The Great Green Wall Project: Africa’s ambitious all encompassing answer to the modern world
By Fin Harris
Globalization has thrust the world into a frenzy of industrial productivity, technological advancements and created a world stage for international discussion. China’s GDP is rising by around 7% a year, the US is rushing to develop the most advanced artificial intelligence and the United Nations hear the voices of 193 independent countries. It all sounds as if it has been ripped straight from the pages of a dystopian 1980s science fiction film. Amongst talk of lightning quick quantum computing and self learning computers, it is easy to neglect the physical world that drives this tech craze.
Jobs, today more than ever, are centred around the use of computers. Since its 1993 inception, the world wide web has revolutionised communication and the transfer of ideas, pushing multi-national communities to share, interrogate and collaborate on projects on a far greater scale than ever before. With the recent Coronavirus pandemic reducing face-to-face opportunities, chances are that you have had first-hand experience of the power for communication the internet provides. This is great! If you’re a budding researcher who can no longer stand the confines of four walls, distance is no longer the time constraint it once was. Unlike Darwin, if you were to venture to the Galapagos islands you would no longer need to complete a year-long round trip to share your discoveries. It is possible to collect biodiversity data in the day, and upload your findings by 5pm to your UK institute which, thanks to T-minus six hour time zones difference, will be able to analyse your findings after lunch.
The speed at which information can travel is one of the driving forces of the modern world. Every day, the US stock market opens at 2:30 GMT. Traders across the world look to buy or sell shares with hundreds of billions US dollars passing through the market every day. Internet developments have given a broker in Tokyo a very good chance of competing against a US broker for the same stock halfway across the world. The billion dollar question comes down to how quick the internet speed is.
Ofcom, the UKs communication regulator, has stated that 10 megabytes per second (Mbs) is the minimum internet speed required to actively participate in the modern virtual world. As of now, only four African countries break 5Mbs, leaving the continent far behind the benchmark. Before it can compete in the virtual world, Africa must first restore physical landscapes ravaged by desertification, a first step towards combating poverty and famine.
Before entering the digital age, a solid framework of resources, infrastructure and cooperation must be present within a region. The Great Green Wall Project, Africa’s (ambitious) all encompassing answer to the modern world, aims high with a mission to rejuvenate desertified land, alleviate poverty in some of the worst affected areas in the world and mitigate against the devastating effects climate change is sure to bring. The project was initiated in 2008, with 15 countries taking on the task of rejuvenating 7,000 kilometres of land spanning from East to West Africa, Djibouti to Senegal.
Currently, 21 countries are involved in the Great Green Wall, a feat that is truly impressive, given the degree of governmental instability several of its members are dealing with. Libya was under the rule of Gaddafi for four decades, Somalia has been without central governing since 1991 and Sudan has just ended a civil war that broke the country in two. These events have left land where ethnicity is a justifiable basis for conflict and warmongering is just part of daily life. As recently as November 2020, ethnicity has been the basis of armed conflict when Ethiopia’s northern defence headquarters was subject to missiles launched by the Tigray people’s liberation front. A move that has threatened to destabilize the horn of Africa once more.
Due to the social unrest and political turmoil, the continent has been gripped by devastating famines that will spiral into ever more catastrophic events with the intensification of climate change. Governments do not have the infrastructure to deal with such a crisis in their state of unrest and currently rely on foreign aid to cope with millions of starving citizens. With severe drought predicted for this December and through early 2021, East Africa is in dire need of mitigation systems such as the Great Green Wall to dampen the magnitude of natural disasters by increasing availability of fertile land for agricultural production.
The Green Wall would not only restore the damage done to these areas, but also bring with it a degree of security, inciting a more sustainable Africa. To date, the project has created 350,000 jobs, providing financial stability for citizens – a key move in continental resurgence. Providing jobs and increasing production is one of the key areas Africa must work on to become an equal to current global superpowers. For example, Ethiopia is the third fastest developing country in the world, yet growth is largely due to its governmental spending. The economy is looking to slow down in the foreseeable future unless it increases its production to provide the capital to back up these investments. The development of the Great Green Wall will not only increase employment, but is set to restore the 46% of African land that’s been desertified, greatly increasing the area available for cultivation of commercial produce, increasing a country’s GDP.
The project has ambitions for a major 2030 milestone with an expected 100 million hectares of rejuvenated land and 10 million eco jobs – a very ambitious goal given the current financial progress of the project. Over the course of its first decade, the project found $2 billion from the African Union and overseas financiers, yet this falls drastically short of the annual $3.7 billion the project relies upon to keep up with these targets. It may seem like a losing race, yet with international backing and continental cooperation, the funding could become a reality.
The Great Green Wall project could be the first step to stabilizing Africa and the beginning of a self sustaining economy within the continent. Its construction will increase the quality of life for many citizens and set a powerful, biological foundation for social, economic and technological developments for a modern Africa.