State of SDGs in Zambia and southern Africa

PROGRESS towards the SDGs can be characterised as challenging in general in Africa but faring relatively better in the SADC region. The recent 2019 Africa SDG Index and Dashboard Report ranks Mauritius as the top performer in Africa on progress towards the SDGs with a score of 66.19. In SADC, Botswana ranked eighth (score: 61.64), South Africa tenth (score: 60.43), and Namibia 13 (score: 57.09). 11 out of the 15 SADC countries that were included in the index (Mauritius, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, ESwatini, Malawi, Mozambique and Lesotho) scored above 50, indicating they are at least half way towards achieving their SDGs. The Report highlights a lack of funding and resources as the single most significant challenge for implementing the SDGs as well as a lack of understanding on how to achieve them. The Report also notes a lack of engagement with the public and stakeholders, with significant scope for countries to develop online portals where citizens can witness progress towards SDGs in their country and a need for more awareness-raising activities.
SDGs that are on track (or maintaining SDG achievement) or off-track (decreasing) in the SADC region are summarised in Box 1.1 (Source: SDG Centre for Africa). In the SADC region, most countries are on track on SDG 13 (action on climate change) which is a common trend in Africa but no country is on track on SDG2, SDG3, SDG4, SDG7, SDG8, SDG9, SDG11, and SDG14.
The United Nations encourages countries to conduct voluntary national reviews (VNRs), as part of its mechanisms to follow up and review progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. VNRs are meant to be national reviews of progress being made to achieve SDGs at country level and are intended to be led by the member states themselves on a voluntary basis and conducted through an inclusive process involving major stakeholders. VNRs are usually presented in New York at the High-Level Political Forum convened by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). They also serve the purpose of facilitating the sharing of experiences, and lessons learned among countries prod governments to identify and act on needed policy and institutional reforms and mobilise multi-stakeholder support and partnerships for a more effective implementation of Agenda 2030.
SADC countries that have conducted VNRs or are planning to conduct one include: Botswana (2017), Democratic Republic of Congo (2020), ESwatini (2019), Lesotho (2019), Madagascar (2016), Malawi (2020), Mauritius (2019), Mozambique (2020), Namibia (2018), Seychelles (2020), South Africa (2019), Tanzania (2019), Zambia (2020), and Zimbabwe (2017 and 2020). Only Angola and Comoros are missing from that list.
Examples of potential challenges mentioned in the concluded VNRs relate to: limited resources for effective implementation along with need for capacity building in SDGs-based planning and programming (ESwatini), enormous resources needed to build the required robust database to inform SDG implementation and tracking of progress (Botswana), sustaining political stability and increasing good governance, mobilising and harnessing existing resources, and innovation and use of technology (Lesotho), maintaining prudent fiscal and debt policies and engaging in fund management (Mauritius), human capital constraints (Namibia), curtailing of illicit financial lows, improved access to technology, increased capacity for managing synergies and trade-offs among the SDGs and the need for stronger alliances, collaboration and partnerships with and between governments, private sector actors, civil society, academia and international development partners (South Africa).
Most country VNRs highlight challenges faced for achieving SDGs but financing, in the face of limited domestic resources, is common across all of them. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda however clearly calls on developing countries to increasingly engage in domestic resource mobilisation. This in turn calls for African countries to engage in and maintain a high and stable economic growth trajectory.
In the SADC region, SDG 9 (build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation) has been recognised as a critical pillar for achieving progress on Agenda 2030 and is central to converting the Vision of Agenda 2063 into reality. SDG9 is central to the achievement of many SDGs in southern Africa, a point I stressed earlier in the month, as a speaker at the AfrAsia Bank-UN Sustainability Summit in Mauritius where I discussed the linkages between the AfCFTA and the SDGs. Industrialisation through trade (especially through the AfCFTA), accompanied by large-scale decent job creation, can have an impact on poverty (SDG1), hunger (SDG2), inclusive economic growth (SDG8), and reduction of inequality (SDG10), and strengthen domestic resource mobilisation for generating the revenues to address the other SDGs. The implementation of SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap (2015-2063) can provide an important linchpin to fast-track the implementation of both Agenda 2030 and Agenda2063 in the SADC region.
The author is economic affairs officer, ECA sub-regional office for southern Africa. Disclaimer: The article represents the author’s personal views

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