Africa’s Great Green Wall faces funding shortfall, delays

Africa’s Great Green Wall project, designed to restore degraded landscapes and bolster economies across the continent, is significantly underfunded and unlikely to meet its 2030 completion goal, according to Alain Richard Donwahi, president of the recent UN summit on desertification.

Launched in 2007, the initiative aims to reinstate 100 million hectares of land but has only achieved 30 percent of its target. Donwahi, who presided over the 2022 UN summit in Côte d’Ivoire, highlighted the project’s slow progress and substantial challenges at this month’s Bonn Climate Change Conference, where he sought renewed support.

The Great Green Wall aims to create an 8,000-kilometre-long corridor from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, benefiting some of the world’s poorest countries on the edge of the Sahara Desert, including Ethiopia, Mali, and Sudan. ‘It is an understatement to stress that we are not in line with our common objective to complete by 2030,’ Donwahi stated.

The project faces significant obstacles, particularly in terms of financing and implementation. The lack of a centralised monitoring entity complicates coordination across the 11 participating African countries, many of which have faced humanitarian crises due to military coups, wars, and Islamist insurgencies.

A 2020 review by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) estimated the project needs at least $33bn more funding to meet its 2030 target. Although international donors pledged $19bn at a 2021 summit, only $2.5bn had been received by March of last year, with the remainder due by the end of 2025. These funds are often allocated to various projects not exclusively dedicated to the Great Green Wall.

Tracking funding has been a major hurdle, but Donwahi welcomed the launch of an observatory in June to monitor financing and progress. Despite this, it remains unclear where the additional billions required will come from. More investment from international donors, the private sector, and the involved countries themselves is necessary.

Donwahi noted some progress, such as the creation of 3 million jobs and the restoration of approximately 30 million hectares of degraded land, an area roughly the size of the Philippines. However, with climate change intensifying, he emphasised that desertification and drought are global issues, not just African problems. ‘For too long, desertification and drought have been considered African problems,’ he remarked.

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