Actionable plans for sub-Saharan African countries to attain SDGs


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are global development goals setup up by the UN with consultation from it partner states and other partner institutions.

The main objective of these goals is to eradicate poverty, ensure sustainable development and environmental protection.

The UN and all its partners believe that these objectives can be attained by all member states when they work towards achieving the 17 SDG goals.

Most nations in sub-Sahara Africa are endowed with enormous mineral resources as well as the youngest population in the world.

Africa also houses most of the top 10 fastest growing economies in the world.

My focus for this article would be on emerging economies in the sub-Sahara Africa region, which are already making significant efforts toward economic development.

  1. Invest in Human Capital

Human capital, I believe, is the greatest natural resource for every country. Investment into human capital is one of the most impactful steps toward poverty eradication, shared prosperity and sustained economic development. Education remains one of the key ways of empowering people and promoting sustainable economic development. An increased access to education is a major step toward poverty reduction and reduced inequalities. Ghana has already made significant efforts toward this direction.

Basic education in Ghana now spans from primary level to secondary level. In 2018, the government of Ghana made Senior High School education free for all. This makes it possible for students from less privileged backgrounds to have access up to the secondary level of education. The World Bank and the UN should rather work in partnership with other African governments in terms of technical and financial support to enable other countries in the region to emulate this trajectory. Such a path would create opportunities for all and lift masses out of poverty since they can go ahead and make a decent living with the basic education they have acquired.

  • Focus on technical and vocational training

The second look at this point focuses on the kind of education offered in these countries. The kind of education in these African emerging economies, does not produce the human personnel with the skills relevant for the development of their respective economies. In order to achieve SDG goals 1,4,8,9,10; emerging African economies must focus more on skill-based and entrepreneurial-driven form of education. Technical and vocational education must be encouraged to fill the skill gap needed for self-employment and industrialization. The education curriculum of these countries must be modified to be more STEM-inclined. ICT must be a core part of all educational curricula at all levels in order to produce right human resource ready for the global technological drive. This would churn out persons who have the necessary skills and mentality to be self-employed after school. This would reduce unemployment greatly and reduce poverty.

  • Policy modification to facilitate SME growth

Governments in these countries should create conducive business environments through policies and other reforms, to foster the growth of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs). Growing SMEs would facilitate quality and sustainable economic growth. It would also in the long-run, increase the middle class within the economy thereby reducing poverty. The biggest hindrances of SMEs in these countries are access to capital, technical support and mentorship for Start-ups.

The World Bank, United Nations and other relevant international development agencies should come into consultative dialogue with the governments of these countries on how to facilitate the set-up of special financial institutions and funds that would solely fund SMEs. Governments in these countries should enter into a collaborative partnership with relevant international development corporations; to provide technical support and expertise to empower both SMEs, and government agencies responsible for SME development in their respective countries.

For instance, in Ghana, the National Board for Small Scale Industry (NBSSI) is the apex government body responsible for promoting and developing Micro and Small Enterprises. This organisation has not been operating to its full mandate due to underfunding and lack of the necessary government support. Such bodies should be restructured and empowered to coach, mentor and incubate start-ups and other SMEs to enhance business growth.

  • Industrialize for economic growth

Industrialization has an impact on all areas of development and will contribute to achievement of SDGs in its entirety. Most emerging economies in Africa are still dependent on revenues from the exports of raw materials and commodities. As a result, their economies become vulnerable to the volatilities in the global prices of commodities. A paradigm shift from the dependence on commodities to manufacturing and the production of value-added products would be the magic wand that leapfrogs Africa’s emerging economies into economic prosperity.

The diversification of economies in this region would create more wealth, employment and a significant reduction in poverty. Countries in this region need to focus on the path of sustainable industrialization by turning their agricultural produce into value-added products for exports (agro-processing). Some countries in this region, already have various ambitious plans to transition from consuming economies to producing economies.

The ‘One District, One Factory’ policy in Ghana is one of such initiatives which aims to transform the country into an industrial hub in Africa over the next decade.  This move if actualized, would create wealth, jobs and improve the living standards of many. Governments in these countries should formulate policies that would encourage investments in the manufacturing and agro-processing sectors.

  • Relevant infrastructure for industrialization

There can be no industrialization without the presence of relevant, basic and resilient infrastructure. Sustained investment in infrastructure and innovation are central to economic growth and development. Decent infrastructure such as roads, railway, digitization, telecommunication technologies, Health care, sanitation systems, and electricity still remains a major challenge in this region.

Nigeria, for instance, is the biggest economy on the continent yet has huge infrastructure constraints such as electricity. The presence of this requisite infrastructure, will not only stimulate economic growth but also improve the living standards of citizens. In a new report by the World Bank and Global Facility of Disaster Reduction and Recovery suggest that, resilient infrastructure would make low and middle-income countries develop better. Countries must direct focus on tackling these infrastructure deficits in order to give way for industrialization.

Sub-Saharan African countries should rather focus on investment into strategic infrastructure that would encourage investments in the industrial sectors of their economies. Secondly, digitization of the economy also remains a key component of this infrastructural reforms that would facilitate industrialization, as well as, the ease of doing business. It would also quicken and lower the cost of business transactions, thereby making the country more attractive to foreign investors, especially in the industrialized sectors.

In conclusion, the attainment of the SDGs is possible with the right plan and implementation process. The World Bank and the United Nations should work in partnership with these countries to provide tailor-made targets for them to achieve their SDGs. Different countries have different socio-economic realities and challenges. Therefore, using a one-for-all approach would not be effective.

The goals may be the same but the approach to attainment of the goals must vary by country. Also countries must be advised to set up contingency funds to tackle emergency economic and environmental crisis.

Government policies must be built around the SDGs, and strongly implemented to ensure sustainable growth.

These policies must target firms operating in these countries to ensure their operations adhere to these policies, which are at par with the SDGs.

The writer holds a Master of Science degree in International Trade and Economics

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