African countries recommitted to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by building better through investing in green growth to unlock the continent’s development opportunities.
Confirming Africa’s capacity to drive sustainable development, African governments have reaffirmed commitment to meeting the SDGs at the 8th Session of the African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (ARFSD), held in Kigali, Rwanda, 3-5 March 2022.
The ARFSD is an annual multi-stakeholder platform organized jointly by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and host governments in collaboration with the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank and other entities of the United Nations system to review and catalyze actions to achieve the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by United Nations Member States in September 2015.
More than 1800 participants comprising ministers, senior officials, experts and practitioners from United Nations Member States, the private sector, civil society, academia and United Nations organizations and high-level representatives of the Governments of 54 ECA members states participated at the 8th ARFSD held under the theme, ‘Building forward better: a green, inclusive and resilient Africa poised to achieve the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063’. The two agendas provide a synergistic framework for achieving inclusive and people-centered sustainable development in the region.
Opening the forum, the President of Rwanda, H.E., Paul Kagame, called on African countries to be assertive and build better using Agenda 2063 as a blueprint despite many challenges that have reversed Africa’s development gains.
Covid, a springboard not set back
Despite the impact of COVID-19 on the economic and health sectors in Africa, the continent can achieve sustainable development. Africa should view the pandemic not as setback but a springboard to recover and build better on its development programmes. Africa must build multilateral partnerships and strengthen capacities in the manufacturing of vaccines and pharmaceuticals, Mr Kagame implored delegates.
“Africa should prioritize domestic resource mobilisation to finance its development particularly its national health care system,” said Mr Kagame, whose country has vaccinated 70 percent of its population.
“Building the Africa we want is up to us,” Kagame noted, emphasizing that strong mechanisms are needed to monitor and change the implementation of the SDGs. “We have to own and lead the process and support one another. That’s why these agendas [2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063] are important because it is about achieving the stability and sustainability of our continent.”
United Nations Deputy Secretary General, Amina Mohammed noted that the pandemic had caused disappointment for global solidarity and African economies, especially in education and health systems, worsened by insufficient access to the Internet and sustainable, affordable energy.
Ms Mohamed called on member States to focus on the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063, highlighting five priority areas for action: first, ending the pandemic and building resilience to future shocks; second, scaling up climate resilience, with developed countries honouring their pledges; third, just transitions in energy and food systems; fourth, recovering education losses; and fifth, supporting gender equality actions.
Addressing the Forum, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ECA, Vera Songwe, highlighted that despite the impact of COVID -19 on Africa’s recovery efforts, the continent was poised for many wins. Citing that African countries suffered vaccine apartheid and had to look within for success. She mentioned that 53% of African countries have vaccines in country that are not being used and 7 countries on the continent have succeeded in vaccinating 70% of their population.
“Our economies will not recover if we do not vaccinate,” Ms Songwe said, commending Rwanda’s vaccination success. “Rwanda has been able to get the vaccines and Rwanda has been able use the vaccines, so it is not impossibility that Africa totally can get the vaccines and use the vaccines.”
The ARFSD is also a platform for peer learning, including on voluntary national reviews and voluntary local reviews by subnational entities mandated by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and acts as one of three multi-stakeholder platform mechanisms that follow-up on reviews and consolidates actions meant to achieve the SDGs.
ECA’s Director of Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources, Jean Paul Adam, noted that current assessments of the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063 implementation progress indicate that most African nations are off-track to achieve the targets and set goals of the two development blueprints within the set timeframe.
“The unprecedented impact of COVID-19 and climate change have for the time being dented and slowed Africa’s quest to realize both agendas,” Mr Adam noted, explaining that past forums have identified gaps and areas of weaknesses in realizing the dual agendas and offered solution pathways.
The 2022 forum appraised on the implementation of five of the 17 SDGs, on quality education (SDG 4); gender equality (SDG 5), life below water (SDG 14); life on land (SDG 15) and partnerships for the goals (SDG 17).
While a sliver of good news against the COVID-19 pandemic reflects resilience and recovery through vaccines rollouts, health preparedness and responses, Africa has shown its willingness to overcome and prevail over its complex development challenges, Mr Adam said.
Africa’s COP 27
Ms Songwe underlined that Africa must win at the forth coming Conference of Parties (COP27) negotiations to be held in Egypt by expressing a collective voice that Africa is sequestering three years of carbon emissions.
“If Africa was not sequestering three years of carbon emissions, we would have passed the 1.5 mark by now. Africa is protecting the world. Africa needs to be compensated justly through market mechanisms,” she said.
The ECA has undertaken analysis, which shows how African countries could multiply revenues by tapping into carbon markets. The Executive Secretary highlighted how Africa could mobilise trillions, stating “this is the victory that Africa needs to take to Sharm El Sheikh. We must put a price to carbon because we have been good, because we have protected our environment.”
The Forum called for the Glasgow Climate Pact to establish an ambitious and reasonable price for carbon, aligned with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. This would allow developing countries in Africa and elsewhere to mobilize adequate financial resources.
The Forum released the Kigali Declaration in which it highlighted the successful deliberation of the 8th ARFSD and mandated Rwanda to represent the continent in presenting the commitments for discussion at the High-Level Political Forum on SDGs set for New York in July 2022.