It’s been nearly three years since the United Nations launched its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to provide a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.” At its heart are 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, which aim to engage all countries in eradicating poverty while protecting the planet. With goals ranging from ending hunger to supplying everyone with electricity to protecting land and water biospheres and responding to climate change, the broadranging goals, along with the 169 targets and 228 indicators that define them, lay out an ambitious agenda for change between 2016 and 2030. The SDGs are explicitly designed to recognize the interconnectedness of the many development and sustainability challenges faced in countries around the globe, as well as the complexity of the responses that are required.
One of the obvious challenges presented by the SDG framework is where to begin. Given this intricate web of goals, targets, and indicators, how can individual countries, national and international organizations, and others interested in promoting sustainable development prioritize and translate the agenda into a plan of action? As always, Afrobarometer argues that one critical place to start is to ask the people.
Afrobarometer has long captured data on popular priorities, identifying the issues people would most like to see their governments address. These open-ended responses that allow respondents to identify any problem they choose can be mapped onto the SDGs, offering insight into how Africans prioritize these many goals, especially in contexts of more or less need, more or less development, and more or less democracy.
The findings presented here reveal a paradox: The highest priority sectors and the highest performance sectors rarely match up. Although priorities vary across individuals and across countries, especially in response to levels of poverty and overall development, jobs and economic growth are the dominant concern in most countries and across all income levels. Yet these are two areas in which most governments get some of their poorest performance ratings. Achieving greater effectiveness in these sectors may be key to SDG success for many African governments.
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