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Achieving the SDGs: Extend debt relief to Africa - President Akufo-Addo tells development partners

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has called on international creditors and financial institutions to provide comprehensive debt relief to heavily indebted African countries to enable them to mobilise adequate resources to attain the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs).

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He explained that many African countries were burdened by unsustainable debt levels, constraining their ability to invest in critical development projects and servicing these debts diverted valuable resources away from essential services such as health care, education and infrastructure.

President Akufo-Addo, who is also the Co-Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Emeritus Group of SDG Advocates, made the call when he opened the SDGs Action Summit 2024 which attracted participants from around the globe in Accra yesterday.

Objective

The objective of the SDGs Action Summit 2024 is to ignite renewed commitment on the continent to the SDGs and to catalyse bold and collective actions for the continent's socio-economic transformation.

It also seeks to identify the binding constraints on the implementation of the SDGs and highlight the fundamental enablers to achieving success, including crucial policy and institutional imperatives.

The two-day summit will facilitate the exchange of ideas and experiences, serve as a platform for sharing practical insights and lessons learned and galvanise action on 'Quick Wins’.

It will serve as a platform for a unified voice of Africa and reiterate a joint commitment to expediting progress on the implementation of the SDGs ahead of the Summit in the future.

President Akufo-Addo, who proposed a four-point agenda for immediate action at the global, regional and national levels to enhance dramatical chances of achieving the SDGs, mentioned the first, which was unlocking financing for accelerated SDGs implementation.

“Africa's commitment to the SDGs is unquestionable, yet our efforts are consistently hampered by a financing gap,” he added.

$1.3 trillion target

Quoting recent estimates by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), he said Africa required an additional $1.3 trillion annually to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

“This shortfall is a substantial barrier to our aspirations of ending poverty, ensuring quality education, achieving gender equality, providing clean water and sanitation and fostering sustainable economic growth across the continent.

“Addressing these challenges requires innovative, bold actions to unlock the necessary financing for accelerated SDG implementation,” he explained.

President Akufo-Addo said while striving for a more just and fit for purpose international system, Africans must also mobilise resources back home by accelerating the long overdue establishment of its own financial institutions.

He reiterated Ghana’s suggestion that required each member of the AU to deposit a minimum of 30 per cent of their sovereign reserves into African multilateral development banks, which would enable the banks to offer member countries the needed resources at cheaper rates.

President Akufo-Addo also suggested that the prioritisation of human capital development in Africa was crucial because with 60 per cent of its population under the age of 25, Africa was uniquely positioned to leverage this union of full energy to drive economic growth, innovation and sustainable development. 

He added that to realise this potential, the continent must make strategic investments in the youth by increasing access to quality education, especially science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education to equip the youth with the skills required in the digital age.

Entrepreneurship

Citing the Ghanaian example, he called for deliberate moves to encourage innovation and self-reliance through entrepreneurship, noting that, “Africa's youth are incredibly innovative and entrepreneurial. By developing a culture of entrepreneurship, we can harness this potential to create jobs and stimulate economic growth”.

He said the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (NEIP), launched by his government in 2017, had been promoting entrepreneurship and innovation in Ghana, designed to combat youth unemployment and spur economic growth through the provision of funding, training and mentorship to startups, and through that had facilitated the growth of 15,000 startups, creating 103,871 jobs by the end of 2023.

Touching on the global challenges, he cautioned that while advancements in technology, medicine and communications had transformed lives, there was a confluence of crises that threatened human existence.

These, he said, included climate change that was accelerating with devastating impacts such as extreme weather phenomena, rising sea levels and shrinking biodiversity which were felt most acutely by vulnerable communities.

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President Akufo-Addo said despite the gains made so far, the ongoing repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic had exposed the fragility of global systems, disrupted economies, strained healthcare infrastructures and exacerbated inequalities.

He added that conflict and political instability continued to cause immense suffering and displacement, hindering development and human rights advancements, while economic inequalities were widening, stifling human potential and fuelling social unrest.

He cautioned that future generations would inherit a world plagued by environmental degradation, economic instability and social fragmentation unless decisive action was taken and stressed that no single country could tackle these cross-border challenges alone, emphasising the necessity for global cooperation, which the SDGs represent.

Addressing the summit virtually from the UN headquarters, the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN and Chair of the UN SDG, Amina Mohammed, said the summit had come at a critical moment for the world which was riddled with conflicts, climate change effects, among others, that required multilateral solutions.

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She said the recent SDG progress report by the UN Secretary-General indicated that only 17 per cent of the targets were on track to being attained by 2030, while a little under half were showing moderate progress, with an additional one-third witnessing stalled progress.

Ms Mohammed appealed to all that as they approached the latter part of the 2030 agenda, “we must commit to actions in attaining the goals” and said this would require the implementing of effective strategies, mobilising finance and forming strong partnership to make tangible progress.

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