The 2018 Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development met to assess and make progress towards the 2030 Agenda and African Union’s Agenda 2063
By Ashvin Ramasamy

The African Forum for Regional Sustainable Development (AFRSD) convened in Dakar, Senegal on May 3-4, 2018, under the theme “transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies.” The governing role of the forums is to engage national, regional and global discourses on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and answer the call to promote implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.Also at the centre of deliberations was the AU Agenda 2063.


Attended by 300 representatives of government, academia, the private sector and interest groups, the goal centred on 50 key messages to be presented at the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) divided amongst 6 SDGs:

  • Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG 6),
  • Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG 7),
  • Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11),
  • Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG 12),
  • Life on Land (SDG 15),
  • Strengthening Means of Implementation and the Partnership
    for Sustainable Development (SDG 17)

Much was at stake regarding progress in the Africa Regional Report on the Implementation of the SDGs and Goals of Agenda 2063. Stakeholders reflected on the following discussion points raised by UNECA:

  • Pertaining to SDG 6, spatial disparities between urban and rural water access was brought up, and challenges surrounding water availability plaguing North Africa
  • Pertaining to SDG 6, regional disparities in Africa in terms of water access and availability was stressed,
  • African nations should push for solar energy measures as part of their policy on renewable energy, relevant to SDG 7
  • Urbanization has been growing rapidly across Africa but without corresponding level of infrastructure, leading to urban slums, in relation to SDG 11
  • An alarming 30% of post-harvest crop winds up as rotted waste — categorized in the Production stage of the SDG 12 (Consumption and Production)
  • Due to rapid deforestation, the effect on climate change has been more pronounced. Scientific and technological advancement is required and cooperation among government, academia and the private sector is needed for SDG 15 to progress

Analysis of Deliberations & Key Messages Relevant to SDG Progress

SDG11 & SDG6

In the context of dry and semi-arid climate systems green infrastructure could play a cost-saving role in reusing stormwater. Countless African communities’ livelihood depend on groundwater and groundwater replenishment. Methods of directing water back to vegetation and measures to protect water-to-soil infiltration can help restore utilized groundwater. A widely known phenomenon is the ongoing, rapid expansion of urbanization throughout African states, whereby the “concrete takeover” complicates the restoration of physical groundwater stocks. If the meeting sought to craft key messages to the HLPF this year — on the topic of structuring “resilient societies” it compromised the opportunity to stress innovative water harvesting plans pertaining to SDG Target 6.4 & 6.5 as well as SDG 11. That is, how to contextualize green infrastructure within the water use efficiency and integrated water resources management dialogues.

→ SDG6

Water supply, distribution and treatment systems depend upon reliable public water systems supported by effective management & policy-making. Member parties stressed the importance of sanitation in ensuring solid public water works. Clear that open defecation continues to plague many countries — resulting from limited waste management and adequate public sanitation services — several countries called for public sanitation as concomitant to clean water policies. As is known, Northern Africa has an alarming water stress level reaching above 60 percent — where scarce water resources will get worse if preventative measures are not prioritized. Egypt strategically oriented focus away from financial support for which ODA disbursements in the water sector amounted to roughly $8.6 billion in 2017 in favour of collaborative and cooperative strategies among stakeholders to solve water dilemmas. In light of persistent problems in spite of steady increase of financing, this bold proposition equates with development and acquisition of robust technologies to enhance capacity in water-scarce Africa, while simultaneously boosting economic policies to drive the “blue economy”.

→ SDG15

Actors must implement sustainable development principles in the development of mountainous regions of Africa. In keeping with conservation objectives, green vegetation on mountains should be made a protection priority — notably in Northern Africa where 60% of mountainous area covered with forests, shrubs, grassland and cropland  ranks among the lowest regions studied by the FAO in 2017 This begs the question of how do concerned African governments aim to promote green mountain conservation. While dialogue drew heavily on the political measures, land protection, fund creation & allocation, and solid partnerships, language on green mountain development and protection was non-existent. Participants did not pay attention to the first data collected in 2017 through the Green Mountain Cover Index initiative — a tool to measure changes in the area of green vegetation in mountain areas particularly for countries with high-elevation areas at stake of green cover loss, like Morocco & Tunisia. Differences exist in their physical attribute and risk sets, and green mountainous areas have their respective SDG targets. Inextricably linked to vegetation cover, political action to halt deforestation must delineate action plans and partnership needs among the elevation classes, with particular attention to sensitive ecosystems present in high-elevation areas.

→ SDG17

Progress made in 2017 for SDG 17 shows statistical legislation among committed countries lags behind. Where about half of the countries had introduced national statistical plans in 2016, only 37 or 83 states with required data implemented statistics law in line with 10 Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics. A symptom of weak data collection and information management is birth registration data. UN data shows that from 2010 to 2015 138 of 246 countries produced birth data 90 percent complete. During the same period, African countries counted only 8 members with that level of data. The same pattern can be said of death registration data where 59 percent of the world reported form data with 75 percent completion. Only 9 countries in Africa met that level. As such, country leaders of the Forum made their intentions clear: capacity building and systemic issues point to shortage of integrated statistics at national levels. The group sent a firm message to the HLPF that national statistical plans must be implemented consistently and reflect the requirements set out by the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063. Further to the call was the concomitant goal to enhance capacity of data users. In connection with Science, Technology and Information, leaders called on their peers to facilitate access and to invest in to scientific and technological information. This also serves the need to fill evident gaps pertaining to data access and technologies required for data collection (more below).

 In the Peer Learning exercise, GIZ pinpointed the difficulty in obtaining big data due to financial constraints of purchasing such information from private holders. The option lies in national statistical offices leveraging the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development and the UN Global Pulse for that purpose.

Other Salient Meeting Highlights

– On the topic of SDG 17, to apply the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, which bears an integrated programme to help realize the SDGs and targets in Africa.

– To mainstream financing mechanisms such as the Global Environmental Facility and the Green Climate Fund as a strategic means to bolster relations in land, forest and biodiversity management.

Mixed Results

Where the leaders spoke in “high-level language” much of what was deliberated largely focussed on existing initiatives. Surely, many cross-cutting points generated talk about the lack of data or even the need to disaggregate data. However, stakeholders missed opportunities to share fine-level insights or even specific indicators or SDG targets to which their measures relate. As drought continues to impinge the lives of Africans, green infrastructure could have been a specific point for adoption in the key messages or at the very least a point of debate. Overall, satisfactory progress has been made on the march to the upcoming HLPF slated for July.

The Next Forum Scheduled in Morocco

The Forum accepted Morocco’s proposal to host the 2019 AFRSD edition, under the banner “empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.” Central to the agenda are the following topics:

  • SDG 4 on Quality Education,
  • SDG 8 on Decent Work and Economic Growth,
  • SDG 10 on Reduced Inequalities,
  • SDG 13 on Climate Action,
  • SDG 16 on Peace Justice and Strong Institutions