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SUSTAINABILITY TLDR NEWSLETTER: EDITION 12

This newsletter gives you highlights of selected sustainability insights that were, perhaps, too long (you) didn’t read (TLDR) or there’s just too much out there to read. The highlights presented cover insights gleaned from a global, regional (African), and national (Kenyan) perspective. Happy reading!

GLOBAL: UNGA Economic & Social Council report on Progress towards the SDGs: Towards a Rescue Plan for People & Planet

Published in late April 2023, this is a special edition report of the Secretary General to the UN General Assembly Economic & Social Council in July 2023. The report highlights the status of progress since 2015 against the global SDG indicator framework, and provides recommendations to rescue the SDGs and accelerate implementation between now and 2030. 

The 17 SDGs are broken down into 169 targets and 232 indicators that provide clarity to governments, businesses, development institutions, civil society, and society as a whole on where exactly change needs to happen to achieve global sustainable development.

So where are we on the SDGs halfway to 2030?

  • From about 140 SDG targets, 12% are on track, nearly half are moderately or severely off track, and 30% show no change or have regressed to the 2015 baseline.
  • There’s universal lack of SDG progress, and it is now clear that developing countries and the world’s poorest are bearing the brunt of global collective failure which directly results from global injustices going back hundreds of years and still playing out today.
  • We ‘cannot persist today with a morally bankrupt financial system and expect developing countries to meet targets that developed countries met with fewer constraints.’ (p.3).
  • At the rate we are going, it will take 286 years to close the gender gap in legal protection and remove discriminatory law.
  • This is the 1st generation that could succeed in ending poverty, and the last to have a chance to save the planet.

5 key areas for urgent action

  • UN member states to recommit to 7 years of serious and sustained action to achieve the SDGs nationally and globally. This can be done by: strengthening social cohesion, reorienting economies to green and digital transitions in line with the Paris agreement, overhauling the international financial and economic system to respond to the challenges
  • Governments must advance policies and actions to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality, end the war on nature; with a clear focus on advancing women and girls rights and empowering the most vulnerable. For example: expanding social protection and access to essential services, creating jobs in care, digital and green economies, urgently tackling the crisis in education, close the digital divide, support social inclusion of the vulnerable, advance climate action for a just renewable revolution and secure climate justice.
  • Governments must strengthen national and sub-national capacity, accountability to accelerate SDG progress. Such as: SDGs as a central focus of national planning, oversight and budgets, building public sector capacity and digital infrastructure, empowering sub-national and local government to implement SDGs on the ground, and effective regulatory framework to align private sector governance models to sustainable development. 
  • The international community must mobilise resources and investment for developing countries to achieve the SDGs. By endorsing and delivering an SDG stimulus of $500Bn per year from now to 2030. Tackling debt distress, scale up affordable long-term financing for development and contingency financing for all countries in need. Deep reform in the international financial architecture, including the voice and participation of developing countries in governance of international financial institutions.
  • Member States to continue strengthening the UN development system and boost capacity for multilateral systems to tackle emerging challenges.

My two cents: The SDGs are the world’s roadmap to sustainable development for all. We have 7 years left to get it right – and we are the 1st and last generations who can. With the complex challenges that lie ahead, I really do think we will need stronger and more inclusive global multilateral systems to: convene, negotiate, enable multi-country collective action and response; and to monitor the scales of justice.

AFRICA: World Bank Africa Pulse – An Analysis of Issues Shaping Africa’s Economic Future

The Africa Pulse is a bi-annual publication from World Bank’s Africa Chief Economist, that highlight the economic prospects and challenges for the continent. This report’s subtitle is: Leveraging Resource Wealth During the Low Carbon Transition. Any ‘Afrophile’, reading this subtitle might feel a sense of unease perhaps from living memory of structural adjustment reforms, the unfortunate realities of the continent’s resource wealth, and fragile/weak, corrupt institutions. All the same, the fact remains that the African continent does have significant resource wealth that can support prosperity and a sustainable transition for its citizens and the global low carbon transition required.

