Globally, the 2019 COVID pandemic is one major setback most countries were saddled with, leaving a trail of lasting damage the world over. The impact of COVID-19 was felt in all sectors of the economy ranging from education, manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, tourism, and the list goes on. Whilst people got infected, some died due to complications and other medical challenges, others recovered from the disease. Generally, countries are still on the verge of total economic recovery; I would not say the same for the countries that make up the African Continent. The impact of COVID 19 as anticipated for African continents was devastating and this was based on the inclinations of poor medical facilities, equipment, research, infrastructure, governance, and personnel but in reality, this continent suffered less from the pandemic; the pandemic only amplified existing issues. Notwithstanding, productivity dropped due to the inability and halt on man hours and the high cost of doing business for an organization that applied the work-from-home scheme using technology. The aftermath of the pandemic for other continents has been Africa’s pre-COVID-19 concerns. These concerns such as high rates of poverty, huge debts, inequality, bad government, graduate unemployability, poor data analytics on climate change and global warming, and more. These issues were part of the 2015 millennial development goals which were not fully implemented. The acceleration for recovery via the 2030 agenda for sustainable development has become the focus for all concerned and the desire for every continent is to fully implement and actualize these goals.
This paper will discuss and recommend one policy to enhance partnerships and stakeholder engagement to accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. it will be ensuring full implementation and compliance of the agenda for sustainable development universally; accelerating the needed recovery from the pandemic as a globe.
The world has been through an unthinkable and unpleasant predicament in the past few years; from battling with the COVID-19 pandemic to its aftermath, Russia and Ukraine’s war, climate catastrophe, etc. The consequence of the past event has left most countries struggling with survival e.g., high rate of inflation, high-interest rate, high cost of living, currency depreciation, shortages in food production, low demand for crude, poor education, the high tariff on energy, shortages of fertilizer food crops, high and unreasonable standard for exportation of agricultural produce, deplorable states of schools, especially in the rural environment. The hardship cuts across boundaries, global recession, and advanced economies are slowing down. Nevertheless, it is a lot easier for developed nations to cope, systems are deliberately put in place to help citizens survive the era. The same cannot be spoken of in the African environment. The continent of Africa, especially Nigeria, suffers unspoken hardship, it is hard for families to feed, but this is not superficial as the view of Nigeria’s leadership battles corruption, stealing of public funds, borrowing from other nations/world banks, and mismanagement of borrowed funds. The Nigerian story is that of survival of the fittest, no measure is put in place to tackle the issues beclouding the nation. According to research carried out by United Nations Environment Program on Africa (UN Research, 2020), we are a continent filled with natural resources: 40% of the world’s gold, 90% of chromium and platinum, the largest reserves of cobalt, diamonds, uranium, 65% of the world’s arable land, 10% of planet’s internal renewable fresh water source, 30% mineral reserves, 8% natural gas, 12% oil reserves. Resources ranging from oil to precious ornament and food production.
The implementation of the 2015 millennial goals which are now sustainable development goals was barely attained in Nigeria.
The African continent suffered from the pandemic differently, as there were some underlining factors affecting economic growth in this region. Standing from the viewpoint of Nigeria, the pandemic was an amplifier of the underlining issues before the pandemic. Nigeria as a nation was battling recovery of gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 2.3% in 2019 coupled with the hike in oil prices from 2014. The low international oil market price further reduced the GDP to 2% by early 2020 with a debt profile that was of huge concern to policy-makers; an estimation of the debt service-to-revenue ratio became 60 percent and a further decline in income was generated from the low oil prices. The economic impact of the pandemic on the overall affair of Nigeria was not easy for policymakers to cope especially with economic and health-related instantaneous decisions. It, therefore, became imperative for everyone to ensure the survival rate of their race, nation, and continent with the increasing rate of recession.
COVID-19 was associated with low productivity, the deployment of man hours for activities, and farming was zero bases. The resultant impact, coupled with climate change was, and still is the reason for massive hunger and malnutrition. Very few persons could afford the purchase of food due to the hike in price, and currency depreciation increased debt levels for Nigeria. Internally, the rise in interest rates makes it even more difficult for citizens to survive and the inflation status remains a key factor to the problems heightened by COVID-19. The World Bank carried out research (2022) on the economic level of the world and the report states 70 million people of the world’s population are in living in abject poverty and this statistic is more from developing nations; Nigeria alone represents over 33% of the population from the study carried out. Presently, the poverty data shows that 53% of Nigerians live under the United Nations' estimation for poverty, especially in the rural areas of Nigeria. In the African continent, Nigeria ranks first place with the highest number of people living below the poverty line, then followed by the likes of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, and Angola (World Bank Report, 2022). The figures for economic growth for developing nations between 2023-2026 may likely be in the negative, leading to more borrowing in addition to existing debts. Although Nigeria’s economy is most likely to grow on an average of 3.2%, the growth projections are dependent on shortcomings such as the decline in oil production, a huge debt profile, and a high insecurity rate.
