Why Sustainable Development Goals Might not be Achieved in Africa by 2030: My Perspective

SDG-logo-transparentThe Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) reached menopause in 2015 paving way for a new child. This new kid following her ancestry, like some African naming system was not named in a much different way. Her name retained some elements of her predecessor as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This blueprint is used for the next 15 years until 2030, in which set goals are to be achieved. My task here is not to break down these goal, since they are available online. I however give my view as a citizen of the world from the school of free thinkers, concerned on what these goals mean to the continent of Africa which I am by destiny a member of.

Kujiek Ruot Kuajien

Perhaps coming from a known angle of MDGs, I can rightly assume that the majority of Africans never knew of what they were safe for the elites. Even the few, that read them on paper as custodians for their implementations in the name of parliamentarians had little knowledge of what they were. They in most cases therefore remained effective on paper but near zero in practice. I personally came to learn about the goals at the university, studying a gender and development unity where equality was taught as an essential aspect of social life. I studied the goals curiously and really felt for them. Had they been implemented to the letter, we would have a world as dreamy as the goals themselves. To my disappointment though, when I looked at the use of the term universal health/education and so forth and compared to what I knew on ground I was so overwhelmed on the sad side.

There were however partially successful examples in terms of some goals across the continent, a case in point being Kenya. The free primary education in Kenya from 2003, which I became a beneficiary of as a refugee in the Eastern African country was the beginning of some hope. But as some and especially re-known orator PLO Lumumba will descript this education later with regards to quality termed it “free indeed, free from knowledge!” There are several reasons that are alluded to this freeness of knowledge in his views.

That said, I feel insulted to a great degree seeing people going for something called quality education while in most parts of Africa what is needed is to first quantify the education system where every child born should have some access. When people thus talk of quality, the language can be understood for there would be an existing evidential quantity, indicated by children going to schools and the number of schools at various levels of education. When we talk of advancing quality education for developed nations or some middle-income countries, the language can be correct and an equitable debate tabled. Dreaming of quality education in Africa by 2030, is something that might remain in sleep and cause frustrations to the nations of this continent by that time since it shall be a procrastinated dream. My good friend and kin Dak Bouth ones shared a post on his social media that the Nuer people of South Sudan prefer church rather than school (Dak, 2018). I differed with this point on the ground that I have known church schools, especially in African missionary schools that have done and still do well as top education centres across the continent-some globally. His point though, arguing there were more churches in Nuer land than schools cannot be disputed.

The fact is, this is due to procrastinated dreams, perhaps of the universal education urge that leaders did not deliver, and generations that were to benefit from such education ended up joining social activities like church to find comfort. They gain their education through Sunday school services for the children since most schools are either destroyed by war or the concerned political leaders fear educating the masses for they shall be aware of their rights. Let it be gotten rightly here that although there is quality education in Africa in some countries at the moment, access is still a challenge, which is the point I believe needs intervention for the sake of the development goals.

It should be gotten right here that I am not against quality as such too, either of health or education. My bone of contention is quantity and accessibility of such services in some countries is near zero and this should be tackled first, of course alongside quality. Goals that are believed to be global should always be thought of with care. I am not really sure whether there was a liberal African in the group that was coming up with his goals. I had wanted to ask Jeffrey Sachs the brain behind these goals when an opportunity to meet him at a master class by him came begging at my former institution. Of course, he was so busy that I did not ask him for practical questions as one of those who have experience the other side of life. I was only left with a photo to showcase of the day, but most of my questions remain pending these days. One such question which I hope my dear readers can answer is who some countries like Somalia, DRC, South Sudan, just to name a few, will arrive at ‘No Poverty’ and ‘Zero Hunger’ as put forth by SDG #1 & 2?

