By Christabel Ligami
Every country in Africa must increase its ambition to achieve the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs) for the next decade, according to experts at the sixth session of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (ARFSD) in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
According to UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed that starts with national plans, policies, budgets and institutions that are commensurate with what it will take to deliver universal access to quality social services and an economy that provides decent jobs for all.
“With a staggering three quarters of Africa’s population under the age of 35, ‘young people must be a central focus – not just in terms of economic inclusion but as the drivers of the change that these Agendas demand,” she said.
“To deliver change on the scale that our agendas demand, major increase in international investment and support for African solutions are needed urgently,” added Ms. Mohammed.
It was revealed that the pace of poverty reduction is slow on the African continent with inequalities persisting, meaning the leaving no one behind call of the sustainable development goals remained elusive.
The region also has the highest prevalence of hunger, with the rate increasing from 18.3 percent in 2015 to 19.9 percent in 2018. This means that almost 40 million Africans, especially women and children, went hungry under this period.
She said the African Union (AU) and the UN should continue to strengthen their partnership and work hard to create decent jobs for the youth and ensure there is gender equality as these were some of the challenges putting at risk the continent’s efforts to leverage the democratic dividend.
Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa said although Africa had made notable progress in education, health and other social outcomes, the continent was not on track to achieve the SDGs by 2030, and the key goals of Agenda 2063.
“We must support governments to ensure their broader national development plans and financing frameworks correspond to the magnitude of the change needed to deliver by 2030; the Decade of Action was an opportunity to unleash a new wave of implementation efforts that will deliver for the people and planet,” she said.
“To deliver change on the scale that our agendas demand, major increase in international investment and support for African solutions are needed urgently.”
She said that with leadership by African governments and strong support from their partners and young people, the remaining decade can result into major improvements in peace and prosperity across the continent.
It was agreed that the nexus between climate change, hunger, terrorism, conflict and displacement was causing havoc and human suffering in many countries, not least in the Sahel and the Horn. In addition, stressed Ms. Mohammed, gender inequality was costing sub-Saharan Africa $95 billion every year in lost opportunities.
The Africa Union’s first report on the implementation of Agenda 2063 demonstrated that despite early progress, there is an urgent need for enhanced action.
African Union Deputy Chairperson, Thomas Kwesi, said conflict was one of the major challenges facing Africa.
“Without peace security and stability, prosperity in Africa will continue to remain elusive. Without peace and security, the commitment to leave no one behind will remain mere talk again,” he said.
“The potential consequences for us Africans, and for our teeming youth if things continue this way will be too dire to contemplate. This really is our challenge.”
The forum is being held on the theme; 2020-2030: A Decade to Deliver a Transformed and Prosperous Africa through the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063.
Africa has made progress in the quest for peace and security, mostly by strengthening continental response frameworks and institutions, as well as by working with the UN and other organizations on the ground to secure inclusive transitions.
There have been considerable gains in health outcomes – with less women and children dying in childbirth or because of diseases; improvements in access to education and electricity; and a dramatic rise in internet connectivity.
Commitments on climate action are also encouraging, with all African countries having signed the Paris Agreement and 48 having ratified.
With a staggering three quarters of Africa’s population under the age of 35, young people must be a central focus – not just in terms of economic inclusion but as the drivers of the change that these Agendas demand.
We have seen many examples of the positive engagement of young people across the continent in recent years – whether relating to corruption, violence against women or climate change.
We need to do more to encourage, expand and harness such efforts.
That includes creating space in policymaking and providing an enabling environment that allows their free expression and embraces their energy, ideas and innovation.
On the AU/UN frameworks for the implementation of agenda 2063 and agenda 2030, progress has been registered since the signing of the joint framework in January 2018, especially in three of the thematic areas namely: capacity for coherent integration of the two agendas into national development plans, integrated monitoring, evaluation and reporting and trade and regional integration.