The Sustainable Development Goals (otherwise known as the Global Goals or Agenda 2030) were established in 2015 to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. The 17 guiding principles proceeded the UN 8 Millenium Goals (2000-2015). The SDGs are inclusive and interconnected – tackling one SDG will lead to confronting another SDG. The underlying spirit of the SDGs is partnership and commitment to make the right choices now to improve the lives of people and future generations. They can be implemented by everyone : governments, civil society organisations, private sector and individuals.
Beside the SDGs, African countries made a further commitment – Africa Union Agenda 2063. The Agenda 2063 is a vision and strategy to ensure Africa’s prosperity over the next 50 years. Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2036 is a weighty challenge for the continent. 75 percent of the poorest countries are in Sub-Sahara Africa, including ten with the highest proportion of residents living in extreme poverty (World Bank 2016).
Tracking and assessing the progress of SDGs and Agenda 2063 in Africa
Approximately 62 % of the SDG indicators cannot be tracked in Africa due to severe data limitations. Only 12 of Africa’s 54 countries have autonomous statistics offices. Furthermore Africa’s national statistics offices have often been marred by insufficient funding and a lack of autonomy. Lastly data quality, differences in methodologies and a lack of coordination across national statistics systems, is a hindrance to accurate analysis on the progress of the SDGs and Agenda 2063 in Africa. The SDGs outline 232 indicators that measure countries’ performance.
A few years since the implementation of the SDGs: how far has Africa come in delivering the SDGs? Lets take a look at “2017 Africa Sustainable Development Report: Tracking Progress on Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals.”
There has slow progress in decreasing the rate of poverty across the continent. Women and young people are still most exposed to poverty. 32.1 % of working men, compared with 35.1 % of working women, were classified as poor. There are not enough jobs to match the demand. Further the lack of decent jobs continue to slow the rate of poverty eradication. There are still too many people “working poor” due to weak social security schemes and lack of decent jobs . All these factors continue to lock Africa in poverty.
Africa has experienced a rise in food security, except North Africa. Severe food insecurity increased from 25.3 % to 26.1 % in Africa. It was the opposite for North Africa where food security decreased from 7.7 % to 6.4 %. Food insecurity is inextricably linked to malnutrition, specifically undernourishment. Low agricultural productivity compounded with high population rates increased the number of undernourished Africans.
Agricultural value is increasing however still low compared to global agricultural values. Decline in investment in agriculture and limited irrigation coverage are the root causes of lagging agricultural productivity.
Gender disparities have narrowed at the primary and secondary school levels, albeit rather slowly. On the other hand, gender equality at tertiary levels remains low. Africa has made noticeable progress in increasing the representation of women in national parliaments; this figure increased 14 percentage points (from 8 to 22 per cent) during the period 1990-2015.
There has been an increase in women looking for work in the formal and informal sector. Sadly women are still relegated to unpaid jobs (mainly unpaid house work) due to limited education, conservative norms and traditions. Harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation has declined. However this form of discrimination against women remains high in North Africa where an estimated 70 % of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 years of age were subjected to the procedure since 2015.
Africa has earned big points in health over the past decade, including a substantial decline in child and maternal mortality. Maternal mortality rates in Africa (excluding North Africa) dropped 35 % during the period 2000-2015, while North Africa has already met the target of 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Similar declines are observed for under-five deaths (46 %) and neonatal (30 %) deaths during the same period. 21 % decline in adolescent birth rates observed during the period 2000-2015. Measures aimed at improving access to contraceptives and skilled birth attendants have reduced adolescent births and child and maternal deaths. The continent has also significantly curbed the incidence of HIV, which declined 62 % during the same period. However Africa is home to the highest HIV incidence rate globally.
Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
Access to quality infrastructure is intrinsically linked to industrial development. Infrastructure connects producers to markets in an efficient manner and thereby reduces production and distribution costs, increases competitiveness, attracts new investors and fosters economic growth.
Rail transportation has been instrumental in promoting industrialisation in advanced and emerging countries and could do the same in Africa. However, like air transport, rail transportation is still not very well developed in Africa: it accounted for 6 % of the total rail in the world, compared with 12 %for Asia and the Pacific and 10 % for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Poor infrastructure negatively affects the manufacturing sector growth. In Africa, excluding North Africa, manufacturing value added stalled at 10.3 to 10.5 % of gross domestic product (GDP) during the period 2010-2015. The corresponding figures for North Africa were 11.2 and 11.5 %, respectively.
Life below water
The world’s oceans and seas play an important role in supporting populations, economic activity and regulating the global climate. Environmental degradation and the risk of flooding are the main challenges to the oceans and coastal areas. Life below water is important to the continent, as at least 38 African countries are coastal States, 6 of which are island states. Between 2009-2013 the global sustainable levels of fish stocks declined from 70.1 to 68.6 %. Subsidies to the fishing industry induce overfishing and adversely affect the ocean food chain, which can lead to food insecurity and poor livelihoods.
Successful implementation of the SDGs and Agenda 2063 requires a coordinated effort by public and private sector. Former AU president Dlamini-Zuma said Africa must take responsibility for its own development: “we either unite or collectively perish, as no single country or region can be an island of prosperity in an ocean of poverty, insecurity and underdevelopment”. The continent holds immense potential. The SDGs should remain as a guiding principle to unearth and realise that potential.
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