Sustainable development goal number 8, a multidimensional goal that lies at the heart of the global 2030 Agenda, is under spotlight at the ongoing high level political forum on sustainable development (HLPF) that is underway in New York.
Speaking in a Workers and Trade Unions Major Group side event at the Forum, Oliver Chinganya, Director of the Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA) African Centre for Statistics, said success on SDG8 can not only help achieve a number of other SDGs, but also promote inclusive and sustainable development and make a tangible contribution to improving peoples’ lives and well-being.
SDG8 seeks to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
Mr. Chinganya, who is also Officer in Charge of the Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources Management Division at the ECA, said inclusive and sustainable economic growth can drive progress and generate the means to implement the SDGS.
However, he added, though the production of social and economic statistics in Africa has improved over the past 20 years, many countries still lacked the statistical capacity to collect, manage, and report on the SDGs in general, in particular labour market data and statistics, making it difficult to monitor progress.
“Even where data exists, much is outdated, or incomparable across countries. The lack of comparable surveys is largely due to different survey timelines, which make it difficult to measure trends and compare nations,” said Mr. Chinganya.
To address these challenges, he said, the ECA, in collaboration with the African Union Commission (AUC), is working to improve labour market information systems in member States as part of building requisite capacity for collection, analysis and dissemination of data to support credible policymaking in Africa.
There is opportunity and scope to strengthen South-South partnerships by promoting regional cooperation in terms of enhancing statistical capacity, said Mr. Chinganya.
Looking ahead, he said new potentials for enhancing productive employment were emerging in Africa.
“Deepening regional integration through the new African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) can boost Africa’s GDP by 1 percent and total employment by 1.2 percent. According to our research, small and medium sized enterprises, accounting for 80 percent of the region’s businesses; women, who represent 70 percent of the informal cross-border traders and the youth, will be able to find new employment opportunities and be among the key beneficiaries of the agreement,” Mr. Chinganya said.
ECA estimates that the AfCFTA has the potential to boost intra-African trade by 52.3 percent by eliminating import duties, which can double if non-tariff barriers are also reduced and have concomitant impact on creating employment.
For Africa with a population dominated by young people – nearly 20 per cent of continent’s total population is in the 15-24 age bracket – there needs to be greater emphasis on upgrading skills through technical and vocation education.
“Its structure should be aligned with labour market requirements. It could be done by increasing the involvement of the private sector in matching skill profile demand. The scaling up of Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) across all educational levels is a must,” added Mr. Chinganya.
“Young people are neither idle nor helpless in transforming their socio-economic predicament, they are key actors and leaders in numerous initiatives. It is therefore critical to involve and engage them in policy processes.”
He said youth financing models such as the Kenya Youth Enterprise Development Fund which support entrepreneurship and encourage formalization of SMEs contribute immensely to employment prospects of Africa’s young people.
Doing business reforms aimed at simplifying and streamlining the doing business environment, especially the regulatory framework, is therefore key to unlocking the potential of the private sector to create employment opportunities.
“We have a lot to learn from each other’s experiences and it is imperative that we work together to achieve SDG8,” he told stakeholders attending the meeting.
The meeting of the high-level political forum on sustainable development, convened under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council, is being held under the theme; “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”.