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COVID-19:  A STAIN to SDGs 2030 in Africa – Straining further efforts for more inclusiveness

May 2021

The year 2020 had started-off as a year of promise of a Decade of Action, aimed at accelerating the achievement of sustainable development goals at all levels, global, national and at people level. Unfortunately, this coincided with the emergence of COVID-19 that translated into both a health and economic crisis, with downside ramifications for SDGs globally and in Africa. Already Africa was largely off track on meeting the SDGs.  In 2019, the Sustainable Development Goals Center for Africa report "Africa 2030: Sustainable Development Goals Three-Year Reality Check” revealed that progress on SDGs was below the trajectory to the requisite pace for meeting the 2030 targets and social inclusion remained a big challenge. Africa remained the world’s poorest region, yet to undergo demographic transition and faces nearly across-the-board challenges in meeting the human-centred SDGs.

COVID-19 remained the highlight at the start of the year 2021 – a number of countries still faced travel restrictions including lockdowns and school closures among others. With COVID-19, came a collapse of economic activity manifesting in negative growth of 2.6% in 2020, according to January 2021 World Economic Outlook database.  Also, as indicated in the SDGCA report, COVID-19: Unprecedented risks to SDGs in Africa (2020), the recessional trend resulted into subdued financing stream, exacerbating already existing large financing gap in Africa (pre-COVID estimated at USD 500-700 billion annually). COVID-19 has wiped away recent progress on poverty, with more people living in extreme poverty in 2020 than was at adoption of SDGs in September 2015. SDGCA estimates reveal that COVID-19 could have pushed more than 20.4 million people into extreme poverty in 2020 in an optimistic scenario and in the worst case, 82 million additional poor people in Africa. This is corroborated by other studies including World Bank and AfDB estimates. Overall, COVID-19 has adversely affected human development in Africa and enlarged the bottom of pyramid (the poor and the excluded) while espousing inequalities in income and access of services.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, the SDGCA collaborated with the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development (IsFD), the Fondacion Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM) and AllAfricamedia to provide real-time advice and policy messages to address the impacts of COVID-19. As a result, 30 communiques were prepared and published on the SDGCA website, through social media platforms, articles in the newspapers, and educative videos. The Center also published a research report on the impact of COVID-19 on SDGs in Africa. The report’s findings reveal that the twin crisis (heath and economic) have heightened the risks to SDGs, and SDGs focusing on health, inequalities, economic growth remain at risk. The Center further developed a tool that can be used by countries for continuous tracking of the impact of COVID-19 and was showcased in three countries (Benin, Comoros, and Ivory Coast).

Against the backdrop that inequality and social exclusion remain obstinately prevalent,  exacerbated by COVID-19 presenting unprecedented risks to the SDGs and threatening to leave masses behind by 2030, the SDGCA undertook a study titled Africa 2030: Inclusiveness -SDGs within Social Boundaries: "Realizing the principle of leave no one behind" that will be launched in July 2021. This conference provides an appropriate platform for stakeholders to debate the progress made towards achieving the SDG results towards leaving no one behind in Africa. The focus areas relate to inclusion (poverty and inequality) at aggregate level and at sector level, inclusion in agriculture, health, education, energy and water basic services, infrastructure, and financial landscape.  It will provide a virtual knowledge exchange and networking as peer learning between African countries. It will also generate information and knowledge products such as videos, presentations, proceedings, and resolutions. All these outputs will form the basis for policy advocacy engagements at regional and national levels. The SDGCA will develop from the conference an action matrix on respective thematic areas. These will include: (i) prioritization of interventions by different stakeholders; (ii) the institutional implementation mechanisms; (iv) the role of different stakeholders linked to respective identified actions; (v) participation and ownership of the agenda by governments; (vi) implementation leadership at various levels; and (vii) need for strong monitoring and evaluations mechanisms

Earlier SDGCA study on COVID-19 and SDGs recommended the need to continue building confidence and solidarity level demonstrated during the fight against the pandemic in   the economic recovery endeavour. The success on the recovery effort will very much depend on the leadership of our governments and their willingness to engage all the people behind their clear plan of actions and act seamlessly.   An eventual political price may be paid, depending on how the Governments show up on the parameters of good governance and delivery of care and international relationship and solidarity.  Let us leave no one behind.


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