By King’s Office Correspondent
ESWATINI has formulated a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Recovery and Acceleration Plan that will cost over E30 billion (about US$1.6 billion) to implement. This plan will cover investment in diverse areas, including digital transformation, renewable energy, agriculture, industrial expansion, transformation of the education system, social protection, health, environment, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH).
This plan was presented to the United Nations General Assembly by the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade, Manqoba Khumalo, during the UN 2023 SDG Summit convened by the Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres yesterday, as part of the country’s renewed commitment to the implementation and acceleration of UN Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Khumalo reported that Eswatini has had mixed experiences with SDG implementation, both encouraging and challenging in equal measure. He said some of the areas of promise include health, education, and energy, while challenges abound in poverty, food security, employment and many others, adding that the multiple crises the world has experienced and continues to experience have watered down some of the gains made over the years.
The summit was informed that Eswatini had identified SDG 8, in particular target 8.5 on job creation across industries, as one of the priority areas of focus in the remaining period. “Investing in this goal would optimise progress across many other SDGs. Analysis shows that the positive impacts of SDG 8.5 on other SDGs would be profound, with the potential to reduce food insecurity, improve access to education, health, water, electricity, facilitate civil registration and many others,” he said.
The minister related that in creating jobs, the country would ensure that priority would be placed on emerging sectors such as green jobs for the youth, as these have positive spinoffs on reducing crime, violence, civil unrest, substance abuse, political extremism and many other social ills. This priority involves the upscaling of the Youth Empowerment Programme and Active Labour Market Programme, which provide internships mostly for young people so they can gain the skills needed for the job market.
“For those with an inclination towards business, the programme equips them with relevant skills and the mentorship they need to help them navigate that space. The plan is that job creation should transcend
all the programmes in the Recovery and Acceleration Plan, as we will ensure that we implement everything with a lens firmly focused on jobs,” he explained.
Khumalo further disclosed that the plan will also improve the social security programmes by establishing a National Social Registry, which is a smart database of all the beneficiaries of social protection schemes.
Particular attention, he said, will also be His Majesty’s pledge to end the HIV/AIDS threat paid to investing in agriculture because of its importance to the majority of people in terms of food security and employment creation.
In doing so, there will be a promotion of gender equity, technological advancement, innovation and creativity.
“We will use digital transformation as a vehicle for ensuring that no one is left behind. Therefore, programmes for improving access to reliable and high-speed internet for business, the general public, and schools, particularly rural schools, will also be implemented,” said the minister.
The summit was also informed that the Eswatini government had also reviewed the coordination structures in line with the whole-of-society approach to be inclusive in the acceleration, review, follow-up and reporting on the SDGs.
By working in collaboration with development partners, Khumalo said the government would strengthen efforts to ensure the collection of disaggregated, timely and accurate data that will inform decisions, plans and resource allocation. “As signatory to the SDG’s reporting and follow-up mechanism, Eswatini will continue to share progress achieved on global and regional platforms in order to allow for learning and continuous improvements,” he assured.
The country further assured the summit that for the remaining 7 years, it will continue to prioritise the implementation of the SDGs so that they remain the core agenda for the country’s development.
“The SDGs will be the guiding star that shapes national policies, budgets, institutions and national and sector strategies,” concluded the minister.