Ten Takeaways From 2017 Sustainable Development in Africa Report

by | Nov 2, 2017 | News, Vincentian Family at the U.N. | 1 comment

A new report released in New York recently reveals Africa’s progress towards achieving goals articulated in both the UN’s 2030 Agenda and Africa’s own Agenda 63.  The first report to simultaneously track both agendas, it is titled, “2017 Report on Sustainable Development in Africa.”


An event held at the African Union Commission (AUC) to launch the report was part of Africa Week at the UN in mid-October.   The week’s theme was “Supporting an Integrated, Prosperous, People-Centred and Peaceful Africa: Towards the Implementation of Agenda 2063 and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”


Present for the report’s release at the AUC, October 18, were Daughters of Charity Catherine Prendergast, Monique Javouhey, Marie Raw, Margaret O’Dwyer, and Marian Hamwey.

AGENDA 2063 and AGENDA 2030

Africa’s 2063 agenda features 20 objectives and 174 targets. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, approved by member states in 2015, number 17, with 169 targets.  Both are geared towards sustainable development.   The recently released report assesses the continent’s performance in domesticating and implementing the two development frameworks since their adoption in 2013 and 2015, respectively.


The report aligns with the 2017 High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the theme of which was, “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world.” It focuses on the six Sustainable Development  Goals upon which 44 countries were reviewed during the HLPF in New York in summer, 2017:  Goal 1 (End Poverty); Goal 2 (Zero Hunger); Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-being); Goal 5 (Gender Equality); Goal 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure); and Goal 14 (Life below water).


Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, spoke of the value of combining data related to the UN and African agendas, indicating that streamlined reports and monitoring systems will enhance coordinated efforts at the goals’ implementation.  “With big data, we can do it faster,” she said.  She also indicated African needs 7 percent growth to make a dent in the goals.

Other speakers at the launch mentioned the importance of youth and women in achieving the goals.  Another speaker noted that 20 percent of the people in West Africa pay 80 percent of the taxes, and that there had been a $61 billion dollar leakage from the continent in Illicit Financial Flows (IFFS), implying that improved fiscal policies are needed.

One condition for economic transformation is affordable power, said Desire Vencatcheullum, of the African Development Bank.  He said the ADB’s top two priorities in Africa were energy and agriculture.  The issue is not simply access to power, but the cost, he noted.     The cost per kilowatt hour of energy in Bangladesh may be ten cents, or in the US, 8 cents. But in parts of Africa, it can be 50 cents.

Eddy Maloka, CEO of Africa Peer Review Mechanism (ARPM) pointed out the need for tools which help African countries align their agendas.  He also raised the question as to how Africa can generate its own financing for development (as opposed to relying on donors) and called for greater global recognition of the Africa 2063 Agenda.

Addressing issues related to youth has been key in the 2063 Agenda this year.  Next year, governance will be a focus.


Many are aware of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.  Not all are knowledgeable about Africa’s Agenda 2063—the Africa We Want. Agenda 2063 reflects 7 aspirations:

  1. A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development
  2. An integrated continent, politically united and based on the ideals of Pan Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance
  3. An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law
  4. A peaceful and secure Africa
  5. An Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics
  6. An Africa where development is people-driven, unleashing the potential of its women and youth
  7. Africa as a strong, united and influential global player and partner.

The UN’s 2030 agenda proposes to “leave no one behind.”  Hopefully, efforts at reaching both agendas will enable to continent to make strides in eliminating poverty and promoting social development.


The 2017 Report on Sustainable Development in Africa provides a baseline for tracking performance towards the goals in the future, but its scope and analysis is as strong as the availability of data, which is weak in some areasIndicators pertaining to environmental sustainability, and progress on democratic and electoral governance, human rights and rule of law would benefit from more robust data, the report notes.


Bartolomew Armah, ECA Chief of Renewal of Planning, offered ten takeaways from the report. They are indicators of accomplishments and remaining challenges as Africa strives to achieve both Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063.

