Highlights of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (ARFSD 2020)

*This is a submission from a participant who attended the forum – Bob Aston (ALIN, Kenya.)

Over 3,000 delegates, including 60 ministers and other high-level participants, attended the sixth session of the African Regional Forum for Sustainable Development (ARFSD 2020) that was held under the theme; 2020-2030: A Decade to Deliver a Transformed and Prosperous Africa through the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063 in Victoria Falls Zimbabwe on February 24-27, 2020.

Participants during one of the sessions.

In the ‘Victoria Falls Declaration on the Decade of Action on Sustainable Development’ in Africa that was adopted by 54 African countries, delegates, including ministers from across the continent responsible for all the 17 sustainable development goals that were under the spotlight at the forum, called on all African countries to urgently revisit their frameworks for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063; align their national development plans with the principles of the two agendas and set in motion programmes and projects to deliver.

Members of ‘Major Groups and other stakeholders in Africa’ recommended under SDG7 that national and sub-national governments invest in the transition towards 100% renewable energy, as well as climate-resilient infrastructure, and low emission development in cities and rural areas.

The final declaration also urged members states to take a position on gas energy as a transitional energy source for the continent as they prepare for the twenty-sixth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

ACCESS members deliberating during the forum

Lack of disaggregated data and statistics hindering evidence-based monitoring and evaluation, tracking SDGs progress and resource allocation.

Most states lacked disaggregated data and statistics which affected the review methodology of the voluntary national review. There needs to be greater collaboration between national governments and CSOs in developing clear mechanisms for and investing in data generation, including remote sensing and other geospatial sources, big data and various observational networks and infrastructures. This will help to support evidence-based voluntary national reviews and national development frameworks, and in timely collection, dissemination and use of data and information to inform decision making.

Inclusive digital transformation can help meet SDGs and Agenda 2063 objectives.

The UN Capital Development Fund ( UNCDF) and the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) High-Level Policy Dialogue side event which looked at digital infrastructure and services, digital literacy, digital ID, digital financing, showed that inclusive digital transformation can help meet the SDGs and Agenda 2063 objectives.

However, high illiteracy levels in Africa, language barrier, low level of digital literacy and lack of adequate infrastructure which reduces devices interoperability has limited the continent’s digital transformation. An opportunity is available for CSOs particularly those working On SDG7 to advocate for the inclusion of energy in the Inclusive Digital Economy Scorecard (IDEC) which has only been piloted in 8 countries and does not include energy among the thematic areas. The IDEC is a strategic performance tool that identifies the key market constraints hindering the development of an inclusive digital economy while helping advance the right priorities with public and private sector stakeholders for each country.

ACCESS members during the event

Need for sustained awareness creation and education on SDG7

Although the ARFSD looked at all the 17 SDGs, the importance of SDG7 as an enabler to most of the SDGs was subsequently missing or not reinforced. There is need for CSOs working on SDG7 to enhance their advocacy to promote decentralized renewable energy and clean cooking technologies.

Here is a view from another member who attended the forum – Thabit Mikidadi from Tanzania Gender and Energy Network (TANGSEN). “Coming from a gender organization in the energy sector, my particular focus was on an engendered perspective of SDG 7. Access to clean energy is still viewed as a separate endeavour and not as a catalyst to the achievement of many other SDGs. Numbers are still given priority, rather than impact – accelerated energy access versus reduction of poverty and opening up of opportunities. Women bear the biggest brunt of the energy deficit and this affects their socio-economic livelihoods thus widening the equality gap. This needs to change.”

*Thanks to the support of Hivos, other ACCESS members who attended the forum included: Maimuna Kabatesi (Hivos), Jacqueline Kimeu (ACCESS), Mamadou Barry ( Action Solidaire International ), Marvin Tumusiime (ENventure), Tendai Moyo, Wellington Madumira (ZERO).