A High Level African Roundtable Conference on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has begun in Accra.


The two-day meeting is taking place under the auspices of His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Ghana's President and Co-Chair of the UN Secretary-General's Eminent Group on SDGs Advocates.


The theme for the meeting is “Mobilising Support for and Accelerating the Implementation of the SDGs”.


Delivering the keynote address at the opening of the meeting in Accra, yesterday, President Akufo-Addo buttressed home the fact that Africa’s arduous search to transform its economies and pull the masses of its people out of poverty and deprivation was dependent on how Africa urgently pursued the SDGs.


President Akufo-Addo said the continent was behind time and could not afford the luxury of dealing with the pressing challenge of poverty, climate change, youth unemployment and the myriad of other problems that confronted the continent.


He said Africa should pursue implementation of the SDGs with a strong sense of urgency and an unparalleled commitment if the continent would succeed in the ambition to transform itself and pull the masses out of poverty and deprivation.


He admitted that the challenge in achieving the SDGs was a daunting one but was optimistic that backed by knowledge, the talent and resources, Africa could transit from poverty to prosperity.


President Akufo-Addo noted, however, that the said transformation would not become possible without a selfless leadership with progressive policies as well as innovative and smart strategic partnership approaches to financing the continent’s development agenda.


“It will take fully unleashing the potentials of the domestic private sector. It will take fully leveraging innovation and making the currency of our development and most importantly, it will take empowerment of Africa’s women,” the President indicated.


The President noted that the roundtable was taking place at a time of another great hope and great expectations for the Africa continent.


He said democracy continued to gain deep roots while some of the economies of the continent continued to record robust and sustained growth.


Furthermore, President Akufo-Addo said, Africa continued to be blessed with dynamic and youthful population, some of whom were anchored in technology and innovation and that whether in the arts, sports, academia, business or international relations, Africa was regaining her self-confidence on the international stage.


Yet, he said, there was an inherent paradox of pressing demands to address widespread unemployment, especially among the youth; enhance livelihood incomes and opportunities; intensify and deepen social service delivery; and to deal with the sense of hopelessness in the future that compelled large numbers of Africa’s youth to travel across the Sahara desert and traverse perilous oceans in search of what, in most cases, proved to be an elusive better life in the developed world.


“As we endeavor to address these challenges and the huge expectations that the citizens have, we have great prospects in using the SDGs to open up opportunities for all citizens and do so in a way that leaves no one behind,” he added.


He said as Co-Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Eminent Group of Advocates, he had a higher responsibility, together with his Norwegian colleague, to promote the engagement of stakeholders in the implementation and financing of the SDGs and to encourage partnerships with governments, civil society and the private sector to drive the accelerated implementation of the SDGs.


“This is the spirit that has shaped the Africa roundtable and I strongly hope that this spirit will become enduring. We have an exceptional opportunity going forward in translating the extraordinary goals enshrined in the SDGs to end poverty, protect the planet and secure prosperity,” he said.


President Akufo-Addo stressed the need to see the SDGs truly as investment in the people to build a better life, adding that no group of persons had more to gain from the successful implementation of the SDGs than the African people.


He said it would take bold ambition in thought and actions, creativity, innovation, hard work and, most critically, connecting to the positive and abundant energies of the youth to achieving the SDGs.


He was convinced that the story of Africa’s inability to develop was primarily the story of bad governance and the damaging colonial heritage.


“We must make governance and our governance systems work for the eradication of poverty and the creation of prosperity and wealth. And, as we embark on this path, we must commit to building accountable and transparent institutions,” he added.


The President continued, “We cannot grow out of poverty and achieve the SDGs through charity and the benevolence of others. If we are going to succeed to move Africa Beyond Aid, this cannot be a mere slogan. It will take doing business differently, and making the tough choices necessary to accelerate inclusive growth in the economy.” 


President Akufo-Addo said the private sector was a key accelerator to achieving the goals, and urged African leaders to do everything within their power to dismantle the labyrinth of constraints that impeded the private sector and regional trade and integration. 


He said it would require a winning mentality and commitment to doing business differently to achieve Africa’s share of prosperity and bring greater dignity to the lives of the people.


In his remarks, Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, said the African continent had two major assets which it could take advantage of to better the lives of its people.


“We have a human resource of 1.2 billion of which 60 per cent are the youth, and 60 per cent of arable land in the world with sufficient water, natural and ocean resources,” he said.


He expressed concern over political conflicts, civil strife and terrorism on the continent, the prevailing social challenges such as increasing unemployment, diseases and other scourges affecting the people, particularly women and children.


The AU chairperson further raised concern about the migration of Africans from the continent and called for the root causes of the menace to be dealt with.


Explaining the creative role the private sector could play as the engine of growth and job creation, he said the AU had intensified its action to fight corruption in order to boost rapid socio-economic progress of the continent.


Mr Mahamat added that the AU, in conformity with its 2063 agenda, had embarked on transformation processes with a focus on various regional blocs as pillars of integration to foster financial and economic transformation.


In a statement, Rwandan president, Mr Paul Kagame, underscored the importance of the need for Africa to take advantage of the SDGs to transform the lives of the people.


Mr Kagame also urged African nations to place stronger emphasis on the private sector as an engine for the elimination of poverty, growth and wealth creation.


He said the SDGs could not be achieved by governments alone, hence the need for a partnership between the public and the private sectors to raise critical investments for the attainment of the 17 SDGs.


In a video message, the Prime Minister of Norway, Ms Erna Solberg, commended President Akufo-Addo for initiating the meeting which she described as “by far the most ambitious.”


Ms Solberg pointed out that the SDGs in themselves were not enough and called for concrete actions and implementation steps to be taken to achieve them.


Also present at the meeting were Jeffrey Sachs, Director, Earth Institute at Columbus University; Leymah Gbowee, Director, Gbowee Peace Foundation; and Alaa Murabit, Voice of Libyan Women.


Source: ISD (Rex Mainoo Yeboah)