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The APRM continental workshop on Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) took place from the 21st to the 22nd of October 2019, in Kigali Rwanda and offered a platform for African Union member-states to share their experiences on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063 known as the ‘’Africa We want”. The workshop gathered senior national experts during two days and eight sessions and deliberated on cross-cutting issues in relation to the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of SDGs and Agenda 2063. These issues included 1) the VNR process: preparations and consultations at the national level: lessons learned from countries’ experiences in the context of the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) 2016-2019l; 2) institutional coherence for the SDGs and alignment with Agenda 2063; 3) means of implementation of SDGs; 4) monitoring and evaluation tools of SDGs & Agenda 2063; 5) the regional dimension of the implementation of Agenda 2063- the role of Regional Economic Communities (RECs) ; 6) Partnerships and financing gaps for the attainment of SDGs & Agenda 2063 ; 7) Preparations for the Africa Sustainable Development Forum and HLPF 2020. The workshop is a further step towards the formulation of contextualized strategies for sustainable socio-economic development.
The workshop was launched by opening speeches delivered by the Minister of Planning and Administrative Reforms of Egypt and the Minister of State in charge of Economic planning of Rwanda who both stressed the significant role of the APRM as a continental mechanism enhancing good governance and sharing African countries’ experiences and lessons learned to improve their economic conditions and offer sustainable development solutions.
The workshop was organized in collaboration with the SDGs Centre for Africa and attended by representatives from various organizations such as the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), RECs, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the African Development Bank (AfDB). It also brought more than 20 African countries together to share best national practices as well as highlight the challenges as regards the domestication and attainment of SDGs and Agenda 2063 aspirations, especially aspirations 3 and 4 which speak to good governance and peace and security in Africa. Furthermore, it provided insights and recommendations to the African countries slated to present their VNRs during the HLPF in 2020 in New York.
The countries represented at the workshop included Rwanda, Egypt, Chad, Uganda, Mauritania, Namibia, Mauritius, South Africa, and Niger. The workshop’s high attendance by several African countries is testament to the willingness and determination of Heads of State and Government to build a more prosperous and integrated continent. The presence of representatives from African institutions helped ensure technical guidance which takes into consideration African realities and challenges.
Although Africa’s development goals are similar, as contained in Agenda 2063, it is essential to note the disparities between individual countries on the continent on their quest for greater agency and the fulfillment of the ‘Africa we Want’. Regional trends emerged from the assessment of progress on SDGs while certain structural issues remain prevalent across the continent such as gender inequality, youth unemployment and limited socioeconomic benefits from rapid economic growth.
The workshop sessions included several interventions from the UN Resident Coordinator in Rwanda and other distinguished speakers from member-states, the SDGs Centre for Africa, the AUC, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the AfDB, OECD as well as RECs to reflect on and share insights into the mentioned issues. The meeting discussed matters such as the persistence of data gaps on the continent and associated effects on monitoring and evaluation frameworks as well as efforts being undertaken by various agencies to remedy the situation.
Notably the meeting explored the various resources available to the continent for the achievement of SDGS such as the mobilization of domestic savings towards investments rather than consumers’ credit which will require the restructuring of lending structures of banks on the continent. In addition, the meeting highlighted the possibility of leveraging the second-generation of African diaspora for increased efforts and expertise towards the development of innovations, new technologies and supporting national development in Africa. The significance of remittances was also noted as they provide financial resources which are comparable to Official Development Assistance (ODA) on the continent and will soon be making a greater contribution according to current trends and projections.
The meeting concluded with the highlighting of important regional and continental efforts such as UNECA’s Regional forums on Sustainable Development Goals which have been established in each of the five regions of the world. These form a part of the follow-up and review architecture of the 2030 Agenda mandated by the General Assembly towards facilitating global-national linkages and cross-border solutions to shared challenges. The continental perspective on the other hand focused on lessons learned from the VNR process of 2019 which included benefits gained by a number of participating countries. The countries’ feedback pointed out that the process mobilized partnerships, advanced national implementation of the SDGs and critical to inclusive processes; strengthened awareness of the Agenda 2030 SDGs.
In their closing remarks, Prof. Eddy Maloka, the CEO of APRM, and Dr. Belay Begashaw, Director of the SDGs Centre for Africa, agreed on the necessity of organizing a workshop on an annual basis with the support of the African Union and its member-states. Furthermore, some recommendations have been initiated by the South African government to establish an e-learning platform to align SDGs with Agenda 2063 and its best practices to ensure effective diffusion of information and knowledge with respect to the regional efforts exerted in pursuit of Agenda 2063 and assist countries in improving their national structures and actions for this purpose. ….