The Analyst (Monrovia)

Liberia: French Investor Interested in Country's Forest

A French-based timber company, Groupe Rougier, is in the country to explore the possibility of investing in the forestry sector of the Liberian economy.

The Chairman of the Groupe Rougier, Mr. Francis Rougier who visited Monrovia last week to meet with representatives of the government of Liberia, the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), the National Investment Commission, donors, private Institutions and non-governmental organizations involved in forestry activities in Liberia, said his company has a long-term vision for sustainable forest management in Liberia.

"Being a long-term commitment, our vision allows the Rougier Group to make ambitious investments in forest, industry, training, and social activities by carrying out very thorough forestry management programs", the Group's Press Statement affirming the assertions of Mr. Rougier said here yesterday.

The statement said that while the Groupe Rougier was in the country to do business, it would be part of its corporate responsibility to invest in the Liberian peace process while taking active part in the welfare and safety of employees and residents of the operational areas.

"Researchers and engineers will ensure training in forest botany, non-timber-forest-products inventory, social services, workers' safety, and health. It will also relate to the conflict-resolution techniques, essential to avoid possible drifts and mutual misunderstandings with local populations in the working areas", the company's statement emphasized.

Indicating its preparedness to cooperate with the legal framework for concessionaire investment in Liberia, and the October 2006 National Forestry Reform Law, the statement said, the Groupe Rougier was prepared to contribute to the economic and social development of the local communities.

"The Groupe Rougier is also committed to realizing the sustainable forest management certification with international standard in SFM", it said without elaboration.

The Groupe Rougier, which had a turnover of US$195M in 2005 alone, currently has a total employment of 2,600 in separate operations in three African countries including Gabon, Cameroon, and Congo.

With 83 years of timber investment experience behind it, Groupe Rougier, which began investment in Africa in 1954, has since taken world center stage in timber investment through the local production of timber products as opposed to 100% export of round logs by its competitors.

The company, which is currently operating a plywood factory in Gabon and a sawmill each in Gabon, Cameroon, and the Congo, said its vision is "to be a leader and integrated producer and global marketer of African tropical timber coming from forests under Sustainable Management".

The Chairman of the Groupe Rougier assured the Liberian forest authorities and stake holders while in Liberia that his group intends to establish similar processing facilities in Liberia once it gains the legal right to operate in Liberia.

Amongst the company's action plan for achieving its vision, is its current focus is to increase the volume of locally manufactured forest products vis-à-vis the export of round logs.

Rougier is represented in Liberia by a local investment consultancy firm, Jafain Consortium, Inc. This firm works to attract foreign investment dollars into the Liberian economy.

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