Africa Report Finds Slow Progress on Clean Water, Energy, Urbanization
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The 2018 Africa Sustainable Development Report finds that access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation remains very low by global standards, despite the fact that Africa, excluding North Africa, receives the largest amount of ODA for water supply and sanitation.

Access to electricity in Africa is “much lower than the global average” and rural-urban disparities are “particularly stark”.

Africa’s rate of forest cover loss is “much higher” than the global average, although Africa outperforms most world regions in the conservation and sustainable use of its mountain resources.

4 December 2018: The 2018 Africa Sustainable Development Report highlights the region’s progress on the SDGs and shares lessons learned in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Africa’s Agenda 2063. The 2018 report focuses on five Goals, aligned with the focus of the 2018 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF): SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation); SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy); SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities); SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production); and SDG 15 (life on land).

The UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) Regional Bureau for Africa jointly prepared the annual report. They launched the report at the 12th session of the Committee of Director-Generals of the National Statistics Office, which took place in Khartoum, Sudan.

On SDG 6, the report finds that access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation has improved in Africa but remains very low by global standards, despite the fact that Africa, excluding North Africa, receives the largest amount of official development assistance (ODA) for water supply and sanitation. In addition, there are wide disparities between and within countries, with higher access in North Africa compared to the rest of the continent. The proportion of people with safely managed sources of drinking water varies from 100% in Mauritius to 19% in Eritrea. Further, 43% of Africa’s rural population has access to basic drinking water services compared to 82% of the urban population. The report identifies several emerging challenges that threaten progress on SDG 6, including climate change, droughts, floods and water management.

On SDG 7, the report finds access to electricity has increased from 39.7% in 2008 to 45.9% in 2014 in Africa. Despite this progress, access to electricity is “much lower than the global average” and rural-urban disparities are “particularly stark,” with an average electrification rate of 70% among the urban population compared to 17% in rural areas. Hydropower generation accounts for slightly over 60% of Africa’s electricity supply but other renewable energy sources, particularly solar, remain “largely untapped.” Africa’s efficiency in energy use has improved but biomass reliance remains a challenge, with approximately 780 million people cooking with solid biomass.

On SDG 11, the report states that Africa is the fastest urbanizing region in the world, with the urban population predicted to increase from 40% today to 51.5% by 2040. The report reflects that much of the continent’s urbanization is “unplanned…and poorly managed,” and is characterized by severe service and infrastructure deficits and social and spatial segregation as well as the world’s highest proportion of slum dwellers. In addition, the report finds that Africa’s cities have made limited progress on air pollution and solid waste collection, loss and damage from disasters, access to public transport and urban sprawl, constraining the region’s efforts to achieve inclusive growth.

On SDG 12, the report finds that Africa, excluding North Africa, wastes more than 30% of its annual food production as a result of poor post-harvest handling, with most losses occurring at the level of production. Africa’s domestic material consumption remains low.

On SDG 15, Africa’s rate of forest cover loss is “much higher” than the global average. In contrast to this regional trend, Ghana and the Gambia have increased their forest cover as a percentage of their land area. Like other regions of the world, the report observes Africa faces the risk of extinction of major animal species. On a positive note, Africa outperforms most world regions in the conservation and sustainable use of its mountain resources.

The report also reflects on SDG 17 (partnership for the Goals), emphasizing that the development of science, technology and innovation (STI) are key for achieving the SDGs and Agenda 2063. The report finds that Africa’s STI infrastructure, as measured by internet access and access to electricity, “is improving but relatively weak” and characterized by low investments in research and development and fragmented innovation systems. The report recognizes the investments made by Kenya, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia on research and development and strategies to strengthen their innovation systems. The report also underscores the need for strengthening inter-sectoral planning and collaboration to ensure coherent, effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063.

The report recommends that policymakers, inter alia: prioritize investments in water and sanitation to improve access, enhance health outcomes and leverage populations’ productive capacities; improve rural access to energy to address rural-urban disparities; improve access to energy-efficient cooking stoves to enhance energy efficiency, reduce pollution and improve health outcomes; and provide incentives to drive investments in renewable energy. The report also calls for strengthening capacities for urban planning and management to drive inclusive and sustainable economic prosperity and integrating urbanization in national development planning.

Participants discussed the report’s findings at the 13th African Economic Conference (AEC), hosted by the UNECA, AfDB and UNDP in Kigali, Rwanda, from 3-5 December 2018. Adam Elhiraika, UNECA, called for investing in data and analysis on urban trends and impacts of environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainable development, among other recommendations. Chidozie Emenuga, AfDB, said the potential of Africa’s rapidly growing cities and urban settlements “has not been fully tapped.” He urged providing incentives to investments in sanitation, renewable energy and access to electricity. [UNECA Press Release] [UNECA Press Release on AEC Discussion] [Publication: Key Findings of the 2018 Africa SDG Report]

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