As governments and development communities set out to achieve the recently-instated 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity, an important question is: amidst the goals and targets, what are the priority areas that they should focus on? Speaking at the Trialogue CSI Conference, held in Johannesburg on 24 and 25 May 2016, Anyway Chingwete, senior project officer for Afrobarometer, said that any government that is serious about addressing these issues, must consider the most pressing issues facing their citizens.

Sustainable Development Goals

Afrobarometer surveyed citizens from 36 countries in Africa to ascertain their aspirations and priorities, and how these align with the SDGs. A standard questionnaire was used, to allow for comparison across countries.

Face-to-face interviews were conducted in the language of the respondent’s choice. Results were gathered for individual countries, and for the 36 African countries together.

When asked the question, “What in your opinion is most important problem?” unemployment, health, and education came out as the top three concerns. The majority of respondents also felt that their governments should increase spending on education and health care, as priority investments.

Looking at how concerns have changed over time, it is notable that education has moved up the list of concerns. Corruption is seen as a rising problem, whereas HIV/AIDS, which was one of the top concerns prior to 2008, has moved down.

It is important to recognise that there are different priorities depending on demographic variables and social and economic indicators. For example, younger people rated education as a higher priority than older people did.

Citizens with no formal education were less likely to highlight education as a priority. When respondents have a post-secondary education, there is a significant jump. The inverse is true when you look at agriculture. More educated respondents are less likely than less educated respondents to consider agriculture as a high priority.

There are regional differences too. In West and East Africa, for example, agricultural development is a greater concern than it is elsewhere. South African citizens highlighted job creation, crime and security, housing, poverty, corruption and education as their top priorities.

Chingwete concluded that the results show that African problems, aspirations and priorities clearly align with 2030 SGDs. However, national challenges differ in severity. It is important that governments recognise the different priorities and take an approach that aligns the SDGs and these different priorities.”

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