With one-third of the 2030 Agenda journey already complete, it is an opportune time to examine Africa’s progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) so far as well as assess what adjustments to strategies are needed to overcome the remaining obstacles. The SDGs provide time-bound targets in key sectors—including health, education, employment, energy, infrastructure, and the environment—for all nations to achieve. Nowhere is the need to achieve these targets larger than in Africa.
| BELAY BEGASHAW | While progress in some areas and countries is encouraging, overall, the region will need to redouble its efforts if it is to achieve the SDGs by 2030. To be successful, there is need for effective and coordinated partnerships to domesticate the SDGs—i.e., to fully transpose the SDG ecosystem into national and regional planning and implementation mechanisms—as well as the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063, and to bridge the large financing and data gaps.
Progress so far on the SDGs has been notable but falls significantly short
Progress so far on the implementation of the SDGs has been uneven across countries, goals, and targets. According to the Africa SDG Index and Dashboard 2019, the best-ranked country, Mauritius, had an aggregate score of 66.19—implying that the country is, on average, 66 percent of the way to the best possible outcome across the 17 SDGs.
Other top performers include Botswana, Ghana, and Rwanda. However,18 countries (of 46 total) in sub-Saharan Africa are, on average, less than 50 percent on the way towards meeting the best possible outcome on all SDGs.
Overall, at the indicator level, these countries are off track on most of the SDGs, reiterating the urgency for countries and global partners to jointly accelerate reforms and implementation.
Gains in health and education show promise, but gaps linger
Notably, the under-five mortality rate for Africa (excluding North Africa) has fallen from 85 deaths per 1000 in 2015 to 76 deaths per 1000 in 2018, an encouraging sign, but still double the global average of 38. Neonatal deaths have also improved from 29 per 1000 to 27 per 1000 over the same period. North Africa had already reduced under-five mortality rates to fewer than 35 deaths per 1000 births by 2015, and is likely to meet the goal of fewer than 25 deaths per 1000 births by 2030. With an intensified and accelerated response, the other African regions could feasibly meet this target. Large-scale progress on both health and education remain a concern, though, given that most Africa countries have not carried out demographic health and national surveys over the SDG period.
The net enrolment rate for primary school in sub-Saharan Africa has increased marginally from 77.4 percent in 2015 to 77.6 percent in 2017. More than half of the countries in Africa have a primary school enrolment rate of over 90 percent and are likely to meet the target of 100 percent by 2030 if current efforts are sustained. In particular, North Africa is poised to meet the 2030 target, and the other African regions are also within range. However, the net enrolment rate for lower secondary education has fallen slightly from 28.9 in 2015 to 28.3 in 2017.
Infrastructure and service delivery improved but needs are apparent and pressing
To house and serve Africa’s young and fast-growing population—expected to increase from 1.3 billion today to over 2.5 billion by 2030—governments must address sorely needed infrastructure and service requirements quickly. There have been improvements in recent years: For example, access to clean drinking water in sub-Saharan Africa has increased from 59 percent of the population in 2015 to 61 percent in 2017. Access to electricity increased from 39.4 percent to 44.6 percent over the same period.
At the same time, African urban areas will need 565 million additional housing units between 2015 and 2030 just to keep up with rapid population growth and urbanization. This is about 40 million new houses per annum over that time.