Network of African Youths for Development (NAYD) held its 2nd Google hangout this year on the 14th of March which focused on the ability of Africa to effectively implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will be adopted this year. NAYD was privileged to have the presence of three amazing changemakers; Patson Malisa, NAYD CC South Africa, Petrider Paul, NAYD CC Tanzania and Alivn Nyika NAYD CC Zimbabwe. As always this particular discussion was not without internet connection challenges, something we hope will improve as we move towards the next phase of development in Africa, but we managed to get informed insights from the young people on whether Africa has what it takes to implement these goals.
To determine how well Africa is prepared to handle the next development goals bearing in mind that we are just emerging from another phase of development characterized by MDGs, a few things came into the forefront from the opinions of the guests;
Over time Africa has been challenged in not only implementation but also in monitoring and design of projects by inadequate or lack of technology. It was emphasized that it is not as much the technological capacity but the distribution of this technology within countries and even regions. In a country that has access to the latest technology in most of its major urban areas then development actors in that country must ensure that access is not a preserve of a few but an open resource that even the people in rural livelihoods can benefit from. Africa needs to make sure that access to technology is uniform regardless of physical location and status, with the government taking charge of distribution to ensure affordability.
The question of the probability of SDGs being viewed as just another excuse to ensure inflow of aid into Africa can’t be overlooked. It is therefore very important for Africa to determine right from the onset how the SDGs will be financed. With an example of the Financing for Sustainable Development Forum that was hosted in London on February 3rd this year by Investec Asset Management (IAM) and SDSN, and another coming up in July in Addis Ababa, definitely the international community is already having this conversation and Africa can’t be left behind. It goes that Africa already has a vast amount of natural resources that have not been fully exploited or are exploited at the expense of the local communities. This is what Africa needs to focus on, how they can exploit these resources profitably and within environmental boundaries. On that note Africa will also need to understand the global climate so that it is not shortchanged in trade as has been the case. One of the guests put it very clearly ‘we are going to have to learn how to be smart’ that means trade smart and engage with the international community in a profitable way as partners. Another emerging issue was the need to bring in private investment. Often the private sector has been overlooked yet they play a very huge role in the economy, to fully implement the SDGs the private sector will also have to be brought on board.
The education system featured strongly in the discussion since it is responsible for the next generation of young people who not only benefit from these goals but also who will play an active role in implementation. The debate surrounding the education system in most African countries is ongoing in different forums. It is important to note that most of it has been inherited from the colonial period and it is a system which often is a tool that, unfortunately, keep the majority of the young people from developing. University graduates go through the system and gain a sense of entitlement, to a job, to a house, to a car…which is something that doesn’t speak to development which seeks for innovations, and proactive engagement at the community level.
On that same note there is some disconnect between the academia and development actors. The academia being the custodians of the next brilliant minds of Africa should play an active role in ensuring they emerge as young people who are ready to use the skills they acquire to address challenges at the society. The research that is conducted by many students shouldn’t just be another project which is done and after the student is awarded a degree certificate that is it, rather the academia should come together with the government and the local community and seek to get solutions for the challenges at the community level. The need for governments to invest more in higher institutions of learning and research centers can’t be emphasized enough.
Africa has an enabled human resource but it will need a lot of capacity building that will ensure that the people, not only those working in the development agencies and the civil society organizations but also those at the grassroots understand what sustainable development goals are, their relevance and what they mean to an individual at the community. This calls for awareness drives to reach to the people and localize these goals, this is a task that the civil society Organizations can do very well. Besides linking up the people and governments CSOs should also put the SDGs into a language that speaks to the people which in turn will stimulate action.
Now more than ever there needs to be a change in the governance processes and institutions within Africa which will be partly in charge of implementing the SDGs. There’s need for more collaboration between the governments and the CSOs. The era of hoarding information or approaching collaboration efforts with mistrust between the government and civil society is over; SDGs will require more open and interactive joint efforts.
The government must also make sure to encourage flexibility in terms of investments such that when disaster strikes a country is not incapacitated but has an alternative source of revenue. This will also call for more innovations to widen the alternatives within countries and in the region. It was also stressed on the need for interdependency, which means that African countries need to enhance favourable relationships with each other to foster positive exchanges especially in trade.
Finally there is need for youth organizations to be more involved not only in the implementation stage but also in the drawing of policies and in decision making. Consultations have been done but more is needed for a balanced representation of views from the youth. At the same time during public awareness drives a change in approach is needed, there is a tendency to politicize most things in Africa, thus it is important for these youth organizations to be careful how they address the people at the grassroots as they outline the importance of the SDGs.
NAYD is very excited at the response from young people across the globe towards SDGs and the ongoing efforts at the community level. Further NAYD is seriously committed to giving young people a platform to actively engage in conversations on the effective implementation of SDGs in the next phase of development. Let us build Africa together.