Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo has been appointed to co-lead a group of prominent advocates for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The UN announced the SDG Advocates on 9 May. There are 17 advocates, mirroring the number of individual SDGs. The group was first appointed in 2016 and the latest list includes six new members, three of whom are African. Akufo-Addo inherited the co-chair position from his predecessor as Ghana’s president, John Mahama, in 2017.
The African advocates are: Graça Machel, a Southern African humanitarian and current University of Cape Town chancellor; Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and now Muhammadu Sanusi II, Emir of Kano; Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, an environment and indigenous people’s rights activist from Chad; and Eddie Ndopu, a disability activist from South Africa.
The UN has tasked the advocates with “cross-cutting mobilisation of the global community” to ensure that the world meets the ambitious 2030 targets.
“This is a time of great hope for the world. If we work smartly together and stay on course, we can raise millions out of poverty and significantly expand basic social services for many more by the 2030 end date of the SDGs,” said Akufo-Addo in a statement.
This was not the first time that Akufo-Addo has lobbied for the SDGs on the global stage. In 2018 a development plan he co-authored focusing on the health aspects of the SDGs was adopted by international development organisations including the World Health Organization and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Meeting the SDGs by 2030 will not be easy, especially in Africa. In August 2018 the SDG Index tracking progress since 2015 found Africa lagging behind much of the world. Gabon and Ghana fared best in sub-Saharan Africa.
African research on the SDGs is also a problem. Half of the 170 African Academy of Science fellows, policymakers and researchers who took part in a 2018 survey were found to “not know and understand the goals and their targets”.