Congo Basin Science Initiative launches at Summit of the Three Basins


CBSI Network

The Congo Basin Science Initiative (CBSI) launch took place in Brazzaville on 26 October 2023 at the Summit of the Three Basins. This was a three-day international conference to coordinate plans for forest protection across the tropics, convened by the Congo Basin Climate Commission, with the support of the United Nations and the African Union.

The Congo Basin and its contiguous forests are the world’s second largest extent of tropical forest. This region provides valuable local, regional and global services to people. Yet how the region functions, and how it might function in a rapidly changing world, is very poorly understood. Confronted with this reality, central African Environment Ministers called for major investment in Congo Basin science and building scientific capacity.

The Congo Basin Science Initiative (CBSI) is the response to this call. CBSI is a large network of scientists from Congo Basin countries and international experts whose aim is to stimulate investment to understand the Congo Basin as a regional entity and train a new generation of scientists from the region. The initiative will create knowledge to confront the climate and biodiversity crises and promote sustainable development. CBSI takes its inspiration from a $200 million program in the Amazon that over more than a decade transformed our understanding of the Amazon and led to Brazil becoming a leading nation for rainforest science.

CBSI is managed by a Science Steering Committee composed of 22 leading scientists from Gabon, Cameroon, DRC, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, alongside international experts, including the architects of the Amazon Program that is our inspiration.

Her Excellency Arlette Soudan-Nonault, Minister for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Congo Basin of the Republic of the Congo gave the opening address at the CBSI launch. This was followed by an introduction to CBSI by Professor Raphael Tshimanga, University of Kinshasa, a discussion on the scientific questions by Professor Simon Lewis, University of Leeds, and discussion of the capacity needs of the region by Dr Lydie-Stella Koutika, Centre for Plantations Research, Republic of the Congo.

Image of Lucie Temgoua
Photo credit: Maximiliano Fero Meñe

Speaking to over 100 participants, including country delegations, technical experts and members of civil society, these introductory talks were followed by a round table to discuss the data needed from scientists to assist the sustainable development of the region. Panellists Professor Lucie Temgoua, University of Dschang, Cameroon, Professor Laurent Durieux, IRD France/One Forest Vision Initiative, France and Mr Josué Oruna, Congo Basin Conservation Society, DRC joined the presenters for the round table. To conclude the floor was opened to questions, many of which came from early career researchers motivated to help shape the programme and ensure that researchers from the region are best placed to respond to the critical questions that CBSI proposes to address.

We published key resources to coincide with the launch, including the CBSI website and our Science and Capacity Plan. We also held meetings with potential funders on the sidelines of the Summit.

High-level support for CBSI

His Excellency, Ambassador Gilberto Da Piedade Verissimo, President of the Commission of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), expressed the support of ECCAS for CBSI and invited the region’s scientists:

“to collaborate closely with their counterparts in other major tropical basins and in synergy with existing local initiatives, and to put their energies into identifying models for socioeconomic development that promote the conservation of our resources and the wellbeing of the communities who are the guardians of these resources.”

His Excellency, Ambassador Gilberto Da Piedade Verissimo, President of the Commission of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS)

CBSI Science and Capacity Plan

CBSI Scientific Steering Committee members have been working together to develop the CBSI Science and Capacity Plan, which was presented at the launch event and is available on our website. The plan will produce the data and expertise needed to manage the Congo Basin for the benefit of local people and all of humanity. Professor Raphael Tshimanga, hydrologist at the University of Kinshasa, explained that CBSI will provide:

“An integrated understanding of the Congo Basin in a changing Earth system, training for a new generation of scientists, and scientific evidence for policy makers and civil society that will enable sustainable development.”

Professor Raphael Tshimanga, University of Kinshasa, DRC.

The plan was circulated, prior to publication, to elicit input from experts, with over 100 scientists contributing to the document. The goal is to have a plan that meets the needs of scientists and various national and regional stakeholders. Discussions with stakeholders in the week of the Summit made clear the need to coordinate a plan which aligns with the aspirations of stakeholders for science development in the region, including the Yangambi Declaration and the science plan of the Economic Community of Central African States.

CBSI sees the plan as a living document, with an updated version being planned for early 2024. If you would like to add your comments or input please email:

Header image shows audience at Congo Basin Science Initiative launch. Credit: Maximiliano Fero Meñe