Our Perspectives

Africa’s head start on implementing the Global Goals


Africa has a head start on implementing the SDGs, the set of goals that will set the parameters for the global development agenda for the next 15 years. UNDP photo

The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development on 25 September 2015, at the 70th United Nations General Assembly marked the beginning of the difficult task of translating the new global agenda into action.

These ambitious and transformative goals, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), will set the parameters for the global development agenda for the next 15 years.

Yet an implementation dilemma is unfolding as each region and country grapples with the challenges of rolling out a global development framework while tailoring it to respond to specific development contexts.

The SDGs – with their 17 goals and 169 targets – demonstrate the scale and ambition of the new agenda. It is global, rather than focusing on developing countries. The intention is nothing less than to transform systemic and structural barriers to development at the heart of global economy.

However, the relevance of each goal will vary from country to country (and region to region) depending on particular development priorities and challenges. This represents a massive coordination problem.

Africa has an advantage. Through Agenda 2063 – a 50-year development action plan adopted by all members of the African Union – continent-wide priorities for development have already been defined. This should make the process of integrating the Sustainable Development Goals into countries’ development plans much easier.

There is a high degree of convergence between the SDGs and Agenda 2063, in part due to the Common African Position (CAP), the coordinated Africa-wide negotiating position that preceded formulation of these Global Goals.

These common priorities have high level political buy-in and promise to respond to the continent’s development challenges in an integrated way.

While there is a case to be made for implementing all 17 goals either simultaneously or in a phased approach, this presents practical challenges. A lot of resources and capacity will be needed to reach the 2030 deadline.

Moreover, each goal should not be isolated from the others as many overlap. Such interactions need to be mapped out at the onset in order to highlight interlinkages. This will help focus resources on interventions with multiplier effects across goals and maintain internal consistencies among goals.

Prioritizing the Global Goals along this rubric is imperative. Not only is it a smart and effective way of implementing them, it will enhance synergies between targets, actors and resources. Every country will have to make strategic choices on the goals to pursue as priority actions (while ensuring progress on all goals) within its short to medium-term plans.

A planning approach of five-year cycles for overlapping groups of SDGs could be a plausible solution. Strong monitoring systems and availability of data to provide feedback on progress will be equally important.

Implementing the SDGs is a huge task. It will require active government leadership and a broad coalition of actors including civil society organizations, the private sector, philanthropy and multilaterals.

The road is long, but we have to be in it for the long haul.

This post was originally published as an op-ed in the Financial Times This is Africa Magazine. Click here to read.

Sustainable development Africa Blog post Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals

UNDP Around the world