A world-first project to create a massive South African flag out of desert plants and solar panels in the Karoo has been billed as a ‘game changer’ for the region’s economy by the national deputy minister of tourism.
Speaking at the launch of the Giant Flag project at the Valley of Desolation at Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape on Thursday 23 October, Tokozile Xasa said it would encourage tourism to the area.
The initiative will see 66ha in the Camdeboo region transformed into the South African flag. The project’s founders say the flag will be visible from space.
The Giant Flag will see colourful desert plants alongside white roads and black solar panels to recreate the ’rainbow’ flag.
Supporters from around the world can donate to the project by buying the plants, solar panels and sections of road that will be used to build the flag, for between $10 (for the plants) and $250 (for a solar panel). The site shows that around 24% of the money needed to buy the materials (a total of $600 000, or around R6.6-million) has been raised so far.
Speaking in a promotional video for the project, founder Guy Lieberman says around 2.5-million plants will be used and a 4MW solar field will be created.
’We expect to create 740 ”green-collar“ jobs and they’ll all tie into each other, and the knock-on effect is going to impact the entire community,’ he says.
’It’s beautiful for South Africa, but it will be symbolic in terms of what’s possible. It’s unique, like us,’ he adds.
At the launch, Xasa said citizens of the Camdeboo municipality – which has an unemployment rate of around 40% – will be given priority in public tenders for the project, which will likely become a major tourist attraction.
‘In addition to these socio-economic issues, there are also the questions of climate change and food security. We can explore innovative tourism initiatives that also address these issues, in blended and robust developments such as the Giant Flag,’ she said.
The project is being supported by the Department of Environmental Affairs, and global giants, Google and Toyota.
Xasa said the Giant Flag project is further proof of the critical role the tourism sector plays in the South African economy.
’In a time when there are perhaps not as many silver linings to the hovering clouds in the global economy as we would all desire, it is befitting that we acknowledge the golden lining that tourism generally represents internationally, but more specifically for us in South Africa,’ she said.