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Fall 2016 Seminar Series Theme

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): A Path to Inclusive, Sustainable, and Resilient Development

As the publication Finance and Development (June 2016) has observed, strong performance by many African economies over the past two decades has led some commentators to coin the term “Africa Rising” to describe the region’s surging economic power. The term graced the cover of the December 2012 issue of Time magazine, an issue that chronicled the region’s decades’ long journey from economic anemia to impressive vigor. Beginning in the mid-1990s, many—but certainly not all—countries in sub-Saharan Africa energized their economies, achieving in recent years some of the world’s highest growth rates. Living standards improved as a result, as did health care and other key services, inspiring hope for a bright future.


The past year has been harsh, however, as the region suffered a sharp slowdown, owing to slumping commodity prices and softer global economic conditions. Drought has struck in some countries. And China, now a major trading partner for Africa, is slowing down as it retools its economy, sparking fears of further weakening. A wave of pessimism is taking hold, prompting some to wonder if the “Africa Rising” story has come to an end. This downturn in Africa’s fortunes coincides with the launch by world leaders of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as outlined in a September 2015 UN Resolution.[1] These new goals, which build on the recently ended Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and a broader sustainability agenda, go well beyond the MDGs to address the root causes of poverty and the universal need for development that works for all people.


This fall we propose to examine the question of whether the goals shift Africa onto a path of inclusive, sustainable, and resilient development. Do the SDGs encapsulate an agenda that will end poverty by 2030 and promote prosperity and well-being while protecting the environment? What strategies are appropriate to make this vision a reality?


We approach these issues at an interesting time. While in the latter part of the 20th century one could argue that powerful Euro-American institutions constructed hegemonic discourses about Africa’s problems, today this hegemony has been fractured by a series of processes—such as social differentiation in African countries, movements of people and ideas across the continent, greater economic linkages across and beyond the continent, and a shifting global order—that have only intensified over the course of the twentieth century. It is hoped that these new movements, in a framework of good governance and an educated populace, may lead to a revitalization of the continent.


The complex and multidimensional issue of sustainable development in its broadest sense is at the core of this theme. The introduction raises a number of issues. What are the best strategies for achieving sustainable development? What are the critical elements that will foster poverty reduction, gender equality and empowerment of women, access to water and sanitation, mitigation of climate change, access to sustainable energy, and promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies? What challenges must be met to develop a strategy that supports effective and coherent implementation of the new sustainable development agenda? How do we form national institutions and governing bodies that support growth rather than becoming instruments of control and oppression?


These and similar issues need to be addressed if the SDGs are to play an important role in poverty reduction. The Institute for African Development welcomes your participation in the debate.


We will look at a number of issues:


  • Strategies for attainment of the 17 SDGs;
  • Sustainable development, democratic governance, and peace building;
  • Strengthening of governance institutions;
  • Addressing climate change and resilience;
  • Addressing inequality and poverty alleviation;
  • The role of global institutions in supporting governments to reflect the new global agenda;
  • Meeting the challenges of slashing poverty, hunger, disease, and gender inequality;
  • Addressing access to water and sanitation;
  • Emerging actors in African Development—India, China, and South Korea
  • From commodities to manufacturing: challenges in diversification of African economies;
  • Digital technologies and increased access to financing;
  • Natural resources and the transformation of African economies and societies;
  • Natural resources and broader economic and social development;
  • Financing African development;
  • Migration and the refugee problem;
  • Agriculture and the development of agro-allied industries;
  • Development and investment partners as related to food production in Africa;
  • The energy deficit and development.


IAD hopes that this theme will allow participants to discuss the relevant issues, consider policies that lead to the reduction of poverty and improved livelihoods, and identify strategies for promoting attainment of the SDGs in Africa.


[1] The Goals are contained in paragraph 54 UN Resolution A/RES/70/1 of 25 September 2015.