School @ the Centre of Community

Funding the Sustainable Development Goals and the role of business

In September 2015, leaders from South Africa and 192 other countries made a unanimous commitment to the next generation by setting 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030.

The goals include ‘No Poverty’ (Goal 1), ‘Zero Hunger’ (Goal 2), ‘Good Health and Well-being’ (Goal 3) and ‘Quality Education’ (Goal 4). These are very ambitious goals and without meaningful collaboration between the business sector, government and civil society, there is little hope that they will be achieved as early as 2030, if ever.

Since the day that the SDGs were signed at the United Nations, many individuals and organisations have been working hard to develop strategies to achieve them. Last week, for instance, a group of 400 leaders from all over Africa gathered for the Responsible Business Forum Africa, which was aimed at engaging business leaders in a conversation about their contribution to achieving the SDGs. I felt privileged to attend the Forum and take part in this strategic conversation.

Around the world, and particularly in the US and Europe, groups of people are developing strategies and plans to fund the SDGs and it is widely accepted that it will take trillions of dollars to achieve them.

It is therefore not surprising that the Responsible Business Forum Africa hosted a panel discussion on ‘Funding the SDGs’. The South African representatives on the panel were two well-known and respected business leaders: Colin Coleman, Head of the South African office of Goldman Sachs, and Wendy Dobson, Head of Group Policy, Advocacy and Sustainability at Standard Bank.

I was, however, stirred by the discussion, and I now keep wondering what it will take to shift the story that is being told by such esteemed and respected South African business leaders.

Coleman shared that members of the CEO Initiative have established the SMME Fund and the Youth Employment Scheme and anticipate that both will contribute to Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth.

While these initiatives offer hope to entrepreneurs and unemployed youth, it is crucial that sufficient attention be given to achieving the goal that is the enabler of all the others, namely Goal 4: Quality Education.



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