Climate philanthropy gives Africa’s green wall project a huge boost 

One of the projects expected to take centre stage at the climate talks in Egypt next year is an African-driven ambitious megaproject that aims to create the largest living structure on the planet. 

The Great Green Wall has been described as an “African-led movement with an epic ambition to grow an 8,000km natural wonder of the world across the entire width of Africa”. 

Dubbed the Great Green Wall, the project aims to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land, sequester 250 million tonnes of carbon and create 10 million jobs in rural areas of Sahel in north Africa by 2030. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification views it as a massive defence line against desertification. 

The project, which is being coordinated by the Pan-African Great Green Wall Agency, is Africa’s flagship programme for fighting climate change and desertification. 

The wall has had starts and stops, in large part due to a lack of funding, but received a much-needed cash-injection in Glasgow.

COP26 saw US billionaire Jeff Bezos’s climate foundation promise $1 billion to help fight land degradation, particularly in Africa, and the Great Green Wall is set to be one of the beneficiaries. 

It is hoped that the project will see some movement now.

The initiative concerning 11 countries on the rim of the world’s biggest desert was first launched to great acclaim in 2005, but never really got going. 

The African Union endorsed the initiative in 2007, two years after the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan hatched the plan at a summit of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States held in the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou.

In January this year, the Green Wall received a major shot in the arm at the One Planet Summit in Paris, where donors pledged $19 billion for the programme.

“Forty-eight percent of the funds have been committed [to work] on the ground,” French President Emmanuel Macron said at a side event at the climate summit in Glasgow.

In a 2020 report, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification said there was an “insufficient, unpredictable and insecure funding situation”.

General security issues in the region have also hampered progress.

Amazon founder Bezos said work on the wall – which he called a “remarkable innovation” – had to be sped up.

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