World's First SDG Center / South Africa's Political Kaleidoscope

The Pulse is a special background brief by Shared Interest’s Executive Director, Donna Katzin, for key investors and other stakeholders on recent developments in South and Southern Africa that impact the organization’s work.

Sustainable Development Goals Center/ Africa: Launch

“Africa’s establishment of its own center to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals shows that African countries are looking to Africa for solutions to our own issues, and making contributions to global partnerships and solving global problems.”

With these words, Dr. Belay Begashaw, Director General of the Sustainable Development Goals Center for Africa (SDGC/A), welcomed participants to the official launch of the center in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. They included more than 200 leaders, government, civil society, business and academia experts and activists from across the African continent. The excitement was palpable. It is the first (and to date only) center in the world to focus on implementation of the SDGs.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who has provided strong support for the center, underscored what Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs described as “a breakthrough era for Africa.” President Kagame emphasized, “As Africans, we should see this as an unprecedented opportunity to bridge our challenges and our mission…doing once and for all the right thing in the right way. This Center will serve as a focal point for coordination…but this is a tool to get what we really want. The actions we take must contribute to fundamental change in the lives of the people who need it most.”

Shared Interest was privileged to participate in the Center launch, thanks to the efforts of Board member Aniket Shah, who serves as Program Leader for SDGC/A. The experience of Shared Interest and its guarantee model are particularly relevant to the work of the Center and the continent – as unlocking and leveraging local capital is key to the achieving the SDGs by 2030.

Aniket Shah, new board member

The Center, which opened July 1, 2016, was established to expedite the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Africa to achieve the goals by 193 members of the United Nations in September 2015 for the world’s people and planet. A self-described “home-grown African institution,” the Center is an autonomous non-profit international organization working to accelerate the SDGs’ implementation by providing technical support, unbiased advice and expertise to governments, the private sector, civil society and academic institutions across the continent. It aspires to achieve a shared developmental vision to implement the SDGs, the African Union’s vision for its own 2063 Agenda and the visions of each African country.

This is no simple task. The major systemic challenges Africa faces, Aniket Shah reported to the conference, are daunting: Population growth and climate change. By the year 2100, an estimated ¼ of the world’s people – and 1/3 of its productive population – will live in Africa. The demand for the resources and services will increase exponentially – even as climate change risks gut the continent’s ability to survive and feed itself. It is projected that a 2 degree Celsius increase in global temperatures by 2040 would destroy between 40 and 80 percent of Africa’s crop land. In Southern Africa, an estimated 75 percent of the region’s land is partially degraded, and 14 percent severely degraded.

Moreover, experts estimate that global overseas development aid is only sufficient to cover five percent of what is needed to achieve the SDGs, and is not likely to increase. Shah reported that in order to bridge the investment gap required to meet the SDGs in Africa, the continent would need to double its investment rate – to that of China

The program’s three thematic group discussions focused on Development Financing; Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting (MER); and IT systems to support African integration efforts. Shared Interest was asked to describe its model, which attracted the attention of a number of participants eager to bring their countries’ private sector financial institutions to play a more important role in their development process. Key to their curiosity was the projection that bilateral and multilateral overseas development assistance will only meet five percent of the costs of financing the initiatives required to achieve the SDGs.