Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks during an Action on Forests and Land Use event at COP26 on Tuesday. (Photo by Paul Ellis - Pool/Getty Images)
  • The world's second-richest man has upped his pledge to help fund reforestation, and agricultural transformation, on the continent.
  • Jeff Bezos will now put $2 billion, the equivalent of more than R30 billion, into such projects.
  • UK media reports that Prince Charles may have had something to do with the promise.
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Amazon founder and the world's second-richest person Jeff Bezos on Tuesday promised to pay the equivalent of R30 billion towards fixing food and forests on the African continent – reportedly after a brief chat with Prince Charles.

The British royal and the American billionaire met for tea in Rome on Sunday, before Bezos took to a platform next to France's President to talk about African farmland.

That meeting with Charles was instrumental in getting Bezos to up his commitment to climate change, sources claimed. Bezos' public take on the meeting did not contradict such an interpretation.

"Two-thirds of the land in Africa is degraded, but this can be reversed," Bezos said on Tuesday. "Restoration can improve soil fertility, raise yields and improve food security, make water more reliable, create jobs and boost economic growth, while also sequestering carbon."

He would like to see a food transformation strategy "led by African nations", Bezos told a COP26 event, after all that negotiating between northern-hemisphere people and powers.

Bezos' pledge came alongside a massive commitment to reforestation, totalling some $19 billion, at the big climate meeting in Glasgow. But though he named his company Amazon, Bezos sees forests as part of a broader effort to combat climate change, and not an end in itself. 

His $2 billion pledge is going "directly to restoring nature and transforming food systems", he said, as part of a three-fold agenda: conservation, restoration, and food transformation.

The exact way in which factors from agricultural policies to overgrazing contribute to soil degradation in Africa is a matter of some debate. But there is broad consensus that climate change will hit hard in places with such degraded soil, while some types of sustainable agriculture could actively help mitigate climate change.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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