Lead Author: Charles Sebukeera
Contributing Authors: Eugene Muramira, Cripen Momokama, Ahmed Elkholei, Ismail Elbagouri, Bora Masumbuko, Valerie Rabesahala


Forests and woodlands occupy an estimated 650 million ha or 21.8 per cent of the land area in Africa (FAO 2005). These account for 16.8 per cent of the global forest cover (FAO 2005). The distribution of forests and woodlands varies from one sub-region to the other, with Northern Africa having the least forest cover while Central Africa has the densest cover. The Congo basin in Central Africa is home to the world’s second largest continuous block of tropical rain forest (FAO 2003a).


Figure 1: Forest, woodlands and vegetation cover Africa’s forests and woodlands can be classified into nine general categories including tropical rain forests, tropical moist forests, tropical dry forests, tropical shrubs, tropical mountain forest, subtropical humid forests, subtropical dry forests, subtropical mountain forests and plantations (FAO 2003a). Mangrove forests cover 3 390 107 ha (FAO 2003a). Only 32.5 million ha of forests and woodlands, or 5 per cent of the total forest area, are formally protected (FAO 2003a).

The forest sector in Africa plays an important role in the livelihoods of many communities and in the economic development of many countries. This is particularly so in Western, Central and Eastern Africa where there is considerable forest cover. Africa has a high per capita forest cover at 0.8 ha per person compared to 0.6 ha globally (FAO 2002).

On average, forests account for 6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the Africa, which is the highest in the world (NEPAD 2003). In Uganda, for example, forests and woodlands are now recognized as an important component of the nation’s stock of economic assets and they contribute in excess of US$546.6 million to the economy through forestry, tourism, agriculture and energy (Emerton and Muramira 1999). Forests and woodlands also contribute to the long-term social and economic development goals of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and can play an important role in addressing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and meeting its targets. They provide energy, food, timber and non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and are important contributors to wealth and health at the household, community, national, sub-regional, regional or even global level. The MDGs and their targets, as well as progress towards them, are shown in Annex 1.

Forests and woodlands are also key components of the environment and provide essential services that are critical to combating land degradation and climate change, as well as to conserving wetlands, coastal areas and freshwater systems. In this regard, the NEPAD programme on forests and woodlands is critical to the success of the other NEPAD programmes, including those on combating land degradation and climate change, and on conserving wetlands, coastal and freshwater resources.