrastructure, Gabon SEZ is well poised to be Hub of Face Veneer Manufacturing Units.