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[PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA] The absence of a clear governance system is impeding the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa, a meeting has heard.

According to the UN SDGs report published last year, the progress being made is uneven and too slow to achieve the targets universally by 2030.

Belay Begashaw, director-general of the SDG Center for Africa based in Rwanda, told a conference this month (9-11 May) in South Africa that countries currently share favourable SDG progress reviews while excluding badly performing or complex areas.

“60 percent of the data or information that is needed for reporting SDGs does not exist.”

Cheikh Mbow, START

The conference organised by Future Earth, South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology, the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa and START, an international climate change think tank, assembled about 300 researchers, scientists, practitioners and policymakers to explore how to address key tensions and opportunities arising from implementing the UN SDGs.

The experts observed that science innovation could help in implementing the SDGs in Africa but it is important to identify what is missing from the goals. They said the 17 goals and too many targets need critical examination to see where progress is being made, particularly for low- and middle-income countries.

Begashaw said that the SDG Center Africa will release Africa-specific SDGs index that will provide comparable progress across the continent on 5 July.

Heila Lotz-Sisitka, keynote speaker and a holder of research chair in Transformative Social Learning and Green Skills Learning Pathways, Rhodes University, South Africa, said that given the general failure of the Millennium Development Goals, it is important the SGDs are translated locally into what they mean such as how they affect poverty.

“One way to approach the SDGs is to examine what is absent,” Lotz-Sisitka said. “One to three per cent of the world’s population owns half of the world's wealth. We should have a goal on wealth [creation] otherwise we will never have the balance we need for sharing the earth’s resources more equitably.”

Michael Nxumalo, director of Africa cooperation, the NRF, told SciDev.Net, “If you look at the SDGs, they address issues [such as] on how to respond to extreme weather. Africa will be affected more by these issues … but the reality is that most of us are not ready to implement most of the SDGs.” Science is critical to implementing SDGs because it is about designing solutions. Sadly, African governments commit less funding and we continue to lag in finding solutions, Nxumalo said.

Cheikh Mbow, executive director of International START secretariat in the United Sates, added, “60 per cent of the data or information that is needed for reporting SDGs does not exist.”

He said that only a few African countries including South Africa have the needed information on the SDGs to report to United Nations.
  
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.