"Imagine a living symbol of hope, the largest living structure on the planet, one that stretches 8,000km across Africa, ushering in a new era of sustainability and economic growth.”
So the United Nations describes the Great Green Wall, a game-changing African-led initiative aimed to increase the amount of arable land in the Sahel – the region bordering Africa’s Sahara Desert.
At the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in January, an Alliance was born to accelerate the work of ecopreneurs and support restoration-focused value chains along the Great Green Wall. Regeneration – a partnership between Palladium and Systemiq – joined as a founding member and will act as the fund manager for the newly launched catalytic fund facility.
The Sahel is made up of 22 countries from Senegal to Ethiopia. Led by the African Union, the Great Green Wall initiative’s goal is to restore 100 million hectares of land, sequester 250 million tonnes of carbon, and create 10 million green jobs by 2030, and the launch of the Alliance is an important and major step towards those goals.
Using donor, philanthropic, and impact capital through a catalytic fund vehicle, the Alliance will act as an accelerator for ‘ecopreneurs’ and regenerative value chains. “The Alliance has created a model that brings together all the different stakeholders needed in an ecopreneur’s journey,” explains Ydir Vissers, Palladium’s Director of Regeneration. “From technical assistance to the different types of finance they may need from seed to scaling up, and finally the structure to manage it all.”
Though more than US$19 billion has been pledged to support the Great Green Wall, hitting the goals set out in 2007 has been challenging due to the lack of access to expertise, financing, and visibility of ecopreneurs and small-holder farmers focused on restoration.
This has created a massive opportunity for the Alliance to support commercially viable restoration work, take advantage of the Sahel’s potential, and address its challenges. “What’s exciting is seeing the objective of the Alliance in the context of the climate crisis and the need to maintain biodiversity and the role that regenerative activities play into that,” adds Vissers. “The proposed structure of combining different types of concessional and non-commercial finance with capital for later stage projects is sorely needed and we already know that it works.”
For Diane Binder, CEO of Alliance founding member Regenopolis, this initiative is a breakthrough thanks to its collaborative nature based on the expressed needs of local communities.
“Until now, the Great Green Wall Initiative has come short of the ambitious commitments,” Binder says. “Only by coming together, as implementers, and by supporting restoration-focus value chains, can we drive change at scale and support the efforts led by ecopreneurs, small-holder farmers and SMEs in the region. As a collective, we can act as a one-stop shop for both the donor community and the ecopreneurs who will look for expertise and financing.”
The next year, from 2023 to 2024 will be a pilot phase for the Alliance, where they aim to support 50 ecopreneurs and close 15 investments across the Great Green Wall of Africa, with a focus on moringa, baobab, balanites, shea, and gum Arabic crops and smallholder farmers. “We are collectively raising €100 million over 5 years in grants, venture philanthropy and impact private capital,” explains Vissers. “Funds will be allocated with rigorous due diligence, risk management and reporting processes put in place by Regeneration.”
In 2023, the Alliance is contemplating closing an initial round of €10 million that would support 100 ecopreneurs and invest in 15 projects. More than 50 projects are already identified in Senegal, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, and Ethiopia, with 90% of funding requirements below €500,000.
“It’s clear by now that to address the climate crisis, there’s a need to reforest and protect natural forests, Vissers notes. “We need to drastically change the way that our supply chains work and how they interact with nature. By focusing on regenerative value chains, this project demonstrates that shift.”
He adds that this isn’t just about going in and buying large swaths of land that need to be restored; this is about working with and supporting ecopreneurs and local value chains, and in doing so it’s improving livelihoods and ecosystems and taking a holistic approach to restoration.
“Solving issues at scale requires more collaboration and less competition and putting the well-being of Sahelian communities at the heart of our endeavours,” concludes Binder. “This is our core philosophy and we are ready to work with anyone sharing the same vision.”
Regeneration is a partnership between Systemiq and Palladium that accelerates natural solutions to climate change and biodioversity loss by connecting market demand with green commodities and channelling investor capital towards productive landscape restoration projects. For more, read the press release or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.