What's in store for the East Africa region following FfD discussions?

The world’s governments are currently negotiating a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the period 2015–2030 following the success of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which ran from 2000–2015. The MDGs focused on reducing extreme poverty, hunger and preventable disease. The SDGs will continue the fight against extreme poverty but will add the challenges of ensuring more equitable economic growth and environmental sustainability, especially the key goal of curbing the dangers of human-induced climate change.

Development Initiatives (DI)’s Africa Hub partnered with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES-Kenya) and United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) to organise a 2-day engagement to discuss the outcomes from Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) held Addis Ababa and what this means going forward for the East Africa region. The workshop took place on the 30–31 July 2015.

The meeting brought together stakeholders from the East Africa region to discuss the following questions:

  1. How can the global discussions (SDGs, FfD, trade and climate change) feed into the regional and national policy making processes?
  2. How will the global agreements and commitments be financed? And how will the required resources be generated to finance these agreements and commitments?
  3. What are the data and information needs of stakeholders to inform policy and resource questions in view of these global agreements and commitments? How does the concept of the Data Revolution help policy makers meet their agreements on pursuing the SDGs?

In the East Africa Chronic Poverty Report to be published by DI, it is estimated that 25 million people are in long-term poverty in the region. The report concludes that East Africa has a very high number of people trapped in extreme and chronic poverty. This presents a major challenge to the region’s growth and development progress.

While reflecting on the outcomes of the Addis Ababa conference, the vice president of the Association of German Development NGOs (Venro) Professor Christa Plath noted that a lot more should be done than just polices being formulated. “A major challenge that we are facing is that we have global policies but no global framework for implementing development. Ultimately, we are living in a world of global irresponsibility” she said.

“As a region, we must strive to ensure that growth is sustainable, inclusive and equitable all at the same time, and this may pose some challenges” – Mr. Charles Lwanga-Ntale, Regional Director for DI Africa Hub.

The East African context

Different countries in the East Africa region struggle with the same issues only different in scale and context. Some of the crosscutting challenges as well as opportunities are elaborated on below:

1. Ownership of projects and development

There is a sense of disconnect between the national and subnational levels of administration. The subnational levels of government and communities are viewing the MDGs and SDGs as national government programmes. In some cases communities are yet to understand how the actualisation of the development goals would impact on their lives.

For the SDGs to be realised, there is a need for ownership of the projects at the national and subnational levels. Governments in the East Africa region need to find strategies of sensitising the citizens and having them own the processes of realising the SDGs in Africa.

2. Governance

The role of politics in the actualisation of development goals cannot be a neglected. The low trust issues that have troubled political institutions in East Africa and Africa at large need to be addressed to realise progress.

“It is critical for us to find ways to make political and government institutions high-trust institutions because, if we don’t, it will be impossible to use their resources adequately, effectively responsibly and with integrity” – Hon.  Zein Abubakar, Member of Parliament, East Africa Legislative Assembly.

3. Planning/visioning processes (aligning global agreements to national and subnational processes and instruments)

There have been planning and visioning processes[1] by countries in the region. We must bring all the visions of the various countries to speak to each other. We must harmonise and integrate these visions so as to achieve their goals collectively as a region.

 “We must bring all these visions of different countries to speak to one another to achieve development together as a region” – Hon.  Zein Abubakar, Member of Parliament, East Africa Legislative Assembly.

4. Data Revolution

Data should be prioritised by countries in the East Africa region when planning. The Data Revolution needs to move from talking about it to actioning it in terms of quality, accessibility and use of data and how we can create frameworks at subnational, national, regional and continental levels. Data should not only be used for monitoring what we have done but also to plan for what we have not done.

“The Data Revolution does not only speak of putting data in the hands of people, and using data not just for monitoring what we have done as we have done in the past, but also on how can we use data to plan for what we do not have.” – Crystal Simioni , Programme Development Manager at HIVOS.

Another feature of the plan for the SDGs (as distinct from the MDGs) is the grouping of peace and security issues under the development banner. The reason is that conflict impacts whether countries advance in their development or not. For Africa, putting peace and security into the SDGs directs attention to conflict-preventing factors such as equity, inclusiveness and rule of law.

Further climate change is an emerging issue that the SDGs must address. International development agencies and green groups believe that delivering sustainable development and tackling climate change go hand in hand.

In their current form, the SDGs are more focused on building productive capacity and give more weight to economic and environmental factors, which are also key features of the ‘Common African Position (CAP) on the post-2015 development agenda’. The CAP was the consensus of African leaders, civil society and the private sector.

Where do we go from here?

DI believes there a number of steps that should be put in place in order to deliver on the SDGs to be adopted this September. We continue to work with partners to enhance their capacity to collect, understand and use data. We strive to lead in analysis and understanding what it would take to mobilise and raise resources and how all resources will contribute in achieving the SDGs.

Some of the initiatives that we have been undertaking are to lead in the realisation of a data revolution in East Africa to aid in planning and resource allocations.


[1] Kenya vision 2030 and Uganda Vision 2040