By Christabel Ligami

A concerted re-focus on efforts is needed for Africa to meet the aspirations of the sustainable development goals (SDG) Agenda 2030 and the continent’s transformation Agenda 2063.

This is according to key speakers at the Regional preparatory workshop for African voluntary national reviews and voluntary local reviews (VNR) workshop in Niamey, Niger.

“We have seen how the effects of the pandemic and war in Ukraine have derailed progress that had been made. State budgets for social policy, environmental action and economic development are threatened by the tightening of financial resources, just at the moment where these interventions are needed the most,” said Hanan Morsy, Deputy Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

“But amidst these challenges, the African region has countless examples of adaptable and effective measures taken to progress towards the two Agendas.”

The VNR workshop was held as a side event ahead of the 8th Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (ARFSD) scheduled to begin on 28 February to 2 March in Niemey, Niger. It is organized by the ECA with the support of the African Union, UN-Habitat, UNDESA, UCLG Africa and the Office of the Special Advisor on Africa (OSAA)

Ms Morsy said, the year 2023 represents the mid-way point towards the global 2030 Agenda, and the end of the first ten-year implementation of the regional Agenda 2063 of the African Union.

Voluntary National and Local Reviews – also known as VNRs and VLRs – mobilizes stakeholders and help African countries and regions to assess progress made on SDGs and challenges that need to be addressed.

The ECA Deputy Executive Secretary congratulated the seven countries that are undertaking VNRs in 2023. For all seven, this will be the second review, which provides an important opportunity to reflect on the implementation of goals laid out in your first VNR.

“We also congratulate the cities and municipalities across the continent that are undertaking local reviews. VLRs are a powerful grassroots tool to promote sustainable development,” said Ms. Morsy.

Ms. Morsy noted that ECA will continue to support VLRs across the region, harnessing the regional VLR Guideline developed in cooperation with UN-Habitat and United Cities and Local Governments of Africa with a mandate given by Member States at the 6th ARFSD in 2020.

Christina Duarte, Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa said SDG 17, which focuses on partnership for the goals, is the game changer as it is the one that will bring a vicious cycle of change in Africa. Therefore Africa must change the paradigm to achieve SDG 17.

“Policymakers have focused on measures of sustainable development. However Policy makers and partners need to understand that sustainable development can be fully achieved if internally driven,” said Ms. Duarte, adding that for Africa to achieve its SDGs, countries have to address the issues of debt management and control economic growth; strong domestic institutions and internalize sustainable development.

“Externally we need new rules of the game- restructure financial system, more balanced international trade system. Action is needed at all level on trade, financial system to promote fair globalization,” she added.

Oumar Sylla, Director, Regional Office for Africa, UN-Habitat said Africa is the most rapidly urbanized continent in the world. Urbanization offers an opportunity for our cities to innovate.

He said that going forward countries need to monitor the implementation of SDGs.

Deputy President, City Council of Niamey, Habiboulaye Zanga, welcomed partners and expressed welcome on behalf of the president and recognized the event is part of the development of the continent.

“Niger is leading by example in the transfer of development to local authorities to ensure equal and active engagement of everyone on the country’s development,” said Mr. Zanga.

At a panel session on Voluntary national reviews at the halfway point to the SDGs and 10 years into Agenda 2063, country representatives presented their key messages on peer engagement and peer learning was the key takeaway. Linking national and local levels.

They unanimously agreed that sharing of best practices and peer dialogue on VNRs and VLRs is one of the key added values, as it falls directly at the mid-way point between starting the National Review process, and the presentation of VNRs at the High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development in July.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)representative, Modeste Kakanda said the major challenge for countries is information on data to update where data collected does not match the indicators, especially on poverty.

“We plan to organize a forum on SDGs to integrate the local and national data and ensure they connect with each other and work in synergy,” he said adding that capacity building and resource mobilization need to be strengthened by VNR.

Sara Hamouda of African Peer Review Mechanism said transparent mechanisms on financial flow are needed to encourage the VNR workshop to continue. Gender should also be put into consideration and included in the VNR reporting.