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Partnerships: Impacting Africa beyond COVID-19 pandemic to achieve SDGs

When the United Nations (UN) adopted the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) in 2015, it did not prefigure that a devastating COVID-19 pandemic will emerge few years later to become a clog in the wheel of global development.

Achim Steiner
UNDP Administrator, Mr. Achim Steiner

The UN adopted 17 SDGs as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the 17 SDGs are integrated— they recognise that action in one area will affect outcomes in others, and that development must balance social, economic and environmental sustainability.

UNDP says that countries have committed to prioritise progress for those who’re furthest behind.

It believes that the SDGs, if well implemented, are designed to end poverty, hunger, AIDS, and discrimination against women and girls.

“The creativity, knowhow, technology and financial resources from all of society is necessary to achieve the SDGs in every context,” UNDP says.

Barely five years into the SDGs, the global community is hit by the pandemic, reversing the progress made globally.

Consequently, few people who managed to be pulled out of poverty in Africa have been put back into poverty.

The SDG No. 17 talks about partnerships, urging international cooperation from countries, continents, regional bodies to partner to ensure that the SDGs are met by 2030

It is for this reason that Sterling One Foundation initiated the African Social Impact Summit (ASIS) to gather worthy partners to deliberate on how to bring back Africa on the trajectory of global development.

The summit, which is the brain child of Sterling One Foundation, will focus on ”Rethink, Rebuild, Recover: Accelerating Growth for the SDGS.”

Speaking on the summit, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sterling One Foundation, Mrs Olapeju Ibekwe, says that ASIS is a timely initiative and is a global convening of big public, private, and the third sectors for us to discuss how we can be viewed from what the pandemic has done for us.

Ibekwe says that the foundation and its partners will leverage the summit to ensure growth is accelerated towards the achievement of the SDGs across the continent and especially in Nigeria, as the largest economy in Africa.

“We are going to be having not just panel discussions on critical sectors including health, education, climate action, gender equality, gender empowerment, and also youth development.

“We are also going to be having a deal room because we intend to attract impact, investors’ actual money into excellent scalable solutions that address these critical issues from access to health care, access to education quality and to drive inclusion.

The CEO says the foundation is not working alone on this project, but its relying on SDG 17 to work with partners to ensure that the outcome of the summit is impactful and sustainable.

According to her, one of the major partners in the project is Sterling Bank.

She says that a two-day hybrid event, holding on July 13 and 14, 2022 in Abuja, is being executed in partnership with the United Nations Global Compact, Coca Cola Foundation, Impact Investors Foundation, VFD Group PLC and Sterling Bank.

She says that the summit is expected to bring together thousands of players working within the African development sector with a view to attracting impact investments into critical sectors across the continent.

Also speaking on the summit, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sterling Bank, Mr Abubakar Suleiman, says one of the efficient ways of putting an end to hunger is to create rural prosperity.

Suleiman says that hunger is a critical part of the SDGs, which demands commitment from partners if we are to put an end to it.

“But you’re not going to end hunger by supplying food to the poor.

“Alleviating poverty is not how you end hunger.

“You actually have to create prosperity. And specifically, you have to create rural prosperity, so that the people who are directly involved in agriculture becomes a lot more productive,” Suleiman says.

For Chukwuebuka Emebinah, a representative of Impact Investors Foundation (IIF), one of the partners in the summit, the foundation is glad to be part of the ASIS conference.

Emebinah says that IEF is excited working with Sterling banks and Sterling One Foundation in achieving a goal of an African continent which is fully adapted to the SDGs.

“So, we have talked about the SDG 17, which is all about partnership for the goals, and we are happy to be partners towards achieving the objective of this assistive service,” Emebinah says.

He says Africa as a continent continues to grapple with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ravaging effect of climate challenge.

According to him, the impact of the war in Ukraine on food and fuel prices continues to affect Africa as a continent.

“We at the Impact Investors Foundation are happy to support entrepreneurship in all its goals.

“We have a focus on agriculture, health care and also the education sector. And of course, all of these will be thought through renewable energy sources and also climate friendly food processes,” Emebinah says

Mrs Amaka Onyemelukwe, Director, Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability at the Coca Cola Company, says that the company is delighted to be part of the summit.

Onyemelukwe says that the Coca Cola Company is very clear in achieving the SDGs, which has to be run on collective impacts.

“So we believe in partnerships, I think our SDG 17 is portrayed as digital because for everything we do, we believe in doing it as a collective action.

“We recognise that we don’t have strengths in all the areas, and there is the need to come together to pull our resources together so that we can achieve the type of impacts that we need to be able to build sustainable communities.

“Our mission as a company is very clear; refresh the world, make a difference.

“And I think on the refresh the world part, we are undisputed beverage company, providing beverages  for over 136 years now,”Onyemelukwe says.

She says that the company also believes “that for us to continue to be sustainable, the communities where we live and work have to also be sustainable; and that is a driving force for everywhere we operate”.

In her contribution, Soromidayo George, Chairman, United Nations Global Compact Network, Nigeria, says that there is the need to take care of the communities we live and work.

George says that the onus is also on us to see that we work to prosper the people living in those communities.

According to her, there is increasing rate of poverty all around us emanating from the COVID –19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

“We cannot fold our hand in the face of all these. That is why we must rise to the challenge of helping the communities we live and work.

“”This is why we are such a strategic partner in this summit,” George says.

She says that the UN Global Compact is the world’s largest collection of private businesses that drive sustainability.

“Across the world, it is the private sector arm of the United Nations. And we are driving the SDGs and trying to get companies to embed the SDGs within their businesses.

“We have a vast array of resources and tools to build the right kind of capabilities within businesses and we’ve been doing that.

Another partner, Efeturi Doghudje, Head of Marketing and Corporate Communications for VFD Group PLC, says the company is happy to join the summit as a partner.

Doghudje says that her group, sometime last year, made a critical decision to be part of the SDGs with focus on education and health.

“We are also proud to be coming to the table to discuss some of these things that affect the continent and even cascade down and affect our country as well.

“We are in the business of transforming lives.

“So what better way to do that than to partner with an initiative that will help to change the continent of Africa and the peoples in it,” Doghudje says.

In conclusion, the African Social Impact Summit, appears to make a statement on how African countries can leverage partnerships, relying on the mandate of the SDGs to end poverty and increase prosperity in the continent.

By Fabian Ekeruche

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