The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are global development targets adopted by all countries in 2015, aiming to achieve them by 2030. However, as we find ourselves in 2023, most countries, especially African nations, remain far from realising these goals. For many, the approach seems more theoretical than practical – a realm of rhetoric rather than action. Nigeria’s disheartening 146th position out of 193 countries in the SDG achievement ranking index demands serious contemplation.
Repeatedly, the key players in Nigeria’s science, technology and innovation (STI) landscape, through the Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (FMSTI), have organised various programmes to showcase their commitment to achieving the SDGs. Despite considerable investments, the nation’s reality does not align with these efforts. Unpleasant statistics support this assertion, with Nigeria labelled the ‘poverty capital of the world’ – a grim reality for a nation endowed with abundant human and natural resources.
Nigeria’s ranking in SDG achievement is a stark reminder of the magnitude of the challenge. The top-ranked countries (1st to 10th) have fewer resources compared to Nigeria, yet Nigeria stands at 146th place with an average overall performance percentage of 50.00 per cent. Meanwhile, Finland leads with an overall performance of 86.76 per cent, followed by Sweden (85.98 per cent), Denmark (85.68 per cent), Germany (83.36 per cent), Austria (82.28 per cent), France (82.05 per cent), Norway (82.00 per cent), Czechia (81.87 per cent), Poland (81.80 per cent) and Estonia (81.68 per cent).
An examination of these top-ranking nations reveals that they don’t merely discuss science, technology, and innovation; they pragmatically apply these concepts to address the challenges central to the SDGs. They create technological solutions that are ready for the market, offering resolutions to their specific problems. Their businesses are designed to align with SDGs, considering not only profits but also the five pillars of the SDGs: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships. As a nation, we too can achieve more if we identify specific areas and work relentlessly toward their realisation.
With just a few years remaining until 2030, the designated end of the SDGs, progress remains inadequate in numerous areas. Approximately 50 per cent of the global population lacks access to essential health services, 2.4 billion people lack proper sanitation, 840 million people lack access to electricity, and nearly 700 million people lack safe drinking water. These glaring disparities indicate that adhering to a business-as-usual approach will not suffice. We urgently need to implement integrated technological solutions on a large scale.
From the governmental perspective, we require policies that guide all stakeholders to intentionally address each of the 17 SDGs. While numerous non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are making efforts in this direction, their impact could be greatly magnified with concerted government support. Moreover, stakeholders within the STI domain must initiate the development and deployment of market-ready technologies that can combat poverty, alleviate unemployment, promote responsible consumption, and tackle other issues addressed by the SDGs. Our current position is not a limitation; we have the potential to ascend and achieve desired development levels in Nigeria. It merely necessitates a shift in approach.