From the Africa Pulse April 2023 report, the economic outlook is bleak. This is no surprise. It’s bleak globally; and well, bleaker for Africa’s +50 countries. Here’s what the report highlights:

  • Economic activity in the region will slow to 3.1% in 2023 – mainly from a sluggish global economy, high inflation rates, challenging global and domestic financial conditions, and high debt levels. It’ll be a challenging time for governments as they try to accelerate C-19 recovery, reduce poverty and put their economies on sustainable growth plans.
  • Investment growth declined in both resource wealth and resource scarce countries. But remittances remained strong. East Africa will experience slower growth recovery than West Africa due to the investment decline.
  • Consumer price inflation is at an all-time high (9.2%) despite declining world food prices. Food prices remain high across the continent due to weaker currencies and high cost of inputs for food production. Governments should consider income support measures to support the most vulnerable.
  • There’s increase average public debt to GDP for the region (57%), a significant drop in Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) and restricted access to external bonds – which is exacerbating fiscal outcomes. Public gross financing will remain high for the coming years at about 10%, governments are looking to domestic financial and this will put pressure on domestic interest rates and then investment.

Policy and action responses proposed by the report include:

  • Restoring macroeconomic stability – curbing inflation, accelerating debt reduction, anchoring fiscal policy in debt sustainability, and leveraging sustainable financing.
  • Deepening structural reforms – boosting private investment, competitiveness of African business, and attracting foreign investment to infrastructure, institutions and incentives.
  • Leveraging resource wealth for a low carbon transition – tapping the opportunity to mobilise inward investment e.g. rents generated from natural resources. Ensure foresight to manage and plan high carbo to low carbon transition that will be beneficial to resource abundant African countries.
  • Green energy – expanding and leveraging renewable energy to improve energy access and meet domestic needs.
  • Natural resources opportunity – investment and taxation of other natural resources can unlock fiscal space.
  • Good governance – will be essential and will be needed for a just transition for resource wealth e.g. transparency and disclosure like the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

My two cents: Prepare and brace yourselves for tough(er) times ahead! ‘A snake that you can see, does not bite.’- African proverb.

KENYA: Kenya Economic Survey 2023

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics published the latest economic survey in early May. It’s a hefty document, and I highlight some key insights towards an easy review:

  • On Kenya’s general economic performance in 2022, GDP expanded compared to the previous year. Agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors contracted, while the financial and insurance, information and communication; and transportation and storage sectors grew. 
  • Employment and wages were up in 2022, but real average earnings per employee decreased and consumer price index (used to measure inflation) increased.
  • The Central Bank of Kenya increased interest rates from 7% in 2021 up to 8.75 in 2022. Money supply grew but net foreign assets declined.
  • Government revenue is expected to grow in the 2022/2023 financial year and government expenditure will also increase in the same financial year. 
  • Expenditure on imports into the country grew (mainly from petroleum products), and the total exports out of the country was insufficient to match the growth of exports in 2022.
  • Gross value of environment and natural resources grew in 2022. Funding for development of water supply and rural water supply is expected to decline in 2022/2023.
  • Total forest area remained unchanged, representing a national 8.8% forest cover in 2022.
  • Electricity demand grew – despite higher tariffs; and electricity installed capacity grew from new renewable power plants commissioned between 2021 – 2022.The no. of consumers connected under the rural electrification programme also grew.
  • Mobile money subscriptions, transfers grew as did mobile commerce transactions. Internet subscriptions also went up in 2022.
  • In education, the total number of schools declined, but expenditure in education is expected to grow.
  • Health facilities increased as did the number of health professionals and trainees.
  • Funding for the Women Enterprise Fund and the government’s Affirmative Action Fund will decrease in 2022/2023 financial year; but funding for the Youth Enterprise Development Fund will increase.
  • The Hunger and Safety net programme will increase in 2022/2023 financial year, as will cash transfers supporting people with severe disabilities; but cash transfers to older persons will decrease.
  • In 2023, although the global economy is expected to decelerate, Kenya’s economy is expected to stay resilient and activities in wholesale, retail trade, accommodation and food services, education and ICT are showing good signs in Q1 2023. However, 2023 growth will be hindered by high interest rates, decline in domestic demand, and a weak Kshs to the USD which will slow international trade, make imports more expensive and reduce demand for Kenyan goods. But the agricultural sector is expected to rebound.

My two-cents: This ties in for me with what the Africa Pulse report insights, and the global economic context we are in this year – and perhaps for a while longer. Recovery and building resilience will require sustainable development thinking and practice in our economy.  

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