Joint Report Outlines SDG Progress, Challenges in Africa
Peter Luethi, Biovision Foundation
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The report titled, ‘2017 Africa Sustainable Development Report: Tracking Progress on Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals,’ indicates that approximately six out of every ten SDG indicators cannot be tracked in Africa due to severe data limitations.

The report focuses on the progress related to six SDGs considered during HLPF 2017: SDG 1 (No poverty); SDG 2 (Zero hunger); SDG 3 (Good health and well-being); SDG 5 (Gender equality); SDG 9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure); and SDG 14 (Life below water).

18 October 2017: A report from several UN bodies urges sustained efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and gender inequality in Africa, and calls to improve statistical capabilities to implement and track progress towards the SDGs and Africa’s Agenda 2063. Titled ‘2017 Africa Sustainable Development Report: Tracking Progress on Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals,’ the report is the first publication to simultaneously track progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Agenda 2063 and its first ten-year implementation plan.

Agenda 2063 is the long-term strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of Africa. The report, launched on 18 October 2017, is a joint publication of the African Union Commission (AUC), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Development Bank (AfDB), and the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The report builds on the finding of earlier publications, especially the report titled, ‘MDGs to Agenda 2063/SDGs Transition Report 2016,’ which was published by the same organizations in 2016.

Highlighting the gap in African countries’ data collection capacities, the report notes that approximately six out of every ten SDG indicators cannot be tracked in the region. It calls for disaggregated data by age, gender, income and geographical location to better target support to groups at risk of being left behind in the development process, and estimates that US$1 billion is needed annually to allow 77 of the world’s lowest-income countries to establish robust and reliable statistical systems that are capable of measuring and sustaining the SDGs.

The publication also reports on progress towards the six SDGs in focus at the 2017 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF): SDG 1 (No poverty); SDG 2 (Zero hunger); SDG 3 (Good health and well-being); SDG 5 (Gender equality); SDG 9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure); and SDG 14 (Life below water).

On SDG 1, the report underscores the slow progress towards poverty reduction in Africa despite accelerated growth over the past decade, and notes the disproportionate prevalence of poverty among women and youth. On SDG 2, it reports that approximately 217 million people were undernourished during the period 2014-2016, an increase of 6% compared with 2010-2012. According to the authors, this was largely the result of low agricultural productivity and high population growth rates. The report finds that Africa’s agricultural productivity is on the rise but remains well below the global average (it was only 62% of the world average in 2015).

On SDG 3, the report notes significant gains in health in the past decade, including a substantial decline in child and maternal mortality, but adds that Africa still has the highest burden of maternal and child deaths compared with other regions globally. It outlines a significant decline in the incidence of HIV, although Africa is still home to the highest HIV incidence rate globally. It also notes that Africa, excluding North Africa, had the highest rate of road traffic-related deaths in 2013 (26.6%, compared to the global average of 17.4%).

On SDG 5, the report indicates an increase in gender parity at the primary and secondary school levels, with progress remaining slow, in particular at the tertiary level. 
While more women are seeking employment in the 
formal and informal sectors, limited education,
 conservative norms and traditions that relegate women to unpaid house work constitute obstacles to their empowerment, the report says. 
It also states that an estimated 70% of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 were subjected to female genital mutilation in 2015 in North Africa, and that violence against women is especially severe in conflict-affected settings and during periods of war.

On SDG 9, the authors report that: excluding North Africa, air freight and air travel remain extremely low, notwithstanding a rising trend; rail transportation is still not well developed, accounting for 6% of the total rail in the world, compared with 12% for Asia and the Pacific and 10% for Latin America and the Caribbean; and weak infrastructure has adverse consequences for manufacturing sector growth. It adds that the proportion of the population covered by 3G mobile networks in Africa increased from 25 to 65% during the 2010-2015 period, which has enhanced financial inclusion by facilitating virtual access to financial services by previously unbanked segments of society. However, Africa as a region spends less than 0.5% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on research and development, compared with more than 1% in the developing region as a whole and 2% in the developed regions, it adds.

On SDG 14, the report indicates that African coastal and island states are threatened by increased environmental degradation and the risk of flooding. It also finds that sustainable levels of fish stocks declined from 70.1 to 68.6% during the 2009-2013 period due to overfishing, illegal and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices.

The report recommends: adopting a harmonized framework for monitoring and reporting progress on Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda; addressing poverty and inequality in tandem, and remaining gender gaps, including school enrollment and completion and women’s empowerment; increasing investments in agriculture; expanding employment opportunities; eliminating internal and external barriers to trade, including infrastructure bottlenecks and tariffs and promoting technology transfer and skills acquisition; strengthening capacity and systems for data-gathering and management, and the institutional architecture necessary for integrated and coordinated approaches to problem-solving and policy making; and prioritizing quality infrastructure development.

The report also recommends designing measures to expand fiscal space, such as improving tax administration, broadening the tax base, eliminating loopholes for tax avoidance, and monitoring the reach of public spending to its intended beneficiaries, and fighting illicit financial flows. [Publication: 2017 Africa Sustainable Development Report: Tracking Progress on Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals] [UNDP Press Release]

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