FCB South Africa is running an idea up the flagpole. A really big idea. In fact, the idea is ginormous. And its main component is a South African flag so large, it will be visible from space, 30 miles above the Earth.
The Giant Flag project was put in motion last month by Guy Lieberman, the agency’s head of green and social new business development. The initiative is ultimately designed to foster national pride, improve the lives of people in need and make a lasting impact on South Africa’s economy and environment.
The proposed flag will measure 66 hectares—about the size of 66 soccer fields. Its red, green, blue and gold sections will consist of millions of cacti and succulent plants that can thrive in the semi-arid Karoo region, offsetting some 90,000 tons of carbon emissions annually. Solar panels designed to power the equivalent of 4,000 homes will make up the flag’s triangular black patch. (They will also “harvest” rainwater to feed the flag’s living components.) The white areas will be access roads.
The project will provide more than 700 jobs in Camdeboo Municipality, where the unemployment runs over 40 percent, and support tourism, hospitality and various enterprises over the long haul. Moreover, Lieberman says, it will serve as a symbol of hope, cooperation and sustainable growth for South Africa and beyond.
Lieberman drew his inspiration from the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, noting “the nation’s huge emotional response to our flag.” After the World Cup, FCB launched the much-praised “Keep Flying” campaign to encourage the nation to maintain its momentum.
Crowdfunding and corporate efforts are under way. All told, it will cost about $20 million, with $2 million being the threshold to begin the massive germination project, followed by clearing the land, fencing off the site, building roads and constructing the solar field.
What’s more, South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs is lending its support, and corporate sponsors such as Google and Toyota “have come on board because they see the value this will have on the nation, as well as on their brand,” Lieberman says. “It also speaks to their commitment to game-changing initiatives, and in this sense the Giant Flag is not tied to any one nation—it is global.”