30 Jan 2017

In Conversation with Stephen Machua

Progress, Challenges and the Future of Development in Africa

On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate the implementation of SDGs in Africa?
I would give it a 4.

What are the reasons for the rating above?
Most organizations and governments are aware of the existence of sustainable development goals but few have done strategic program alignments to achieve SDGs. Further, there is little funding or partnerships available to achieve the SDGs. This may be summarized as Limited Training and Funding capacities.

How well versed are young people with SDGs one year down the line?
Awareness efforts seem to be bearing fruits, for the first time we are seeing increased youth participation in high decision making bodies for example the UNCTAD Youth Forum and the ongoing ECOSOC Youth Forum. As I always say, participation is one thing and meaningful engagement is another, the latter ought to be given more attention for long lasting impact.

Have youth been actively engaged and supported in the process of implementing SDGs?
Stephen Machua
At the global policy level, yes, the spaces are gradually opening up. However, we have a problem at country level. Most of the engagements have had the rhetoric of leaving youth to develop programs and allowing top decision makers to run away with the much needed financial resources. For meaningful engagement and youth support, we cannot underscore the importance of accountability and integrity.

Do we have political willpower in African countries for SDGs to thrive?
I would say yes and no.
Yes, because there are policy papers every now and then that project the aspirations of nations in the implementation of SDGs.
No, because the implementation phase has not seen the light of the day often occasioned by budget constraints.

Have we moved SDGs from mere goals on paper to actual projects on the ground?
In some quotas, there are real projects. A good example is the multibillion Wind Power project that is being developed by the Kenyan government. This will not only see the provision of clean energy to millions of Kenyans but also create the much needed decent jobs under SDG 8 and play a role in reduction of poverty as enshrined in goal 1.

Do we have coordinated efforts towards the realization of SDGs by CSOs in Africa?
There are umbrella bodies that came to life a few months before the birth of SDGs in September 2015. Most of these bodies were deliberate efforts to unite and coordinate the voice of CSOs in Africa on SDGs matters. Their energy seems to have gone down over time. Efforts from individual organizations is what will make achievement of SDGs a success, however efforts from collective bodies and forums will make SDGs have a long lasting impact in most parts of Africa.

Which areas need more focus for effective implementation of SDGs?
Poverty of the Mind and Action is still a big thing in Africa! We cannot keep on relying on other continents to manufacture products for us using our own raw materials and develop future leaders for us using our own developed young leaders. It’s time to focus on what works for Africa. A focus on domestic solutions for domestic challenges would be a sure bet for implementation of SDGs and not overlooking the importance of partnerships for development in the increasingly globalized world. 

What does the future of SDGs and youth-led development in Africa look like?
The impact of SDGs can revolutionize the way Africa looks today. Youth-led development is essential in this owing to the fact that the risk of climate change and decreasing natural resources like water will be well faced by their generation. It is time for governments and organizations to make efforts towards ensuring optimal engagement of youth in their day to day activities on the road to 2030.

Stephen Machua is a social entrepreneur and youth advocate with wide experience in volunteerism, digital media and youth policy interventions. You can follow his work via @StephenMachua and @AfromMedia.

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