As a prelude to the official publication of its report next week, the SDG Centre for Africa has warned that African nations will be required to raise over $500 billion in additional funding annually to achieve their Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The report is titled “Africa 2030: Sustainable Development Goals Three-Year Reality Check,” designed to reflect on how far Africa has come in the implementation of SDGs.

Speaking in Kigali, Rwanda, where the centre is headquartered, the director general, Belay Begashaw, said, “SDGs are very ambitious projects and the funding gap is very high,” stressing gaps in investments across health, education and food security.  

Noting the urgency of the mandate, Begashaw also stressed the need to compensate for lost time. “…we need to do it as soon as possible,” he said.

It was with such urgency that following the historic 193-nation agreement in September 2015, African leaders banded together and decided to establish the SDG Center, nurturing it as a homegrown non-profit, which would champion the execution of the SDGs. The centre opened in July 2016, aiming to provide technical support, advice and expertise to governments, private sector, civil society and academic institutions to fast-track the achievement of the SDGs in Africa.

Challenges

Over time, a number of separate national challenges have at different times halted the progress and contributions of member states towards this universal goal.

The most notorious is corruption. While addressing the UN Assembly at the adoption of the SDGs in 2015, Pope Francis said, “A selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and the disadvantaged.” His address may not have been aimed specifically at African leaders, but three years on, wanton corruption and toppled governments have joined hands with ethnic conflicts, internet shutdowns, rescheduled elections, unabated terrorism, staggering homelessness, and stilted or lethargic national economies to stop African countries from much progress on this front.

Thus, Africa appears to only be on course to achieve three out of seventeen SDGs; Gender Equality, Climate Action, and Life on Land, the gentler, abstract parts of the SDGs. In other words, it may be easier for governments to appoint more women into offices and legislate positively on the environment than it is to control, for instance, explosive population, a factor that affects poverty and hunger and homelessness statistics as well as the number of out of school children. Not to mention the consequent overmatching of available healthcare systems, leading to poor health and unabated child mortality.

On the other hand, the inability of most governments to get a grip on resistant internal conflicts means that there’s a continuous spilling of homelessness across bordered nations (Ethiopia, for instance, has 2.9 million displaced people, largely due to Somalians fleeing conflict.)

There is also an overreliance by many African nations on natural resources, with the attendant sense of entitlement denying them any real shot at economic diversification, never mind the multiple pretensions towards agricultural investments. This has resulted, too, in a systemized governmental reliance on the generosity of donors, without which a lot of things are never attempted or finished.

Lastly, there is Ebola which has since 2014 cost Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia about $1.6 billion in economic growth. A UNDP estimate even paints a more tragic picture, suggesting $3.6 billion lost annually. In the same thread is the untampered scourge of malaria, which keeps the health budgets of several African countries busy.

What governments are doing

With over $1.8 trillion required annually in Africa to finance the execution of the SDGs, governments alone cannot fund it year after year. While there is no denying the fact that the primary sustainer of these goals is the governments themselves, donors should not overcommit.

There is also no hiding from the fact that different nations have their greatest needs in different sectors, so they’re certainly working towards the goals based on national priorities.

For instance, South Africa has just signed the carbon tax into law (SDG 7). Elsewhere, Rwanda is making big leaps in technology and innovation (SDG 9). Ethiopia is obsessed with its hydroelectric power and electricity (SDG 9). Egypt is changing its education system (SDG 4). Namibia is selling uranium and focusing on job creation (SDG 8). Zimbabwe is selling elephants to protect their environment (SDG 11). Angola and Ivory Coast are redoubling oil sector commitments (SDG 12). Really, each nation is addressing its biggest challenge first. As it should be.

How bad are things?

According to a World Economic Forum index, Mauritius and Gabon are the highest-performing contributory nations to the SDG in Africa, with goal achievement around fifty percentile. With their combined population of under five million, however, a strong case can be made for more efforts to control population surge as a way of ensuring the faster achievement of SDGs. The central African Republic is the worst performing nation according to the index, with a 26.1 score. African nations occupy 17 of the worst performing 20 nations in the SDG globally.

Hard solutions

The SDGs are linked in a chain, ostensibly to make their achievement easier. But this could also be the major reason behind Africa’s lack of progress on so many goals. Until African governments boldly confront the big goals like No Poverty, Zero Hunger and everything else tied to it ( about eight of the SDGs are directly tied to these two), very little progress will be made.

This need to urgently focus on specific SDGs with a broad picture goal of achieving many through the few, is why, perhaps, the SDG Center for Africa has hinted it will suggest at the upcoming Kigali conference, the setting up of three special funds to support what it called “critical sectors” of education, health and water for agriculture.

The current SDG Center for Africa is co-chaired by Rwandan president Paul Kagame, and Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote. Luckily, there are no two people better positioned within private and public sectors to facilitate greater donor partnerships to help more African nations raise the required monies to reach the SDGs by 2030.

By Caleb Ajinomoh

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