  1.  LIMITED PROGRESS IN REDUCING POVERTY AND INEQUALITY: the report reflects limited slow progress in the reduction of poverty and inequality (The rate of extreme poverty has declined at a 15 percent rate during the period 1990-2013).   It attributes this to limited decent employment opportunities and weak social insurance mechanisms.  Decent jobs are hard to find, the report states, because Africa’s growth has not created sufficient jobs. 60 percent of jobs are vulnerable.
  2. RISING FOOD INSECURITY AND UNDERNOURISHMENT GROWING CONCERNS, EXCEPT IN NORTH AFRICA: About 355 million people in Africa were moderately or severely food insecure in 2015. Although food insecurity declined in North Africa, from 7.7 percent in 2014 to 6.4 percent in 2016, in the rest of Africa, severe food insecurity increased from 25.3 percent to 26.1 percent during the same period.
  3. AGRICULTURAL VALUE ADDED IS RISING BUT LOW: Agricultural value added means changing a product so as to enhance its value, such as converting grape into juice or wheat into flour.  Agricultural value added is rising but low in Africa due in part to limited irrigation coverage and declining investment in that sector, the report indicates.  Although it is on the rise, agricultural production in Africa remains well below the global average. Agricultural value added increased 9 percent during the period 2010-2015 but was only 62 percent of the world average in 2015. Constraints to agricultural productivity in Africa include limited irrigation infrastructure and low budgetary allocations to the sector. Only 5 percent of agricultural land in Africa is irrigated, compared with 41 percent in Asia and 21 percent globally.
  4. GENDER DISPARITIES IN EDUCATION AND NATIONAL PARLIAMENTS ARE DECLINING, BUT CONSDERVATIVE NORMS AND PRACTICES ARE HOLDING BACK PROGRESS: Gender parity in primary school increased from 86 percent in 1990 to 96 percent in 2013, while parity in secondary schools rose from 71 percent to 90 percent during the same period. On the other hand, parity at tertiary levels remains low. Nevertheless, the continent has made significant progress in increasing the representation of women in national parliaments; this figure increased 14 percentage points (from 8 to 22 percent) during the period 1990-2015. Conservative norms such as child marriages can truncate women’s careers and thereby limit the full realization of their productive capacities. While child marriages have been declining, they remain high, in particular in Africa (excluding North Africa), where 37 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married by age 18. Harmful traditional practices, such female genital mutilation, constitute a form of discrimination against women. Notwithstanding substantial progress, female genital mutilation is particularly high in North Africa, where an estimated 70 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 years of age were subjected to the procedure in 2015. Meanwhile, women continue to be victims of violence, both in the household and in public spaces. Violence against women is especially severe in conflict-affected settings and during periods of war. Cultures and traditions that inhibit women from fully participating in education, economic activities and social life need to be addressed. Keeping girls and boys in school can promote and sustain gender equality by breaking cycles of ignorance, poverty and stereotypes.
  5. ADOLESCENT BIRTHS, CHILD AND MATERNAL DEATHS DOWN: There have been significant gains in health in the past decade.  Measures such as improving access to skilled birth attendants have reduced child and maternal deaths.  Adolescent births are also down.  But Africa still has the highest burden of maternal and child deaths compared with other regions globally. Maternal mortality rates in Africa (excluding North Africa) dropped 35 percent during the period 2000-2015, while North Africa has already met the target of reducing maternal deaths to 70 deaths per 100,000 live births. Similar declines are observed for under-five deaths (46 percent) and neonatal (30 percent) deaths during the same period.  The prevalence of HIV has also declined.
  6. ENFORCING ROAD SAFETY REGULATIONS IMPORTANT: Enforcing road safety regulations mediates the impact of alcohol consumption on deaths due to road traffic injuries, according to the report. Consumption declined in North Africa, but rose slightly in the rest of the continent, from 6.2 to 6.3 (2005-2015) litres per capita, equaling the global consumption level. Notwithstanding their higher levels of alcohol consumption, developed regions have the lowest (8.6 percent) death rate due to road traffic injuries. On the other hand, Africa, excluding North Africa, has the highest rate of road traffic-related deaths (26.6 percent), much higher than the global average (17.4 percent) in 2013. This trend underlines the effective role that measures aimed at enforcing road safety regulations can play in mediating the impact of excessive alcohol consumption on road traffic-related deaths.