The COVID Era
Though the health impact of COVID-19 was not as severe as was anticipated and recorded when compared to the western climes, the African environment was not spared, yet the impact cannot be compared. Nigeria experienced the first case of COVID-19 in the first quarter of 2020, after which, diverse sprays of infection into August 2021. Health and safety measures were put in place e.g., restrictive movements, elimination of mass gatherings, bans on local and international travel, and closure of offices, markets, and schools. The impact of COVID-19 in Nigeria was more of economic concerns than health-related. Nigeria’s recession became obvious and more severe based on the fact that productivity and demand for petroleum products dropped. Inflation continued to heighten, the pandemic steered the troubled level of poverty; scarcity of food due to hikes in price, unemployment, loss of jobs and low purchasing power of consumers, depreciated currency, scarcity of foreign exchange, debt pressures and instability in the macro economy of the nation. Beyond the human impact, COVID-19 adversely affected businesses in general; low productivity halts sociocultural interaction and activities (Lawrence and Lawrence, 2021). Nevertheless, this dark era also recorded a technological upsurge, changing the narrative for most businesses. Upon leveraging technology, some businesses experienced growth while others struggled to survive the digital divide: virtual meetings, internet usage, remote working, and hybridization in some cases. Also, Lawrence and Lawrence (2021) research discovered that, though most businesses were negatively affected, micro-sized businesses were more successful than the small-sized business in terms of their abilities to retain customers, get necessary supplies and retain workers and eventually make a profit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Post-COVID-19 and Recovery
The pandemic era has ended, and the world is struggling to recover from the impact whilst seeking a way to move to the shores of normalcy. Nigeria is not left out of this struggle; her poverty rate is alarming thereby recording an increase in the population of people living in poverty from 53% as indicated in the pre-COVID-19 era to 85.2 million; shortage of food due to the flood in the major agricultural environment resulting to scarcity (World Bank report, 2022). Government measures to boost the economy are slow, although efforts have been put through loan acquisition from the international monetary fund (World Bank, 2022). The government aims to stabilize the financial system, depreciate the state of currency as against foreign exchange, access funds for the disadvantaged, boost economic growth via funding small and medium enterprises (SMEs), support local farmers for efficient production of domestic goods, rehabilitation of the health sector and systems. These objectives are yet to be implemented fully in Africa, precisely Nigeria. No doubt, the positive outcomes will certainly remain but our policies must be accommodating, giving room to unforeseen exigencies.
The way forward to recovering from COVID-19 will involve some of the following and more:
Better welfare policies
The COVID-19 pandemic threatened the ability of households’ income generation to meet the basic demands and consumption needs of homes. Humanitarian grants to non-government organizations should be considered as a way forward.
The production of food was a major area that experienced stagnancy. In Nigeria coupled with flood and banditry, planting and harvesting were almost impossible during the pandemic and even today. The government needs to ensure farmers are empowered with the necessary agricultural support and beyond this support, provide the safety of lives and properties.
Movement from an oil-dependent economy
Nigeria is a major oil-dependent economy and this has been the reason for mental incapacitation and inability to boost other segments to grow the economy. Nigeria is a key producer and exporter of agricultural produce; we must put more effort into other viable areas of building the economy rather than relying majorly on oil.
Improving digitization and acceleration in ICT
This is the fourth industrial revolution; the pandemic was a pointer to the significance of technology in all facets of the economy and business. For any nation to succeed in this dispensation, the role of information and communication technology cannot be overemphasized.
Inclusion is a widespread human right; an all-embracing right that is devoid of race, gender, or disability. The acceptance and adequate management of diversity are pivotal to recovery and building the economy. The marginalized, deprived, and neglected are a group of talented individuals and may have the key solution to rebuilding a nation. One way to rebuild is to carry everyone along, ensuring a sense of belonging is attained.
