The Great Green Wall Accelerator: new impetus for this iconic African initiative


Although long considered to be a tree-planting programme, the Great Green Wall (GGW) initiative is in fact a rural development programme across the Sahel-Sahara strip. Through a patchwork of projects, its ambition is the integrated management of ecosystems to combat land degradation and desertification, the effects of climate change and biodiversity loss, and to tackle poverty, food insecurity and increased conflicts due to declining resources in countries of the Sahel. The Great Green Wall Accelerator, launched by the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, in January 2021 at the 4th One Planet Summit in Paris, aims to strengthen, coordinate and monitor the implementation of the GGW in its 11 Member States.

What is the Great Green Wall initiative?

Approved by the African Union (AU) in 2007, the Great Green Wall is one of the first international initiatives on the environment and land management to bring together African countries and international partners. Designed to fight the effects of climate change and desertification in Africa, the project aims to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land in the 11 countries of the initiative, capture 250 million tonnes of carbon and create 10 million green jobs by 2030.

Originally, the Great Green Wall was planned to be a 15km-wide corridor crossing Africa for 7,800km along the Sahel. This historic initiative developed into a patchwork of projects tailored to specific regions and contexts, in the fields of conservation, sustainable land use, agricultural production and integrated water resources management.

All these actions must contribute to food security in one of the regions of the world hardest hit by malnutrition, while helping reduce conflicts and migratory flows caused by the shortage of arable land. Spanning across the three multilateral environmental agreements stemming from the 1992 Rio Summit, the issues of conserving biodiversity and climate change adaptation are finally being addressed.

The 11 countries involved in the initiative are Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan. In 2010, these countries decided to create a regional authority dedicated to the initiative: the Panafrican Agency of the Great Green Wall (PAGGW). Based in Nouakchott, its role is to implement coordination mechanisms, harmonize the various actions and support resource mobilization.

At the PAGGW Heads of State and Government Conference on 2 December 2021, former President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, was named “champion” of the Great Green Wall. His role is to mobilize financial resources for implementing GGW projects and to promote the initiative to Heads of State of the countries concerned to encourage political commitment around this initiative.

A harmonized and structured approach

At France’s initiative, the creation of the Great Green Wall Accelerator was announced at the One Planet Summit on 11 January 2021. The aim is to give new impetus to this iconic African Union initiative.

On that occasion, the President of the French Republic committed to closely follow progress as regards mobilizing donors for the Accelerator and its implementation. The initiative’s partners have so far pledged to contribute almost €16 billion in international finance by 2025 for the countries concerned. Thanks to support from the Pan-African Agency of the Great Green Wall and action from the 11 countries behind this project, this momentum will continue to grow in the years ahead.

At the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille on 6 September 2021, the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs brought together institutional stakeholders, civil society, researchers and a few donors who were committed to the GGW. At this first meeting of Accelerator stakeholders since its launch, the general interest for this initiative was confirmed as the GGW is “one of the keys of the future of the Sahel” according to the Minister. This event showed the need for collective mobilization and dialogue among all stakeholders to take another step towards implementing this initiative which requires more coordination at regional level to effectively benefit populations.

The fifteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which will take place in Abidjan on 9-20 May 2022, will be an opportunity to review the progress of the initiative, with a presentation of the Accelerator’s first financial results.

This project allows us to meet the challenges of implementing the Great Green Wall by:

  • providing more coordinated support to States, structures and GGW member institutions;
  • supporting the implementation of the Great Green Wall initiative with a multi-actor, structured approach;
  • encouraging projects in the field;
  • enabling more detailed mapping of the available financing and projects requiring financing;
  • ensuring the monitoring and impact assessment of financed projects and overall progress to meet the three main objectives (land restoration, carbon sequestration, job creation);
  • sharing knowledge and best practice among all technical and financial partners.

This platform is built around five pillars:

  • Pillar 1 - Investment in small and medium-sized farms and strengthening of value chains, local markets and organization of exports;
  • Pillar 2 - Land restoration and sustainable management of ecosystems;
  • Pillar 3 - Climate-resilient infrastructures and access to renewable energy;
  • Pillar 4 - Favourable economic and institutional framework for effective governance;
  • Pillar 5 - Capacity-building.

Updated in May 2022