  7. WEAK INFRASTRUCTURE AND LIMITED MANUFACTURING VALUE ADDITION UNDERMINING OVERALL JOB GROWTH: Infrastructure connects producers to markets in an efficient manner and thereby reduces production and distribution costs, increases competitiveness, attracts new investors and fosters economic growth. Owing to data restrictions, the report largely focuses on air and rail transport infrastructure. Air freight and air travel remain extremely low in Africa, excluding North Africa, notwithstanding a rising trend. In 2015, Africa, excluding North Africa, represented 1.3 percent and 1.5 percent of the world air travel and air shipping, respectively. However, there has been substantial progress during the past decade and a half. Air freight and air travel increased 34 percent and 18 percent, respectively, during the period 2010-2015. Rail transportation has been instrumental in promoting industrialization in advanced and emerging countries and could do the same in Africa. However, like air transport, rail transportation is still not very well developed in Africa: it accounted for 6 percent of the total rail in the world, compared with 12 percent for Asia and the Pacific and 10 percent for Latin America and the Caribbean.Weak infrastructure has adverse consequences for manufacturing sector growth. In Africa, excluding North Africa, manufacturing value added stagnated at 10.3 to 10.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) during the period 2010-2015. The corresponding figures for North Africa were 11.2 and 11.5 percent, respectively. Furthermore, manufacturing value added in Africa tends to be low tech. Medium-tech and high-tech industry value added account for a mere 0.1 percent of total value added for all African countries with data, compared with approximately 0.5 percent for the developed countries. The relatively low share of manufacturing value added in Africa, excluding North Africa, accounted for a 3.57 percent fall in the sector’s contribution to total employment during the 2010-2015 period.
  8. LIMITED INVESTMENT IN RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT: Advances in scientific and technological knowledge through research are critical to eradicating poverty and promoting home-grown solutions to economic and social development challenges. Currently, Africa as a region spends less than 0.5 percent of its GDP on research and development, compared with more than 1 percent in the developing region as a whole and 2 percent in the developed regions. Research and development expenditure as a share of GDP stagnated at 0.4 percent during the period 2000-2013 in Africa (excluding the North). On the other hand, North Africa experienced an increase from 0.28 to 0.51 during the same period.
  9. SIGNIFICANT INCREASES IN THE COVERAGEE OF MOBILE CELLULAR SERVICES IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR SOCIAL AND FINANCIAL INCLUSION: Access to broadband internet is a key driver of economic growth, job creation and social inclusion. In addition, it facilitates a transition to knowledge-intensive economies by enhancing access to information. The proportion of the population covered by 3G mobile networks in Africa increased significantly, from 25 to 65 percent during the 2010-2015 period. This trend has enhanced financial inclusion by facilitating virtual access to financial services by previously unbanked segments of society.
  10. GLOBALLY THE PROPORTION OF FISH STOCKS THAT ARE AT BIOLOGICALLY SUSTAINABLE LEVELS IS DECLINING: The world’s oceans and seas play a critical role in supporting populations, economic activity and regulating the global climate. Environmental degradation and the risk of flooding are the main challenges to the oceans and coastal areas, respectively. At least 38 African countries are coastal States, 6 of which are island States and thus have a keen interest in better management of life below water. Globally, sustainable levels of fish stocks declined from 70.1 to 68.6 percent during the 2009-201 period owing to overfishing, illegal and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices. Subsidies to the fishing industry induce overfishing and adversely affect the ocean food chain, which can lead to food insecurity and poor livelihoods


Among recommendations resulting from the report were:

  1. Investment in agriculture and related infrastructure
  2. Investment in regional infrastructure (one example– power pools)
  3. Fiscally sustainable social protection systems to protect the most vulnerable and leave no one behind
  4. Strengthened institutional coordination
  5. Evidence based policy-making
  6. Strengthened capacity for data gathering and analysis


1 Comment

  1. Sister Marjory Ann Baez

    Thank you!

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