If you have ever taken a walk down the streets of Cairo or visited the local cafes there, you’ve probably stumbled upon at least one image of Mohamed Salah. Nicknamed The Egyptian King, Salah is one of the most prominant stars of international football, and consistently ranked among Egypt’s best ever players. People just love him.
Mo Salah’s popularity became apparent in 2018. In partnership with the Egyptian Ministry of Social Solidarity and the Fund for Drug Control and Treatment of Addiction, the player launched a campaign against drugs.
Yes: one video by Mo Salah inspired thousands of young Egyptians to confront drug addiction. That’s how influential this man is in Egypt.
But popularity is a double-edged sword.
Here, I can’t help but contrast his ability to positively confront the social taboo of drug addition, but ignore the consequences of climate change. And Exxon’s role. After all, the country that loves him is one of the world’s most vulnerable to the impacts of global warming.
Exxon’s benefits are Egypt’s suffering.
And the impacts are dire for Egypt.
- The IPCC has reported that Alexandria’s beaches would be submerged even with a 0.5-metre sea-level rise, displacing around 3 million.
- According to the World Bank, 12.5% of agricultural land in the Nile Delta will be permanently submerged if the sea rises by just one metre.
- In the potential scenario of a 5-metre sea-level rise, 35% of the country’s agriculture will be impacted.
These scenarios will have catastrophic consequences and would damage the lives of millions of Egyptians.
Millions of people may see Salah’s ads.
Knowing is a prerequisite for acting. When a community becomes aware of what’s at stake with climate change, they may find themselves in a position to push their governments to do better.
Just as influential public figures like Mo Salah can have essential roles in changing the mindsets of people about drugs, they can, and must do the same when climates impacts are this catastrophic.
Let’s look at Akon, the Senegalese-American singer who has become one of the most well-known environmental activists in Africa.
In 2014, he launched Lighting Africa, a project that has connected 28.8 million people to their basic electricity needs. In the process of doing so, Akon has also helped raise awareness about climate change and environmental issues across the continent. He’s now custom-building Africa’s first green city, Wakanda style.
This is a great example of how people can use their voices and influence to make a positive impact. And this what Salah could be doing.
Last year, on oceans day, Salah took part in the Adidas campaign “Run For The Oceans”. The campaign aimed to raise awareness about the damage plastic causes to the environment and to encourage more sustainable lifestyles. $1.5 million was raised for Parley Ocean School.
Some media in Egypt were very proud of having Salah on this campaign and reported how he’s now giving back to the environment. But is he?
There is an obvious inconsistency in Salah’s advocacy work. You simply can’t be advocating for sustainable lifestyle shifts while also being the face of one of the biggest oil companies in the world. That’s not how it works.
There’s no doubt that the man who single-handedly encouraged thousands of young people to open up about addiction can easily influence the environmental debate in Egypt.
Salah has the power not just to raise awareness in Egypt, but across the whole Arab region. He is a role model for millions of people in the world.
Imagine if your role model was demanding climate action or promoting environmental projects? Lovely, right? Let’s hope Salah will do that one day