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By Diana Warira 

African Heads of State and Government, leaders of development agencies, regional bodies and various civil society groups convened in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, for the sixth session of the African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development. The forum which took place from 24-27 February 2020, is an annual regional intergovernmental meeting convened by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in liaison with the African Union Commission (AUC) and United Nations (UN) agencies, to review progress on the milestones of the Africa Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as Agenda 2030. Representing the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) at the forum, which also provides a platform for stakeholders to share experiences and lessons learned as they work towards the various milestones, was Ms. Salina Sanou, the Head of Programmes. Ms. Sanou chaired a session deliberating how stakeholders can work together to protect our planet. Overall, the deliberations at the annual forum are intended to build consensus on the key messages that unite action as different players drive efforts towards achievement of Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063. In addition, these messages serve as Africa’s united voice and therefore collective input into the annual High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development convened by the UN Economic and Social Council.

Are We Getting There?

With 2030 only a decade away, various players in the international development sector have called this ‘the Decade of Action’ as countries race to meet the 17 goals and 169 targets of the SDGs. It is believed that if African governments - working alongside non-state actors - implement the specific programme and policy actions required to achieve the SDGs, then this will also propel countries towards the achievement of the seven aspirations of Agenda 2063.

While African leaders have shown a lot of commitment towards achievement of these goals for Africa, there is concern that the commitments to act have not really translated into implementation fast enough. Speaking on behalf of the Major Groups and Other Stakeholders (MGOS) at the Regional Forum, Mr Stephen Chacha, the Executive Director, Africa Philanthropic Foundation and the outgoing Chair of the MGOS, noted that Africa continues to grapple with high poverty levels, disease burden and major socio-economic inequalities despite this being the seventh year since the adoption of Agenda 2063 and the fifth year of implementation of the Agenda 2030. As such, with the current pace of implementation, African countries are unlikely to realise the dreams envisioned by both Agendas.  

We Must Accelerate Action

The ‘Decade of Action’ needs to be more than a catchy phrase by the stakeholders seeking to transform Africa for the shared prosperity of its people. 2020 and beyond needs to be a period of faster implementation of actions to tackle climate change, eradicate poverty, deliver justice and eliminate socio-economic inequalities among the people of Africa. The time to act on the 5Ps – People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership is now, or Africa will miss the aspirations of 2030 and 2063 by a mile. Now under the umbrella of the newly launched Africa Regional Civil Society Engagement Mechanism, the MGOS have committed to accelerating action on the 5Ps and have called upon governments, development agencies, the private sector, the civil society and other stakeholders, to do the same.

On People, the civil society calls for investments in the collection and monitoring of disaggregated data in order to understand challenges facing populations beyond the national average. This will help stakeholders understand inequalities across groups better, and how these inequalities intersect. Investments in quality education for all, universal health coverage and access to other social services for all segments of the society are also needed urgently. Stakeholders also need to work collaboratively to ensure the goals and objectives of Agendas 2030 and 2063 are aligned to the national development plans of countries.

For the Prosperity of Africa’s people, governments (both national and sub-national) need to invest in 100 percent renewable energy and climate-resilient infrastructure if the fight against climate change is to be won. Low carbon emissions for cities and rural areas needs to be prioritised, while taking care of the wellbeing of grassroot communities in the transition to clean energy. Governments also need to implement policies that ensure decent work for the working age population, including ensuring a minimum wage that is above national poverty lines, and the transition from informal to formal economies. In addition, governments need to formulate and implement policies that recognise the significance of women’s domestic work, while also addressing the gender inequalities that prevent women from accessing gainful opportunities and thriving in the job market. A prosperous Africa shall also be achieved if governments and other stakeholders invest in quality education to eradicate skills mismatch of youth entering the job market, in addition to education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

The civil society has also called for the protection of the Planet by tackling the root causes of the fast destruction of the Earth. Populations also need access to clean and safe water which means more policy and programme investments are needed in water, sanitation and health (WASH). Grassroot communities and vulnerable groups also need to be involved in decision-making processes related to climate action, to ensure their participation in the protection of biodiversity in addition to ensuring their needs are taken care of.

Peace in Africa will be achieved if countries resolve to work collaboratively to fight violent extremism, xenophobia and other prejudice-driven acts of violence. This is especially critical at a time when countries are struggling with in-country and cross-border conflicts. Other key strategies for ensuring peace include the involvement of women and youth in peacebuilding and conflict resolution processes, opening up civic spaces that advance the protection of human rights, adherence to international conventions relating to peacebuilding and human rights’ protection, and the creation of open mechanisms to monitor the transparency and accountability of governments.

Further, in order to strengthen Partnerships towards the realisation of Agendas 2030 and 2063, governments should invest in institutions that generate data and also establish mechanisms to utilise citizen-generated data, with the goal of sealing the current data gaps hindering effective planning and implementation of policies. Financing the two Agendas also takes collaborative effort and stakeholders need to strengthen African-driven resource mobilisation, with governments taking the lead on curbing illicit financial flows (IFFs). It is also time for stakeholders to embrace the value of indigenous knowledge systems in combating development challenges such as climate change among others. Finally, all stakeholders must work together for the goals to be realised, and particularly more active involvement of the private sector and resolving the shrinking space for the civil society and trade unions.

As the Decade of Action picks up pace, all stakeholders need to pull their weight and work collaboratively with each other. The rebirth of Africa as envisioned by Agenda 2063 can be a reality, and so can the high quality of life and wellbeing for people and the planet as envisioned by Agenda 2030.

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