SAFCOL (South African Forestry Company Limited) is the third largest state-owned forestry company in South Africa, under the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) with operations in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Kwa Zulu Natal, as well as in the northern parts of Mozambique. SAFCOL’s mandate is; to conduct forestry business which includes timber harvesting, timber processing and related activities, both domestically and internationally. Through our operations we employ about 5000 people through direct and indirect employment and by extension, are responsible for about 20 000 lives in communities adjacent our operations.


The purpose of the “Forestry Industrialisation” conference is to bring forestry related decisionmakers and players together from both in the public and private sector; forestry technical practitioners, end product users, forest managers, academics, researchers and the public; to explore the current status of the industry, challenges to be addressed and opportunities to be exploited, alignment to international developments and to create exposure of the industry to the broader South Africa. This interaction will facilitate networking to develop joint projects and activities that will address priority issues.

SAFCOL’s strategy talks of assessing various new downstream products that can be produced from its quality timber, which includes products such as: Timber-frame structures, Engineered Wood Products (EWP) including Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), Furniture and construction products, renewable energy etc. Therefore the conference will be a stepping stone to building relations with the national, regional and international market in a quest to realise this.

The Forestry Sector

The international forestry industry has developed extensively over the past ten years, increasing the overall contribution of forestry to the economy.  However, the South African forestry has been left behind with regards to similar growth and development, specifically relating to new product development.  When comparing with other BRICS countries, the South African forestry plantation area is 1.224 million hectares while Brazil is at 4.982 million hectares, Russia at 17.340 million hectares, India at 32.578 million hectares and China at 46.670 million hectares.

The forestry sector has done little to raise its national profile, resulting in the general ignorance amongst ordinary citizens of the value, contribution, opportunities and benefits of the forestry industry and various products derived from wood.  This is despite the pulp and paper sector contributing a significant portion to the industrial economy, and each household having numerous forestry derived products. This initiative seeks to raise public awareness of the industry to the possibilities within the timber industry and stimulate discussion on the role that the forestry industry can play in addressing economic development challenges in the country.

Forestry in the country is not well acknowledged, despite its growing contribution towards Agriculture GDP increasing from 4.5% in 1980 to 11.1% in 2015. In 2015 the sector provided 158 400 direct and indirect jobs.  It is critical that the perception of forestry is changed and that the potential within the country are leveraged to the benefit of South Africa.

The South African forestry sector’s limited use of wood products has triggered a need for a discussion to promote a wood culture society. A need to have a diverse forestry sector has been identified by both SAFCOL and DPE.  This presents opportunities for job creation and economic development through the industrialisation of the forestry industry.

It is against this background that a Forestry conference will be hosted by SAFCOL in collaboration with Government (through DPE) with an aim to facilitate discussions and information sharing regarding the opportunities within the wood value chain and seek consensus on projects that stakeholders can jointly undertake to increase value addition.

A forestry industrialisation round table discussion was hosted on 20 June 2017, which was a build up the conference to be hosted in October.

The conference

Envisaged Outcomes of the Forestry Industrialisation Conference

To host a successful and impactful event with the following outputs

  • To showcase and explore opportunities within the entire forestry and wood-processing value chain.
  • To build an annual national forestry event that will serve as an effective voice of the industry.
  • To unlock constraints within the forestry sector.
  • To encourage product innovation and sustainable trade within the sector.
  • To facilitate a dialogue about key issues within the sector.
  • To unearth and showcase innovative talent within the sector.
  • To create awareness and position the sector as a catalyst in the economy.

Targeted Stakeholders

  • Forestry industry (those who manage or own plantations and those who have access to trees );
  • Processing industry as well as those that produce the processing solutions (machinery and other technology);
  • Users of the products (government that procures for infrastructure, construction industry (in all its iterations) and developers;
  • Regulators (NHBRC, SABS, CSIR, Agrément SA, CIDB, etc.) and policy makers (government departments with policy implications to forestry, industrialisation and material use i.e. DTI, Public Works, Department of Health, Departments of Education (DHET & DBE), DST , Department of Transport etc.)
  • Funders (Banks that provide home loans and business funding) including DFIs and Pension Fund Administrators, as well venture capitalists;
  • Insurers ;
  • Investors (from forestry , agro-forestry and downstream opportunities);
  • General public including rural communities and land claimants, students, etc.;
  • Media (including a media strategy for the build-up towards the event and during the event as well as immediately after to report about the outcome).