What Are the SDGs and Why Do They Matter to African Students?

by | Apr 10, 2022 | Jobs

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The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been on every organization’s radar in the last few years. If you have been paying attention, you have probably seen the SDG acronym more than a few times. But what exactly are the Sustainable Development Goals and what do they have to do with African students? Keep reading to find out. 

The Sustainable Development Goals are a set of 17 objectives drafted and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. These objectives address the most important issues in our world today including climate change, poverty, and disease. 

The SDGs serve as a roadmap that will help governments and organizations across the globe to create a more sustainable and prosperous future by the year 2030. The SDGs are built upon the Millennium Development Goals, an earlier set of eight objectives adopted by the UN in 2000 with the aim of reducing poverty, increasing access to basic education, promoting gender equality, among other aims. 

Below is a table showing all the Sustainable Development Goals: 

(1) No poverty (6) Clean Water and Sanitation (11) Sustainable Cities and Communities (16) Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
(2) No Hunger (7) Affordable and Clean Energy (12) Responsible Consumption and Production  (17) Partnerships for the Goals
(3) Good Health  (8) Decent Work and Economic Growth (13) Climate Action
(4) Quality Education (9) Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure (14) Life Below Water
(5) Gender Equality (10) Reduced Inequality  (15) Life on Land

The Importance of SDGs 

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are important in the world today for several reasons. First, the world has become increasingly connected. Unlike centuries ago when people could exist in complete isolation without ever meeting or influencing each other, today we are all affected by what everyone else does. For example, climate change is leading to serious problems such as the rise in ocean levels. This is affecting the person living in Maldives as much as it is affecting the person living in Greenland. Similarly, if a large-scale conflict were to take place today, nearly all countries in the world would be affected in one way or another. Because of this interlinked nature of our modern existence, there is a great need for concerted efforts to solve global problems together. This is one key role that the SDGs are playing – they are making it possible for actors around the world to work together towards a common goal. 

Second, the SDGs are important because they encourage collaboration across geographies. Approaches that have been successful in solving a specific problem in a specific place can be borrowed to solve the same problem elsewhere. For instance, if country X has managed to raise education levels by creating a mandatory free primary education system, country Y can easily use that as a case study to implement a similar program. This is possible because the two countries would be aligned in their goals through the SDGs.

Lastly, the Sustainable Development Goals are crucial because of their emphasis on the concept of sustainability. This is an important concept because it recognizes the great harm to the planet and other species that reckless growth and consumption can cause. Without an awareness of how we are growing and consuming as human beings, we are in danger of depleting natural resources, causing the extinction of other species, and most likely causing our own extinction. The SDGs are key in stemming these dire possibilities. 

 Implementing and Tracking the SDGs

The SDGs are not just implemented by governments or the UN bodies. Private companies, small foundations, and even individuals are all coming together in aligning their work with the SDGs. Most world governments have already pledged to work towards the achievement of the SDGs. 

The progress of the implementation of the SDGs is tracked by the United Nations through various means. For instance, there is an online SDG tracker that is regularly updated with data and charts on the progress of each SDG around the world. 

Challenges in the Implementation of the SDGs

According to Bloomberg, African countries are facing some serious challenges in attaining the SDG goals. While there has been notable progress towards the achievement of gender equality and climate action, other SDG areas are not moving as fast. For instance, Africa still accounts for nearly half of the poor in the world. This means that elimination of poverty by 2030 according to SDG 1 is quite unlikely. One of the main factors contributing to the slow progress in the attainment of the SDG objectives in Africa is absence of enough funding. Many African countries are struggling to find enough funds to run their administrative duties, not to mention the SDG objectives. According to Bloomberg, if the SDGs are to be achieved in a timely manner in African countries, there needs to be additional funding to the tune of 500 billion – 1.2 trillion U.S. dollars. 

Unforeseen factors, for example Covid-19, have also impeded progress of the SDGs in most African countries. Due to lockdowns, regular business was interrupted for a long time, leading to loss of jobs, greater poverty, difficulty in education delivery, and increased mortality. 

The Role of Young Africans in the Attainment of SDGs

With a median age of 19.7 years in 2020, Africa is the world’s youngest continent. This fact means that if social progress is going to be made, young people must play a big role in that process. 

Most SDG areas correlate heavily with the issues that young Africans are facing today. As an example, lack of access to quality education is a big problem that affects young Africans. While primary school education is currently supported by many governments, most students have to pay their own way through high school and university. This means that those who cannot afford to pay are locked out of the education system. 

Besides education, unemployment and under-employment are big problems facing young Africans. As a result of low unemployment in African countries, it is common to see young people taking perilous and illegal routes to reach Europe and North America in hope of better prospects. 

What Steps Can Young Africans Take to Contribute to the Attainment of the SDGs?

Being the main demographic in the African continent and being the ones who stand to benefit the most if the SDGs are attained in the stated timeline, young Africans can do several things to contribute to this vision. 

The first step young Africans can take in contributing to the attainment of the SDGs is by educating themselves about these goals. The United Nations has numerous resources that outline the SDG vision in great detail. There are also many local NGOs and grassroot organizations that work in specific SDG areas. Reaching out to these and learning what they do is a great way for young Africans to acquaint themselves with the SDG vision

Besides learning about the SDGs, young Africans can pursue education and skills that will help them contribute to the attainment of the SDGs in their communities. For instance, if you are looking to contribute to the reduction of maternal mortality in accordance with the goals of SDG 4, studying gynecology or nursing can be one route to help in that field. To learn more about which courses and careers contribute to the attainment of the SDGs, check out our other articles on this topic. 

Lastly, participating in leadership and entrepreneurship activities aligned with the SDG is a great way to contribute. Currently, there are many young Africans who are making bold contributions in the areas of health, education, finance, environment, and others. For example, in the area of climate activism, individuals such as Elizabeth Wathuti, Nkosilathi Nyathi, and Leah Namugerwa have raised their voices and driven awareness about the hazards of climate change in the African continent. 

The SDGs are a crucial roadmap in creating a more sustainable and fulfilling future for all. In a continent like Africa where there are numerous challenges to the attainment of the SDGs, the young people who constitute the majority demographic have a big role to play. By learning more about the SDGs, acquiring skills in alignment with the SDGs, and taking part in leadership activities, young Africans can leave their mark in the attainment of the SDG vision. 

If you are wondering where to start, check out the rest of our articles on studying abroad and pursuing careers that allow you to contribute the most to the SDG vision.

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