By Joseph Maina
Seven years after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, Kenya has made significant strides towards the realisation of the SDGs. Official sources cite “remarkable progress” made towards achieving the goals. SDGs and other development initiatives are well anchored in its long-term development blueprint dubbed Vision 2030, as well as a robust constitutional framework under the Constitution of Kenya 2010 that has a strong Bill of Rights and principles that are good drivers of Agenda 2030.
Kenya’s governance structure comprises 47 county governments enjoying measured autonomy, and these have become key centres of development, availing devolved public services to the people.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 and provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.
It consists of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calling all countries to action with the recognition that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth—all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.
Kenya’s SDGs implementation is guided by the principle of “no one is left behind” in development while ensuring the balanced integration of economic, social and environmental dimensions in national policy-making and planning.
Some good progress has been registered on various fronts following the country’s adoption of the SDGs. Between January 2016 and 2017, for instance, Kenya realized several milestones towards ending hunger and poverty. Poverty levels had dipped to 45.2 per cent from the 2007 level of 46.8 per cent amid the implementation of various poverty alleviation initiatives.
Government sources indicate that during the period 2017–2019, progress was made in SDG 3 (health), SDG 4 ( education), SDG 6 (provision of clean water and sanitation), SDG 7 (access to energy) and SDG 11 (ensuring sustainable cities).
There was an increase in the proportion of households with safely managed sanitation services from 65.7 per cent in 2016 to 82.5 per cent in 2019. The percentage of the population with access to electricity rose from 41.5 per cent in 2016 to 46 per cent in 2018 and increased further to 50.4 per cent in 2019.
On education, the government’s commitment to ensure that no one is left behind is manifest through programs and interventions such as the constitutionally created Equalization Fund. The fund provides for free primary school education and tuition-free secondary school as well the expansion of Technical and Vocational Educational Training (TVET) institutions to the grassroots level.
Under the same fund are provisions for women and youth enterprise funding as well as procurement preferences and reservations under a 30 per cent affirmative action policy for women, youth and persons with disabilities in public procurement. Such provisions seek to address the plight of the less disadvantaged in society, combat poverty and promote equity.
There is institutionalized stakeholder engagement in the implementation, monitoring and awareness of SDGs through a parliamentary caucus, Kenya Private Sector Alliance, the Council of Governors for the sub-national governments and the National Youth Council.
This is despite the disruptions occasioned by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has clawed back on the gains made or, in some cases, stagnated the process. Kenya also cites the climate crisis as yet another potent threat to sustainable recovery.
To help accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda on sustainable development, the country launched a SDGs Recovery and Acceleration Strategy (2022-2030) to address decade-for-action targets.
The SDGs have been mainstreamed at both the national and regional levels in the country’s 47 county governments through Medium-Term Plans and County Integrated Development Plans.
Kenya has further set up corresponding institutional support for SDGs implementation through an inter-agency technical working committee comprising government ministries, departments and agencies, parliament, the Council of Governors representing the 47 county governments, academia, UN agencies, the private sector and civil society.
The government also notes that, in its efforts to mobilize the necessary financial resources, it has strengthened public financial systems through various tax reforms as well as developed an Integrated National Financing Framework.
Kenya has also acknowledged the uphill task of achieving the SDGs in the remaining period against the backdrop of attendant challenges that include the aftershocks of the pandemic as well as the emergence of new COVID-19 variants and infections, rising inflation, supply chain disruption, unsustainable debt in developing countries, and climate crisis.
In efforts to mitigate the adversities of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kenyan government rolled out three Economic Stimulus Programmes that were tailored to cushion citizens and businesses from the effects of the pandemic, protect livelihoods and stimulate the economy.
The country’s second voluntary national review (VNR) released in 2020 identified a low level of awareness of SDGs in the country, and this influenced awareness campaign strategies that involved targeted communication and translation of SDGs into local languages.
The awareness creation and sensitization strategies are conducted through focus group discussions, sensitization forums, workshops and discussion panels, in addition to social media communication platforms. The country has developed an SDGs curriculum through the Kenya School of Government for use during training sessions in their institution.
The SDGs agenda is steered by a multi-stakeholder inter-agency technical committee co-chaired by government, private sector and civil society organizations, with regional governments appointing SDGs champions to help advance the agenda at the grassroots level.
Policies and strategies have been formulated aimed at empowering the vulnerable, with a specific focus on education, health, employment, social protection, financial inclusion, gender, agricultural productivity, and special funds for youth, women and persons with disabilities.
Regional disparities are addressed through targeted funds from the national government to regions being left behind.
The SDGs Coordination Directorate in the State Department for Economic Planning coordinates the mainstreaming of SDGs in policy, planning and budgeting at both national and regional levels of government. It also coordinates tracking and reporting on SDGs.
Other measures undertaken include protection, restoration and promotion of sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystem, sustainable management of forests, combating desertification and halting and reversing land degradation. The country has also embarked on afforestation programmes where the forest area as a proportion of total land area increased from 7.21 per cent in 2016 to 7.28 3 per cent in 2018.
Despite the milestones, a number of goals, targets and indicators are noted to be still lagging behind.
They include poverty reduction, reduction in maternal mortality, malaria and non -communicable diseases, unemployment, some gender-related indicators, and environmental degradation, among others.