Africa and the Sustainable Development Goals

Stephen chacha

Stephen Chacha is an independent development consultant, founder of Africa Philanthropic Foundation (member of Together 2030), a secretariat member of the Africa CSOs Working Group, and a Regional Focal Point for UNEP’s 10 Years Framework Programme on Sustainable Consumption and Production. Contacts:;  Twitter: @Stephenchacha

This is the second post of a series from Stephen Chacha on the implementation of Agenda 2030 in Africa 

During the 21st Ordinary Session of the African Union Heads of States and Government in May 2013, the African Union adopted its 50 years strategy (Agenda 2063), and also in the same session established a High Level Committee (HLC) on the post 2015 Development Agenda comprised of ten (10) African Heads of State and Government under the leadership of H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia. These all happened as the process to formulate the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was still in its infant stages.

The High Level Committee was tasked with crystalizing and synthesizing a bold Africa Common Position and building regional and intercontinental alliances around the Post 2015 Development Agenda. This gave Africa an upper hand, and through the Common African Position on Post 2015 Development Agenda (which included African proposals on the Goals, Targets, and Indicators), Africa negotiated with one strong voice and managed to influence the outcome of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals by almost 70%. This committee has been retained by the African Union until today.

The 25th Ordinary Session of the African Union Heads of States and Governments in July 2015 adopted the 10 years implementation plan for Agenda 2063. This plan is now used to align and guide the implementation of Agenda 2063 at national level.

Para 42 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development reaffirms the importance of supporting African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the programme of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), all of which are integral to the new global development agenda. This affirmation is a bit assuring as it indicates that while Agenda 2063 articulates Africa’s specific aspirations (African cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics; the African Renaissance) and responds to continent’s specific development challenges (strong focus on the security agenda, including the common defense, foreign and security policy for the continent), its implementation is aligned with the global spirit and principles as laid out in Agenda 2030.

The parallel assessment of the two agendas by UNDP Regional Service Centre for Africa (RSCA) confirms that the two agendas broadly converge on social development (people), inclusive economic development (prosperity), on peaceful and inclusive societies and responsive institutions (peace), and on a number of environmental sustainability issues (planet). But also there are clear divergences especially on SDGs that are not, or are marginally covered by Agenda 2063, such as inequalities within and between countries, sustainable consumption and production, and the sustainable management of terrestrial ecosystems, forests, desertification, land degradation, and biodiversity. This calls for a balance during domestication in order to maintain the equilibrium of the three pillars of sustainable development as laid out in the SDGs, and while at the same time upholding the vision and ambitions of Agenda 2063.

NEPAD is positioning itself to become the regional platform for implementation (through the various NEPAD instruments) and follow up and review (through NEPAD’s Africa Peer Review Mechanism) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs in Africa. CAADP is used as a pilot by aligning the implementation of the Malabo Declaration on accelerated agriculture growth and transformation of 2014 with the Sustainable Development Goals. A regional NEPAD CAADP CSOs workshop to facilitate this alignment was organized jointly by NEPAD Agency and the Africa CSOs Working Group in Accra, Ghana in December 2015, out of which a roadmap was developed and agreed.

African National Statistical Offices in collaboration with the African Union Commission, African Development Bank, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and non-state actors are working together to develop indicators that are relevant to Africa and African countries, contribute to the global indicators process, and shape the data revolution in Africa.

The Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development was organized for the first time in 2015 as part of the 9th session of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Committee on Sustainable Development in preparation for High Level Political Forum (HLPF) 2015. It was jointly organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the African Union Commission (AUC), and the African Development Bank (AfDB), in collaboration with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It brought together government ministries and agencies, major groups, and other stakeholders, and deliberated on and provided Africa’s collective input to HLPF 2015. So far this is the only established, and inclusive regional forum for sustainable development matters inline with SDGs and Agenda 2030.

The African Union Commission declared 2016 as the African Year of Human Rights with specific focus on women rights at the just concluded 26th African Union Summit. The summit also involved an update on Agenda 2063 for Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and a side event on harnessing the demographic dividend in Africa towards the realization of SDGs and Agenda 2063, organized jointly by the African Union Commission and the Pan African Youth Union. On the margins of the summit the Africa Peer Review Forum of Heads of State and Government was held.

Speaking at the forum H.E Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya, and the current chairperson of APRM called for the strengthening of APRM’s linkage with regional economic blocs and NEPAD programmes. He emphasized that the APRM would become more relevant when linked to the implementation of frameworks such as the AU’s Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Agenda 2030.

Africa is well represented in the Sustainable Development Goals Advocacy Group which was recently announced the UN Secretary General and launched on 21st January 2016 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. H.E Mr. John Dramani Mahama, President of Ghana Co-Chairs the group, and three other prominent African figures (Mrs. Graca Machel, Ms. Alaa Murabit, and Ms. Leymah Gbowee) are part of the Advocacy Group. It is expected that their role as advocates of SDGs will have significant impact on the domestication, implementation, and follow-up and review of the agenda in the region.

Four African countries (South Africa, Tanzania, Liberia and Tunisia) are members of the High Level Group led by Sweden to ensure that the 17 global goals and the 2030 agenda are implemented at all levels of society.

Financing and other means of implementation for the successful implementation and realization of the SDGs is yet another stumbling block that the continent is facing. At the 25th AU summit, African member states committed through the AU declaration on self-reliance to fund its operations 100% from members’ contributions. However, it is very clear that it is going to take sometime for the AUC to realize this. As of now the commission relies on external donors for 70% of its budget, and only 30% is obtained through members’ contributions. The situation also applies to key regional frameworks such APRM, which has also been experiencing dwindling of funds. Effective implementation of AU’s decisions is also questioned as AU critics claim that only 10% of AU decisions are fully implemented.

To a large extent this means that it is individual country efforts that are going to differentiate one country from another on domestication, implementation, realization and follow-up and review of the SDGs.

This also justifies the need for strong partnerships at national, regional and global level involving member states, regional economic communities, UN system (UNDP’s SDG Fund), private sector, philanthropists, civil society, and other stakeholders. Focus should also be directed towards blended finance with particular focus on domestic resource mobilization. Innovative-initiatives such as Tax Inspectorate Without Border (TIWB) that is currently implemented in Kenya, Ghana, and Senegal seek to deepen domestic resource mobilization efforts.


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