Swedish-African forest relations

At the peak of Sweden’s involvement with forestry development in Africa, in the budget year 1986/87, SIDA alone spent around SEK 500 million – or 11 % of the total Swedish development budget – on forestry, forest industries, and agroforestry programmes, most of it in Africa. At this time, the late 1980s, there were at any one year well over 75 Swedish forestry experts working in Africa.

The two biggest and longest lasting programmes were found in Tanzania and Ethiopia, but there was Swedish involvement in many other countries. For example, during the period 1972–2001, a total of SEK 2 200 million (over USD 300 million) were spent on support to the Forest Sector in Tanzania.

Then, during the 1990s, forestry virtually disappeared from Swedish development cooperation, with some minor exceptions of funding of programmes carried out by Swedish, African and International NGOs and institutes. Today, there are only around ten Swedish forestry experts working in Africa, no new forestry programmes have been started with Sida bilateral financing in the last ten years, and the considerable experience and network of contacts that were build up during the period 1975–1990 are rapidly being lost.

This is one reason why the authors, all having been involved in various capacities with forest work in and with Africa since the late 1960s, decided that it was high time to set down the “history” of Swedish forest collaboration with Africa. The report has been developed in collaboration between KSLA and the African Forest Forum. It is hoped that it may contribute to a reawakened interest in again permitting Swedish know-how and comparative advantages in building capacity and institutions contribute to a real economic development oriented Sustainable Forest Management push in Africa. Through this, Sweden could also assist Africa to realise its potential to contribute to climate change mitigation through increased forest resources and their management.