By the way, correct me as I might be the one who is insane here, if you have ever been in a war zone, where there are no other services and the only life that exists is supported on a ration machine by humanitarian assistance. Do you really think as you read my opinion here that there will be no poverty and zero hunger by 2030? Well, as someone whose country went back to war barely two years after a hard-fought independence, and many that live within her territorial borders do so under UN protection camps, many having fled to other countries to seek refuge, I believe it is not possible to achieve this. I do not know what a child in Somalia, DRC-Congo, Chad, Niger and other African countries think of these goals. My guess anyway is that most of them do not know and unsurprisingly the majority of the leaders too might not have a clue of what SDGs are. People especially in my country cannot even see their kith and kin at will, a single meal seen as luxurious let alone talking of zero hunger. Across the continent one cannot even speak freely, rendering the very sense of speech that should be a free gift from birth useless. If politicians across many African countries cannot be asked where the budget for a certain school, road, hospital went by their constituents, to at least create that contract of accountability, are we honestly believing we can achieve Zero Hunger and No Poverty by 2030?

When one sits in their office in New York and takes a trip to some developing countries where they stay in hotels receiving some reports with not much verification and then comes up with goals, I feel the world is being misled. Imagine if I went to the center of Europe for one week (Brussels) and told the European parliament after my return to where I came from that they need to adopt my weather observations because I am a rain maker. Do you think I will differ much with the meteorologist there were they to issue a statement referring to me as a mad man? I think I will support their statement for in one week I cannot know the weather patterns. If I still understand the word “NO” and “ZERO” they are absolute and in ways they are used, we should all be rich by 2030 and will have food with us, at least three times a day globally. I can’t wait to reach this time! I am sure even those in developed nations are tired of making budgets to spend within the required limits. 2030 according to these goals therefore will be a time all should wish to find them alive. I must confess here that I admire the boldness in using these words, albeit I would have gone for “reduced”!

Goal 16th stipulating-Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions to me is what is long overdue, and if only this goal is achieved by 2030 in Africa credit shall be given to the SDGs. Why do I think so? I believe with war and no peace nothing else can function and everything we say will just be music, whose dancers will not even be interested to go to the dance floor. As long as the gun report, no one is expected to go to their farm and produce their crops, go to school and get an education etc. In the process, poverty will instead increase. When the various conflicts across the continent are brought to end, and the issue of refugee crisis rocking the world at a high rate with my country contributing majority of refugees in Africa since Rwanda of 1994 according to UN Agencies, come to an end, the we can focus on justice. Perpetrators of human rights violations must be brought to book either locally or internationally through the necessary justice systems.

Talking of strong institutions, I must add my voice to make the word strong-stronger institutions! Across the continent, even in countries that seem to glorify institutional presence, the “big men/women” still act as small gods. Such challenges make institutions mere examples, not real ones because they don’t perform their functions independently. For those countries in conflict, the word institution is a new vocabulary that needs a miracle to be understood by 2030. I still think though that they can get there if they allow the youth to take over with their current technological quest blended with development ideas. Anything short of this, I advise the developers of these goals to start thinking of what to bring forth in the next 15 years after 2030, for I’m afraid we might still have what we want to tackle now in plenty by that time. The only hope I see for the next 11 years or so before 2030 for Africa, and only if divisive and self-seeking politics is shunned, are more countries joining Ghana in a hopeful trajectory of middle-income countries. Even the seemingly developed South Africa might still be finding a challenge of reducing her inequality.

In sum, the goals are top down and of course there doesn’t seem to exist much obligation for countries to achieve them. This could explain why the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) still approaches the South Sudan peace initiative casually since it is not something they think should bother them much if the South Sudanese choose war a few years after independence. Their suggestion of Somalia troops as peace keepers in South Sudan to me beats logic and only adds value to my worries of the SDGs not being achieved by 2030 in the naturally mineral endowed continent of Africa. To those who might read this piece and do not know why I am against Somalia as peacekeepers in South Sudan: both countries are at war and have committed gross human rights violations. For any of them to be suggested as a peace-keeper therefore just proves that the conflicts we still have are perpetuated by many forces and we cannot be talking of Zero Hunger and No Poverty by 2030 in Africa if people are still at war. IGAD might have applied the set a thief to catch a thief adage, but on the other hand, I have not seen fire putting off fire yet, although iron does sharpen iron. Or should we have separate development goals in the world? I leave that to you, fellow human, to decide as I pack my belongings and go. If you are not human and read through this piece, you better dream too to stop humans from dreaming alone in a planet you are a rightful member of!

For comments; kujiekruotkuajien@gmail.com

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