DUBAI- The transformation of the Sahel through the Great Green Wall Initiative is already underway, and the ripples of its anticipated impact already being felt - as examined at Expo 2020 Dubai in ‘Spotlights on Africa | Spotlighting the Sahel: Climate-Resilient Solutions for Greater Food Security'.

A driver of socioeconomic growth and enabler of shared prosperity, the Initiative presents an alternative lens with which to view the Sahel region, shedding light on its potential to offer compelling solutions to challenges not only in Africa, but globally, with youth at the centre of its development.

This was the message from officials speaking at the event, where the Great Green Wall Initiative - an 8,000-kilometre natural wonder of the world, which aims to restore Africa’s landscape and create the largest living structure on the planet - took centre stage, as part of Expo 2020 Dubai’s Food, Agriculture & Livelihoods Week.

On this occasion, Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashemy, Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director-General, Expo 2020 Dubai, said, "We have to move from [the Great Green Wall] being a necessary moral good – because I think we can all agree that that is the case – to it being a very tangible, economically viable and economically necessary opportunity for the local indigenous communities.

"So how do we translate this powerful story, a story full of opportunity, for it to make sense not only for the local communities but for future investors who are interested in the Sahel, but nervous about entering? From where I stand, I see a chasm between your voice and others, and this Expo is about bridging those chasms, and bringing people together in a way that helps us all elevate further, in that dignified way in which [Expo 2020 Dubai] tried to tell this story and many other stories."

Dr Ibrahim Thiaw, Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), said, "The Great Green Wall is a wall of hope and of solidarity, and is built on the premise of progress and prosperity. The United Arab Emirates has a particularly important role to play, sharing experiences, as well as through technology and knowledge transfer, to name but a few." The event saw Chadian multidisciplinary visual artist Salma Khalil present her distinguished artwork about the Sahel, showing the role of the woman in the march of progress and highlighting art as a tool to inspire society to continue on the same path.

Dr. Elvis Paul Tangem, Coordinator for the Great Green Wall Initiative at the African Union Commission, said, "There is no resource stronger than a young mind. Today, the Sahel has the youngest population in Africa, which is the world’s youngest continent. This is a huge resource. If you look at the culture, the potential for renewable energy and economic agricultural lands in the Sahel – it is incompatible with any part of the world."

In addition to the opportunities the Great Green Wall offers for its own communities, it is also a symbol of what others can aspire to, singer and activist Inna Modja said, "We have seen how fast progress can be made, especially in recent years. If we achieve the Great Green Wall it’s going to inspire not just Africa, but the whole world, because there are a lot of places that look like the Sahel. I'm super hopeful that we will have achieved the wall by 2030 and changed the face of the Sahel, because I believe in the people. My faith in this project lies with the people, the communities and the leadership."

Putting faith in the people was a common theme among the speakers. Audiences heard from Seynabou Dieng, CEO, MAYA, a food-processing company specialising in grocery-store products using an inclusive model through partnership with farmers in Mali. Dieng shared that despite older generations prioritising global connection and success, she urged youth to consider domestic resources and growth first.

"For the young generation, it is critical for us to create solutions for our own market first and then pull the global market afterwards," she said.

Food, Agriculture & Livelihoods Week is the ninth of 10 Theme Weeks held throughout the six months of Expo 2020 Dubai, forming part of the Programme for People and Planet, an exchange of inspiring new perspectives to address the greatest challenges and opportunities of our time.


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