The Expert Explains: Will the Sustainable Development Goals foster economic growth in Africa?
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be important as they will provide a steer to the global development agenda until 2030,the African Union picked up on this theme in its Common African Position on the SDGs, agreed in January 2014, which stressed the need for “structural transformation for inclusive and people-centered development”. So where do things currently stand, a few weeks before the Summit?Will the Sustainable Development Goals foster economic growth in Africa? For those who wish to dig deeper, here’s the explanation, straight from the desk of our expert guest contributor, Samantha Seewoosurrun, a reputed professional consultant in the financial services sector:
On 25-27 September, Heads of State and Government will gather in New York for the Sustainable Development Summit, at the UN, to agree upon the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed in 2000.
Why do they matter? The SDGs will be important as they will provide a steer to the global development agenda until 2030, influencing the direction of the work of UN agencies, multilateral development banks, bilateral development assistance from member countries, as well as the work of civil society organisations.
What is wrong with the MDGs, and why do they need replacing? The MDGs, which established eight goals and were adopted by 189 countries, focused mainly on basic needs, and there is wide acknowledgement that progress has been incomplete and uneven, particularly in relation to Africa and small island developing states, amongst others. The UN High Level Panel reported in 2013 that the MDGs did not focus enough on reaching the very poorest or most excluded people, and also highlighted that the need for inclusive growth to provide jobs was not included.
The African Union picked up on this theme in its Common African Position on the SDGs, agreed in January 2014, which stressed the need for “structural transformation for inclusive and people-centred development”. The World Bank has commented that further investments will be needed in infrastructure, basic services and job creation if this vision is to be realised.
So where do things currently stand, a few weeks before the Summit? An early draft of the conclusions of the meeting sets out an ambitious list of 17 goals and 169 targets to be achieved over the next 15 years, as from 1 January 2016, the first of which is to eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere by 2030. The draft conclusions suggest that there will be a greater focus on economic factors than in the past, and there will be a specific commitment to strengthening the participation of African countries and small island developing States, amongst others, in international economic decision-making, norm-setting and global economic governance.
The draft conclusions also set out a specific goal to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all” which suggests that the Common African Position has, to some extent, been taken on board. It is stated that member countries should seek to sustain per capita economic growth in accordance with national circumstances (of at least 7% GDP growth per annum in the least developed countries), and that higher levels of economic productivity should be achieved through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation.
In terms of stimulating job creation, it is stated that “development-oriented policies shall be promoted that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services”. By 2020, a global strategy for youth employment should be developed and put into practice, and the Global Jobs Pact of the International Labour Organization should be implemented, while by 2030, full and productive employment and decent work should be achieved for all women and men.
More widely, there should be increased aid for trade support for developing countries, in particular least developed countries, including through the Enhanced Integrated Framework for Trade-Related Technical Assistance to Least Developed Countries.
So will the Sustainable Development Goals boost economic growth in Africa? The new economic focus is welcome but at the end of the day it is not the fine words at Summits which count, but how the goals are implemented over the next 15 years by national governments in Africa and beyond. Time will tell if the Sustainable Development Goals can succeed where the Millennium Development Goals have failed.