It is a well-known fact that the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a demanding task even for the developed countries let alone the developing ones. African countries have started catching up in terms of economic, social and technological development and Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the IMF, will be home to about half of the world’s fastest-growing economies. The continent has joined the rest of the world in its brave quest for a sustainable future by adopting the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030. Still, there is a question posed by many, whether Africa can successfully implement the SDGs and how much effort and resources it would need to accomplish such a tough and challenging task. On June 14th ,the SDG Center for Africa (SDGC/A) and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), released the 2019 Africa SDG Index and Dashboards Report to shed light on how much Africa has achieved so far and which gaps it needs to address in order to effectively implement the Sustainable Development Agenda.
The second annual report on the progress of African countries towards achievement of the SDGs, that has included all 54 African countries, provides an assessment of where African countries stand with respect to the SDGs and their progress toward the goals, and how African governments are implementing strategies for achieving them. When it comes to the current status and trends toward achieving the SDGs in Africa, the report presents the following discoveries:
- Changes in the methodology and the data sources used to generate the 2019 Africa SDG Index have produced different results from last year’s report. The average SDG index score across countries has remained virtually unchanged, but some of the rankings have changed.
- Overall, North Africa is the best-performing region on average, while Central Africa is the worst-performing. Tunisia has replaced Morocco as the top-ranking country, while Morocco is now ranked in 4th place, behind Mauritius and Algeria.
- Across the board, African countries perform comparatively well in terms of sustainable production and consumption as well as in climate action (SDGs 12 and 13) but perform poorly in goals related to human welfare (SDGs 1 to 7 and 11).
- There is a great deal of diversity with respect to the main SDG challenges in Africa’s subregions. Countries can be broadly categorized into five major groups: continental leaders, growing countries, middle-of-the-pack countries, emerging countries, and distressed countries, most of which are experiencing conflict, that will require the most support to achieve the SDGs.
Table 1: The cited challenges in implementing the SDGs (Source: http://unsdsn.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/01-PICA-AFR-SDGS-REPORT-2019-V6-WEB-130619.pdf)
On the other hand, the key findings on how African governments are implementing strategies for achieving the SDGs, include:
- The SDGs have widely received official endorsements by African governments and have been incorporated into many government action plans and national strategies.
- There are still widespread gaps on behalf of countries in understanding the distances to SDG targets.
- There is a lack of understanding on what it will take to reach the SDGs, very little consideration for the financial resources that will need to be mobilized, and who will provide the necessary funds.
- Engagement with the public and other stakeholders can significantly be improved. Only four countries have an online portal where citizens can see their countries’ progress toward the SDGs, and less than half of all countries have preceded with awareness-raising activities.
- According to country experts, who validated results from 21 countries, a lack of funding and resources is reported to be the single most significant challenge both in terms of SDG implementation and monitoring.
According to the report, the main challenges in implementing the SDGs are lack of adequate financial resources, lack of adequate data and poor data quality, lack of capacity among civil society and the civil service, lack of policy coherence and coordination across levels of government, lack of effective linkages between budgeting and policy planning, lack of public budgeting execution mechanisms, and lack of political will.
How can Africa respond to the main challenges?
Even though the challenges the continent is faced with are tough and demanding, the report presents case studies to illustrate how some countries responded successfully to certain challenges the African Business Coalition for health SDGs; agro-processing industrial parks in Ethiopia; regional integration in the East African Community; socio-economic investment and environmental impacts of mines in Zambia; and jobs and Tunisia’s digital global economy. These best practices clearly demonstrate that through efficient implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda, the African countries can enhance their economic, social and technological development by actively fostering collaborations between public and private sector, advocating for policies and initiatives that drive system-level changes, integrating population into global markets, improving regional economic integration that can leverage structural transformation and sustainable development, and aligning their national economies with an increasingly digitized and technology-intensive global economy. The successful adoption of the SDGs can be a strong force for development for Africa, with benefits extending much beyond the African continent, to the world at large.