The Sustainable Development Goals are Achievable: Innovation, Smart Private Sector Partnerships and Innovative Financing are Key for Success

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have become the driving force of our country’s national development since the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted in 2015. The historic goals frame policy and programming actions by the government. And importantly, they have inspired non-state actors and increasingly the private sector to align their business models behind the Goals. As expressed by the President of the Republic, who is also co-Chair of the UN Secretary General’s Eminent Groups of Advocates for the SDGs, in a recent engagement with global and national business leaders ‘’Ghana’s commitment to the SDGs is absolute and unwavering, and this is partly because the SDGs are at the heart of the development challenges that the country faces’’. Importantly, the SDGs also present a solid pathway as we reset and build back and build forward better following the ongoing pandemic.

As evidenced in the 2019 Voluntary National Review Report, Ghana has made good progress on a number of the Goals. But as with many other countries, progress is not yet at the speed and scale required to fully achieve the SDGs by 2030. Unfortunately, the consequential effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on lives and livelihoods have made the attainments of the SDGs more daunting. But this cannot and should not deflate our efforts. Rather, this is the time to think big, act big and to act differently. As a country, we need to do so in order to achieve the transformational development that we all seek and desire, and to become the gold standard in SDGs implementation that we aspire to be.

As we continue to place the SDGs at the centre of our transformation and development agenda, the key to success is going to be the extent and quality of partnerships that the government establishes with the private sector and how creative and smart we are, as a country, in mobilizing innovative financing and in leveraging innovation to support the implementation of the Goals. This is crucial because the SDGs financing deficit, compounded by the effects of COVID-19, has become a major constraint to accelerated action in all developing countries.

A seminal report recently published by our Unit, in partnership with the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Ministry of Finance, estimates Ghana’s SDGs financing gap at an average of US$45billion annually until 2030. Whilst this financing gap may appear yawning, it equates to an additional spending of some $1400 per capita per year, which is not onerous if we succeed in addressing pervasive inefficiencies in government at all levels, robustly deal with resource slippages and wanton corruption, both petty and grand, and aggressively enhance domestic resource mobilization though stricter compliance and enforcement measures, by leveraging technology and innovation. The digitalization of the economy being vigorously pursued by the Government is thus apt and a step in the right direction.

But crucially also, prospects for success will be bolstered by the extent to which we do well in leveraging the SDGs to attract greater inflows of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and more robust blended financing. With an estimated US$360 trillion available in global financial assets as of 20191, the resources to finance the SDGs are available. The challenge is finding solutions to structural and systemic issues and realigning incentives in favour of greater financing for the SDGs.

The SDGs present a monumental private sector business opportunity, at home and abroad. Standard Chartered Bank, in its Opportunity 2030 Report, estimates that some US$7.8 billion in business opportunities exist when it comes to delivering universal access to electricity in Ghana by 2030; the corresponding business opportunities in achieving universal access to sanitation and water supply services and digital access over the period amount to US$0.8 billion and US$6.9 billion respectively. According to the Report, some US$4.1 billion in private sector opportunities is what it would take to significantly improve infrastructure services by 2030. These are not abstract figures, but commercially viable investment opportunities that would yield beneficial returns to the private sector and create positive impacts on Ghana’s economic and developmental outturn.

This point was solidly underscored by the President of the Republic at the recent launch of our Country Financing Roadmap on the SDGs at the Jubilee House to global and national business leaders, when he emphatically stated that ‘far from being a financing gap, the annual $45 billion required to achieve the SDGs must be seen as a $45 billion business and investment opportunity for the private sector, and thus the utmost imperative to strengthen partnership with the private sector towards achievement for the Goals’’.
Fortunately for us, the private sector in Ghana has taken up the challenge, as manifested in the establishment of the CEOs Advisory Group on the SDGs, as well as the SDGs Delivery Fund and the Green Fund which the domestic private sector is championing. The Government is fully committed to strengthening this partnership with the private sector around the SDGs, to fully maximise the benefits of innovation and greater innovative financing and FDI inflows that come with it. One thing that is clear is that the SDGs need FDIs and FDIs need the SDGs.

Indeed, FDI inflows have picked up substantially in recent years, averaging about US $3.4 billion annually, but the scope for scaling this up, leveraging the SDGs, is huge. Ghana is a prime and ripe destination for investment, backed by a stable democratic governance system, relatively low political risks, attractive incentives regime, and a progressive Public-Private Partnership Act recently put in place. The youthful and well-educated labour force, very savvy in technology and innovation in the changing landscape of the world of work, is a major beneficial asset. The SDGs Investor Map that will provide market intelligence on investment opportunities in Ghana and related impact data to identify and increase SDGs-aligned investments, the planned establishment of the Development Bank of Ghana to help address the lack of long-term and adequate funding of the productive sectors of the economy, and the portfolio of well-prepared, commercially attractive SDGs projects for consideration by investors, being undertaken by the Ministry of Finance, and the coming into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, which opens up a bigger market for goods and services, are all positive developments.

But again to succeed in attracting the quantum of FDI inflows needed to bolster prospects for achieving the SDGs, all the development actors must work together to accelerate much needed actions to improve the ease of doing business, the fight against corruption must be aggressively stepped up, and we must continue to maintain fiscal discipline and promote greater transparency and accountability in the transactions environment. In addition, the Government should be deliberate with actions towards strengthening and facilitating effective linkages between foreign investors and the SME value chain, whilst vigorously championing a contracting regime that places domestic suppliers at the centre to create greater domestic employment, enhance revenue generation, and achieve productivity-enhancing knowledge spillovers. Furthermore, citizens must improve on their work ethics and values to boost productivity and repose a high level of confidence and integrity in the Ghanaian worker.

The United Nations General Assembly, in September 2019, declared the period between 2020-2030 as the Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs. We deem this Call to Action to accelerate implementation and scale up sustainable solutions to the critical challenges facing humanity and the planet, including crucially poverty, food insecurity, inequality, and climate change as urgent and sacrosanct. As a country, we do have the wherewithal – the commitment, knowledge, capacities, the brand value necessary to underpin greater FDI inflows and required innovative financing – to be a pacesetter in achieving these transformational goals. Let us continue to work together, united in progressive actions and optimism, and take full advantage of the opportunities that the SDGs present to transform our country and the livelihoods of our citizens. We must do so to fully capture our grandeur in the comity of nations.

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