Time to Act: Fast-tracking the SDGs through Technology and Education
“To improve Africa, focus on Technology, to improve Technology, focus on Education”
“To solve African problems, invent African solutions”
“The knowledge of the SDGs is the success of them: Education is key”
As the shouts of ‘happy new year’ marked the entry of the year 2020, so it marked the beginning of the countdown to 2030 when the world’s enthusiastically welcomed SDGs are to be achieved completely. The reality is that these goals are already 22 days old. What has Africa commenced to ensure these “big 17s” are not just a backing but never biting targets?
Since 193 Member States of the United Nations formally adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on September 25, 2015, several conversations have emerged on practical ways to ensure these goals move from just the big buzz of the adoption ceremony into action and tangible impact on the world’s citizens. The SDGs are intended to guide priorities for both developing and developed countries for the next 15 years considering the ever-increasing challenges of poverty, health, education, gender issues, and other global problems. The governments that adopted the SDGs have in principle, taken responsibility for full implementation at the various country levels. Each member state will be expected to continue widespread consultation through action-oriented dialogues with all stakeholders to determine country-specific priorities, develop a plan of action, key performance indicators, and appropriate frameworks for monitoring and evaluation.
The 17 goals, with 169 targets ranging from ending poverty and hunger to reducing inequality both within and between countries; from better governance and peaceful societies to action on climate change, ecosystem restoration, and a big shift towards sustainable consumption and production have been embraced and adopted together with African countries. Disquietingly, the prospects of the SDGs in Africa are challenged by grim statistics such as high poverty rates in Sub-Saharan Africa affecting no less than 35% of inhabitants and over 600 million people without access to energy and hundreds dying from household pollution. Not only are these statistics worrisome for global sustainable development indices, but they also emphasize the importance of succeeding with the 2030 agenda in Africa.
According to the 2015 Report by the Africa Progress Panel, many African children still lack access to basic education, over 35% of the inhabitants of Sub-Saharan Africa still living in abject poverty; 25% of the world’s disease burden resting on the continent, only 5% of potential resources developed, over 600 million people who do not have access to modern energy and still, over 600 die each year from household pollution, it is obvious that the goals give more attention to Sub-Saharan Africa than the rest of the world. No wonder it is said that the goals will only succeed if they can succeed in Africa (Africa Progress Panel 2015, Global Goals, African Realities: Building a Sustainable Future for All).
The UN Millennium Development Goals (UN-MDGs) have come, been achieved (depending on the country), and replaced. They have made a real difference for every life and country that has planned and maximized strategies to make them work and now the SDGs are here, with more focus and need for aggressive strategies.
The development of the Education and Technology Sector will be the first step towards achieving all the SDGs and it is time the Private Sector took the lead. Consequently, education and technological innovation are two important factors that can facilitate the transformation of Africa by 2030 through the attainment of the Global Goals; if well harnessed. Whilst education is unanimously accepted as being crucial to the development of any economy; the development of science and technology has also been identified as the catalyst to infrastructural advancement and sophistication – a feat all African countries urgently require to attain.
We need to rise to develop means to technological innovations that reflect the peculiarities of our continent, African nations need more African productions, increase the number of local industries especially those utilizing African raw materials, and do less of importing that only reduce creative capacities. Technology discovered that renewable energy derived from wind, water, and solar (which are in abundance in Nigeria) is a better, cleaner, and safer source of energy as opposed to fossil fuel. Likewise, it is through technological innovation that Agricultural Drones using advanced sensors have been created to increase agricultural yields and reduce crop damage. What about the discovery of solar power which improves electricity generation or Magnetic Nanoparticles that can stop strokes? All are technological innovations. Africa needs to explore new African-tailored technologies to minimize pollutions, improve health care, and increase industrial and agricultural productions; also, technological innovations to reduce unemployment and curb poverty instead of waiting on developed nations to stretch out lending hands to her shores.
Furthermore, Africa was credited and commended in 2013 for having registered constant growth and rising to become the world’s fastest-growing continent at 5.6% a year even as GDP is expected to rise by an average of over 6% a year between 2013 and 2023 however, the continent remains the world’s poorest inhabited continent (standard of living). To record development that will match economic growth levels, innovative technology will play key roles. We can reduce poverty and improve lives by making use of technologies that utilize resources as efficiently as possible and as well as minimize environmental harm while increasing industrial productivity and improving quality of lives (The National Academies Press). Therefore, investments in research and innovation as well as technological development will fast-track the achievement of crucial SDG targets in even the nation’s most deplorable sectors. To improve Africa, focus on technology.
Also importantly for Africa/Nigeria to achieve the SDGs, sound education policies that will wipe out mass illiteracy and give room for the implementation of the goals, are expedient. This is because robust investments in education – both infrastructure and teacher development – will advance the self-development of citizens to complement common potentials. It is time all African countries improved their standards of education.
An analysis of the United Nations’ online ‘Have your Say’ survey showing the post-2015 priorities of people from all over the world revealed that good education stands strong in the hearts of people as over 6million of the over 9million votes received are in favor of good education (http://data.myworld2015.org/ ). Attaining good education will open the doors for attaining all other goals. A good education can help reduce poverty, promote economic growth, and even reduce child mortality rates as educated minds are less ignorant of their health. Furthermore, educated youths are less wayward and less destructive.
It is therefore clear that education and indeed a good one is highly crucial to the sustainable development of all communities. However, educational policies must dwell more strongly on research work which can drive innovation.
Also, it is important to stress that the importance of education to fast-tracking the SDGs does not lie solely with formal education, all Africans should take it upon themselves to spread the SDGs via all possible means; notably, the social media, religious gatherings (since Africans are perceived as highly religious), and cultural gatherings. SDG clubs can be introduced in schools and youth organization levels specifically in Nigeria in primary and secondary schools as well as the National Youth Service. Let there be a radical campaign and African-wide education of everyone on the SDGs, from the urban to the rural communities, young and old, formally educated or not and we can see Africa/Nigeria straight on the road to sustainable development.
Both Technology and Education work hand in hand to speed up sustainable development in Africa because improving Africa requires a focus on technology and improving technology necessitates education as educated and intellectual minds are needed most of the time to drive creative innovations. Educated minds whether formal/informal, as long as they are exposed and aware of developmental happenings are all needed for the SDGs to become a reality and also quickly.
Therefore, to solve Africa’s problems, Africans should invent African solutions; education is key to improving Africa, and a focus on technology is also a focus on Education; the knowledge of the SDGs is the success of them.
Ekekwe, N. (2013, October 2). To improve African Education, Focus on Technology. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2013/10/to-improve-african-education-focus-on-technology
Miller, D.J. (2014, February 4). Technology’s Role in Sustainable Development. Retrieved from http://citizentekk.com/future-technologies/sustainable-development-technology/