University of the Western Cape: UWC and the Department of Science and Innovation host inaugural SDG Indaba

He said it doesn’t make sense that the continent has significant proportions of primary commodities yet has high numbers of people living under the poverty line.

On Monday, Dr Odusola, a development expert, delivered the keynote address at the inaugural Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Indaba, titled Agenda 2030 a Paradigm Shift to Agenda 2063, a Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue. It was hosted by the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in conjunction with the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI).

In 2015 the United Nations Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”. There are 17 SDGs ranging from ending poverty to addressing climate change.

“Africa has what it takes to shape the landscape of global development but it doesn’t know how to use it. I know and I mean it when I say this – Africa has no place to be a continent that houses a very large number of people living below the poverty line. It’s not possible,” explained Dr Odusola (pictured).

For instance, he said the Democratic Republic of Congo controls 57% of the global reserves of cobalt but is highly destabilised and not in control of its commodity. South Africa has about 69% of platinum, and Africa has about 45% of global diamond reserves, but they don’t control the prices of diamonds anywhere. “This shows that Africa has no business in having impoverished people.”

According to Dr Odusola, to realise the African Union (AU) aspirations of structural economic transformation, African countries need to move from depending on primary commodities to adding value to those commodities. “Africa must stop being an export of primary commodities because wherever you export to is where the jobs are being created. I see no reason why South Africa is not exporting fertilizer to all 54 African countries.”

Dr Odusola called on strong collaborations between the government, private sector, civil society, academia, and communities to achieve the country’s National Development Plan, the AU’s Agenda 2063 and the UN’s SDGs.

When UWC Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Pretorius, took the podium, he expressed that the indaba came at a vital time.

“We face profound uncertainty globally: economic turmoil, political polarisation, stark inequality, and climate crisis. We need to find answers to these deep-seated challenges and we need a long-term commitment and a real sense of determination to make this world a better place for all who live in it, and to live behind a better world for our children, grand-children and great grandchildren.”

In his welcome address, Prof Pretorius (pcitured) said UWC strongly connects with the SDGs as they guide research activities while the university is cultivating a socially responsive, people-centred approach through education and critical engagement.

According to Prof Pretorius, UWC has entered into partnerships with various stakeholders to address challenges for a long time. One of them was the Zenzeleni Project, a collaboration with the former Department of Science and Technology to reimagine how telephone and internet services could be provided to rural South Africans by rural South Africans.

“Through this project, the community took responsibility for their telecommunication and reduced the cost considerably. The impact was that the community was empowered, and we made a difference in the lives of rural communities.”

Dr Phil Mjwara, DSI Director General, said SDGs have shaped policies and the extent to which they are implemented to address the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality that continue to bedevil our country.

In his video message, he reminded the delegates that the White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) was adopted in 2019 to facilitate inclusive and sustainable development. Economic growth and job creation are essential to implement other goals, and there is a need to harness scientific knowledge to assist in translating the targets associated with the SDGs into national policies and evaluate their impact.

“Accordingly, implementing the SDGs coupled with the other programmes requires that, as a government, we must be able to work with a diverse set of actors across policy domains, levels of governance and timeframes. It also requires strong and effective institutional arrangements to increase policy coherence by facilitating cross-sectoral integration,” Dr Mjwara said.

Professor José Frantz, UWC Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, said the challenges to achieving SDGs and Agenda 2063 were complex and needed collaborative work.

She presented various projects undertaken by the university to achieve the goals set by the UN and the AU.

“We do tick all the boxes but are we doing enough? We are doing what we are supposed to be doing, but can we do better? UWC is here to be part of the conversation to be able to find solutions. UWC has a lot to offer because we have been doing it for years. But moving forward, I want to challenge each of us to ask: ‘What contribution am I going to make to find the solutions?’,” she said. She also challenged the audience with: “One problem, two solutions”. Thus highlighting that when identifying a problem one should be solutions based and find ways to address the problem.

Several panel discussions on different topics were held at the indaba, such as SDGs as Policy Imperatives, chaired by DSI’s Chief Director of Multilateral Cooperation and Africa, Mmampei Chaba; The Africa we Want Agenda 2063 by UWC’s Prof Ruth Hall; and the Role of Higher Education in Driving the SDGs by Dr Ana Casanueva from UWC. In addition, a panel on the Importance of Partnerships was chaired by Director of the UWC International Relations Office, Mr Umesh Bawa.

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