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Implement SDGs for economic development

Rodney Ndamba
THE Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated the significance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for many countries in Africa. The pandemic diverted the attention of SDGs implementation in African countries to Covid-19 response.

It is very unfortunate that many countries in Africa had not taken lessons of the Ebola outbreak seriously to prepare for future pandemics. With economic rebound emerging, countries that had been making progress on SDGs implementation could be better positioned.

According to the SDG Report 2021, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) falls by 40% due to lockdowns, reassessment of new projects and investment restrictions (UN, 2021).

Further, international private sector investment flows to developing and transitioning economies in sectors relevant to SDGs fell about one third in 2020 (UN 2021). Most of those affected were in Africa due to developmental and uncertainty about investment policies and economic environment.

While the Covid-19 cases have been slowing down, how well prepared is Zimbabwe for a new world order of green economy driven by climate change, SDGs and corporate sustainability.

Further, how prepared is the private and public sector for strong sustainable business practices and corporate governance that meets expectations of international investors. In addition, will the existing infrastructure and economic systems provide the competitive edge that quality FDI looks for? It is no secret that ‘Green Economy’ is now the new world order for emerging and competitive economies.

Therefore, this article unpacks the relationship between sustainable development goals and economic development. The 17 SDGs can be categorised into economic, environmental, social and governance SDGs.

Economic development
Sustainable economic development inspires responsible economic planning and growth that foster decent jobs, preserve the environment, quality of life, infrastructure, social development and sustainable management of natural resources. The following SDGs anchors economic development:

SDG7 — Affordable and clean energy.

SDG 8 — Decent work and economic growth.

SDG 9 — Industry, innovation and infrastructure.

While Zimbabwe offers vast economic opportunities, confronting the reality of actions required for meaningful sustainable development takes strong institutions.

In this regard, SDG17 — Peace, justice and strong Institutions and SDG17 — Partnership for the goals becomes strategic for Government. The partnership between Government and the private sector for economic development cannot be ignored.

According to data, Sub-Saharan Africa was the least with 33% of its population accessing basic electricity between 2010 and 2019 (SDG Report 2021). At this level, no meaningful economic development can be realised without strong actions, policies and prioritisation.

The biggest asset for economic development is a country’s natural environment and resources.

As such, environmental issues cannot be treated in isolation of economic activities. A mismanagement can trigger misfortunes on both ends.

Environmental stewardship
The natural environment is the biggest capital for economic development by any country.

Therefore, poor management of the environment can impact economic development negatively.  Foreign and international investors that African countries seek to attract now prioritise the ability to provide water, clean environment and amenities for their businesses to operate.

In Zimbabwe, major cities could become uninvestable due to water problems with many wetlands destroyed through unplanned settlement. Therefore, following SDGs are a reminder:

SDG6 — Clean water and sanitation

SDG12 — Responsible consumption and production

SDG13 — Climate action

SDG14 — Life below water

SDG15 — Life on Land

It is a fact that nature is a critical asset for economic development. For example, agro-economies like Zimbabwe have potential to suffer crop failure due to negative effects on biodiversity and land.

Currently, effects of wetlands destruction are being felt in major cities in Zimbabwe.

At the same time, the threat of over-extraction of water through boreholes is building up. Many cities have unplanned settlements on wetlands, which are affecting life on land as well as polluting dams and water sources.

COP26 reminded that climate action will be a defining moment for economic development. Now, available international capital for economic development is being tied to climate change to foster actions by both businesses and government.

Therefore, economic development cannot be isolated of environmental stewardship. Consequently, nature has the capacity to fight back and deliver significant blows to economic activities through extreme weather such as cyclone.

Social development
The society plays a critical factor in economic development and competitiveness. Evidence from the Global Happiness Index shows that countries with happy nationals tend to be more productive hence their economies developing compared to poor economies. In this regard, the following SDGs are a reminder to social development:

SDG1 — No Poverty,

SDG2 — Zero hunger,

SDG3 — Good health and well-being,

SDG4 — Quality education,

SDG11 — Sustainable cities and communities.

It is evident that countries that have made friendship with poverty have remained economically poor and uncompetitive. Many of the countries in Africa struggling with social development due to poor actions on the above SDGs have become characterised by conflicts, corruption, crime, illicit activities, medieval diseases and poverty.

Consequentially, poverty is a big business and opportunity for others. In most cases, countries struggling with social development tend to provide evidence of SDG16 — Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions failings.

Achieving economic development, environmental stewardship and social development is dependent on governance. The ability of a country to uphold its laws, constitution and policies is a defining factor for success and failure. The following SDGs relates to governance:

SDG5 — Gender equity,

SDG10 — Reduce inequalities,

SDG16 — Peace, justice and strong institutions,

SDG17 — Partnership for the goals.

Evidence has shown that no country has developed without legitimate peace, justice and strong institutions. To date, peace has become a stumbling block for economic development in Africa.

Conflicts, wars, corruption and illicit activities in Africa have been evidence of weak institutions failing to deliver social and economic justice.

It is a fact that governments cannot achieve economic development and competitiveness without partnering with the private sector.

There is a saying which says, ‘if you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to go far, go with others’.

Therefore, partnerships between public and private sector in providing health care, quality education, economic opportunities and social amenities is a progressive strategy that enhances trust and accountability.

Some countries have made milestones in advancing policies on corporate sustainability or sustainability reporting using the Global Reporting Initiatives (GRI) Standards as a partnership strategy for implementing SDGs with the private sector.

In Zimbabwe, these are covered in SI.134 of 2019 Securities and Exchange (Zimbabwe Stock Exchange Listing Requirements) Rule and the Public Entities Corporate Governance Act (10:31).  However, progress is still gathering pace.

In conclusion, Zimbabwe’s progress in implementing the SDGs will define its economic development and competitiveness to attract quality investors. The country has great potential to utilise its mining sector for implementing the SDG as encouraged by the Africa Mining Vision.

For example, taxes from platinum and gold could be ring-fenced to support health, education and infrastructure development.

Taxes from sectors, such as, tourism, manufacturing, finance, agriculture and services could be used for public sector administration.

The latter is productivity-driven, hence requiring strong public institutions to foster efficiency and maximum value creation.

As countries move into economic recovery and rebound, it is fundamental that policies and strategies are tied to sustainable development goals implementation by both public and private sectors in Zimbabwe for economic development and competitiveness.

  • Ndamba is the chief executive of the Institute for Sustainability Africa, an independent think tank and research institute “advancing sustainability initiatives for Africa”. These weekly New Perspectives articles published in the Zimbabwe Independent are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past president of the Chartered Governance & Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe (CGI Zimbabwe). — kadenge.zes@gmail.com or mobile: +263 772 382 852.

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