The Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union’s Agenda 2063: A comparative analysis

Photo: UNDP

Two years ago, while Member States in the Open Working Group began to define the recently adopted universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Africa had already set its priorities for the next half a century.

At the African Union (AU) Summit in May 2013, Heads of State and Government in their 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration, laid down a vision for the Africa they want to see in the next half a century. The vision later became Agenda 2063, which aims for a peaceful, integrated and prosperous continent by 2063 and is “an endogenous plan for transformation.”

Another decision of the AU Summit was to set up a High-Level Committee, tasked with developing a Common African Position to inform African Member States in the Open Working Group and negotiations on the upcoming post-2015 development agenda. 

This past September, world leaders signed up to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, of which the 17 SDGs are central, and which aims to address the three interconnected elements of sustainable development: economic growth, social development and environmental sustainability. 

In paragraph 42, UN Member States specified that they ‘[…] reaffirm the importance of supporting the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the programme of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), all of which are integral to the new Agenda’.

But what does this really mean? And how are countries to ‘domesticate’ both the SDGs and Agenda 2063 into their national development plans? 

To answer these questions, UNDP’s Regional Service Center for Africa has summarized an analysis of how the two agendas relate to each other, and has considered the implications, challenges and opportunities for their domestication processes.

UN Member States’ (including African Member States) affirmation that Africa’s Agenda 2063 is integral to the universal agenda indicates that while the continental agenda articulates Africa’s specific aspirations and responds to the continent’s specific development challenges, its implementation is also guided by the spirit and principles of the global Agenda 2030.

Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda broadly converge on social development (people), inclusive economic development (prosperity), on peaceful and inclusive societies and responsive institutions (peace), and on a number of environmental sustainability issues (planet).

However, there are also areas of divergence: SDG areas that are not, or are only marginally covered by Agenda 2063 include inequality within and between countries, and issues related to the sustainable management of terrestrial ecosystems, forests, desertification, land degradation and biodiversity. Sustainable consumption and production is also not part of the continental agenda.

Agenda 2063 areas of focus which are less central to the 2030 Agenda relate to the AU’s pan-African drive, African cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics; the African Renaissance; and the strong focus on the security agenda, including the common defense, foreign and security policy for the continent. The SDGs, on the other hand, reference culture’s contribution to sustainable development.

In addition, majority of the Agenda 2063 flagship projects focus on transport and ICT infrastructure and economic growth, indicating a drive for accelerated growth and economic structural transformation.

Against this backdrop, African countries and their development partners face both challenges and opportunities, especially as governments decide on their priorities. 

Domesticating only the areas of convergence would exclude a large part of the environmental sustainability agenda, equality and sustainable consumption and production. 

To meet their commitments on the SDGs, however, countries that have already embarked on Agenda 2063 implementation would need to revisit their national development plans to include additional dimensions from the 2030 Agenda. 

Agenda 2063 also calls for self-reliance. While the 2030 Agenda recognizes that Official Development Assistance remains a critical catalyst for development, particularly for Africa, Agenda 2063 has a robust focus on domestic resource mobilization. This opens tremendous opportunities to combat illicit financial flows, strengthen tax administration, harness remittances for sustainable development and similar initiatives, areas in which UNDP and other development partners continue to support. 

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