The Implementation Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals
Over 185 nations came together in agreement with the United Nations to make the world a better place and to improve the lives of the people in various countries by 2030 (UN report 2022). The measurable target of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to eradicate extreme poverty by adopting an inclusive fund approach with a focus on the excluded minorities. In the past, the achievement of these goals from the expiration of the millennial development goals to the inception of sustainable development goals has not been even. The drive presently is to build a sustainable environment that is socially inclusive for economic development appropriate for a global framework for 2030. The open working group of the United Nations in 2014 tendered a document highlighting 17 sustainable development goals for the approval of the General Assembly covering a span of 2015-2030. These goals are
l End poverty in all its forms everywhere,
l End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture,
l Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages,
l Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all,
l Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls,
l Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all,
l Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all,
l Promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all,
l Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation,
l Reduce inequality within and among countries,
l Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable,
l Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns,
l Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts,
l Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development,
l Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss,
l Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels and
l Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.
Accelerating the Implementation of Gender Equality
17 sustainable development goals are needing full implementation by 2030 but for this article, the recommended goal of the discussion is to enhance partnership and stakeholder engagement in the acceleration and implementation of goal 5 which is to achieve “Gender Equality”, empowering all women and girls. Over the years, the African continent has been more favorable to the male gender. Up until recently, women were considered mere statistics without economic value; until a family bears a male child, such a family does not exist before some cultural and religious setting. Most practiced religions in Africa, view religion from the perspective of gender bias, some religious practices with a civilization still do not see the female gender as important for societal development, empowerment, and leadership. The laws formulated and implemented by men are not favorable to the female gender; laws on land and property ownership, marriage, occupying political positions or other leadership positions, education, etc. For some clans, female education is forbidden and a waste of family resources.
Today, with the SDGs the narrative is changing in most African countries, and the importance of both genders is clarified. The achievement of gender equality is the core for women-centered organizations in Nigeria, civil society organizations are springing up daily to help support the course on the emancipation of the female gender in a male-dominated region. In 2022, Nigerian women with the support of the “womanifesto” triggered the masses on the failure of the National Assembly to consider the gender equality and equal opportunity bills for the Nigerian woman. 2022 for the Nigerian woman was a year of manifestation from the ancient injustice affecting the voices of women and by extension, the black woman.
The 5-point gender bill forwarded included
l Specific seats in the National Assembly
l 20% Women affirmative action in party administration and leadership
l 35 % National appointment position for women
l Grant citizenship to foreign-born husbands of Nigerian women as it currently applies to the male counterpart.
l Nigerian women's indigeneity through marriage
The consideration of the gender bills will not only be beneficial to women but the entire country. The 5-point gender bill for Nigerian women in line with the Council of Europe Gender Equality Strategy 2018-2023 is to promote full and effective participation of women in society; the need to guarantee equal access of women to justice, the fight against gender stereotyping; and the need to work in partnerships. The African woman needs to play a lead role in the promotion of policy measures, setting standards to move the gender bill that was rejected with the promise of revisitation. The understanding of gender equality is more a right than a privilege, it is an eye opener and serves as a medium for liberation from domestic violence against women, violation of human (woman) right, condemnation of all forms of discrimination against women, condemnation to all forms of sexual abuse, stoppage to child-bride/child marriage and the health complications associated, maternal health, women trafficking, no education, etc.
Achieving Gender Equality
The advancement of gender equality is the way forward in attaining a better world; the voices of the marginalized can transform society and bring about the positive driven changes needed. Actualizing gender equality is demanding and actualizing inclusion, equitable quality education, and promoting life-long learning opportunities for all. There is a need for gross intolerance of discrimination and violence against women. Easy access to justice, and education. The formulation, overall control, evaluation of policies, and implementation strategies related to the female gender, should involve female participation.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a global adverse effect; all nations, people, and races felt the impact of the pandemic. The way forward is rebuilding the globe as we recover from the pandemic. Women should be given equal rights and access to inheritance, economic resources, to ownership and control of landed properties. The promotion of technological exposure to empower women in this era of digitization. Gender inequality has limited access to an untapped resource women folk can offer for societal transformation. Girls/women are intelligent and their intelligence if contributed to a large extent will solve world problems. Gender equality from the views of all other sustainable development goals is very relevant. The goals must all be inclusive and should be tilted toward the achievement of gender equality. Promoting sustained inclusion, economic growth, and productive employment/decent work for women, ending poverty, promoting peace, combating climate, and having a safe settlement for women.
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