Africa’s development controversy - Guinea as an example
Africa, is one of the richest continents, and home to plenty of natural resources. According to the United Nations (1), 30 percent of the world’s mineral reserves, 12 percent of the world’s oil, 40 percent of the world’s gold and 8 percent of the world’s natural gas reserves resides there. According to Al Jazeera staff, in 2019, the continent produced almost one billion tons of minerals worth $406bn. However, Africa shares the largest part of extreme poverty (2).
The Institute for Security Studies states that Africa has the largest share of extreme poverty rates with 23 of the world’s poorest 28 countries at extreme poverty rates above 30% (3). The question is why Africa is struggling to fight poverty, even though it has all the resources to prosper. How some countries like Guinea, are doing to reach Sustainable Development Goals? Which are the most crucial SDGs that Africa should tackle first?
What are the Sustainable Development Goals?
The Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the Global Goals or SDGs, are the actions adopted by the United Nations (UN) member states. Total of 17 goals were introduced in 2015 to ensure that by 2030, countries will reach prosperity for its population in terms of economic, social and economic matters.
Guinea's current state in terms of Sustainable Development Goals
Guinea is a small country in West Africa blessed with plenty of natural resources such as Bauxite, gold, copper and water. However, its people are among the poorest in the world. They hardly have access to the basic needs, which are essentials for prosperity. In fact, a portion of the population has barely access to water and education, especially in the industrial area called Boké (in Northwest Guinea), where most of mining companies are located.
A survey done by European Journal for Sustainable Development Research found out that the people of Guinea are facing the water crisis for drinking, cooking and agriculture (4). Despite more than twenty rivers in Western Africa originate from Guinea, only 31% of the population has access to it in urban area (5). In this specific case, we can see that one sector, namely lack of access to water (even though there is water), is greatly affecting the environmental and socio-economic issues, making it difficult for Guinea to reach some of the Sustainable Development Goals such as
SDG 3: Good health and well being
SDG 4: Quality Education
SDG 6: Clean water and Sanitation
SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
SDG 13: Climate action
SDG 14: Life below water
Are the SDGs reachable for African countries such as Guinea? Are they realistic or it’s just utopia?
Since those Global Goals were established, Guinea has barely made any progress. According to the Sustainable Development Report, Guinea had an SDG index rank of 152 out of 163, with an index score of 51.3 (6). Unfortunately, even though some countries in Africa, are relatively doing good toward their SDGs, such as Tunisia, or Morocco, with an average score index of 63, a lot of Africans countries are in similar situation to Guinea. In fact, the average SDG index ranking of Africa was 53.82 in 2022. (7). Unfortunately, countries like Guinea, are not on track to reach their Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030, as it faces unstability. Political crisis, corruption, conflicts, rebellions are still major concerns in Africa, which is making it extremely hard to reach those goals.
What are the causes of those controversy?
In fact, many SDGs, such as the SDG 8 (Economic growth), are related to the underdevelopment of Guinea. Guinea's economy is poorly developed with an unlucky geopolitical setting.
The economy of the Guinea is largely dependent of mining industry which represents 35% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (8). In 2018, the mining companies were able to generate a profit of 544 million USD to the public treasury of the Guinean government (9). However, due to government fragility, and to the immorality of those big firms, the local population can barely benefit it.
The companies have a weak or no Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy. Some of those biggest mining companies such as CBG (compagnie de Bauxite de Guinée) and SMB (Société Minière de Boké) do not even have a sustainability report. As the Human Rights Watch puts it, a lack of transparency from mining companies regarding the social and environmental impacts of mining, compounds the absence of effective state oversight and the Guinean government is way too weak to carry its responsibility.
In order to tackle the weak governance and the immorality of companies, Guinea should concentrate on reaching the SDGs 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong institutions) and 17 (Partnerships for the goals). Those two SDGs are crucial for a prosperity, and to reach all the remaining 15 SDGs.
In the mining cases in Guinea, the lack of transparency and monitoring, has greatly affected the development of Guinea, the consequences being
loss of lands
poor air quality
negative impact on health and well being
lack of education
What can be done?
From the perspective of the SDGs, Guineas instability is mainly due to the absence of the SDGs 16 and 17. Conventions have been tried for decades, but unfortunately, they are not enough, as countries hardly reach their main objectives. The goals should be more realistic, and some regulations should be flexible, and why not, inviting a third party to manage some of the SDGs for countries that are struggling? Otherwise, it can just be utopia.
Guinea should concentrate on three Sustainable Development Goals that can cover more or less all the other goals. Let’s elaborate some instances with an illustration below:
SDGs 16 & 17: For sustainable development to happen, a strong institution is needed to set the framework in one country. In order to achieve a better result, healthy, sustainable partnerships are needed, and together, all the remaining fifteen SDGs will not be out of reach. It’s the foundation for all the other SDGs, such as the climate action.
SDG 4 Quality Education is crucial, because it can lead to the achievement of many SDGs such as Gender equality (SDG 5) and Reduction of inequalities (SDG 10). It can also lead high performances, necessary knowledges, a response to SDGs 6 (Clean water), 14 (Life below water) and 15 (Life on land). Education has also an great impact on developing sustainable cities (11), implementing responsible consumption and production (12) and mitigating climate action (13).
With few main SDGs, we can break it down into the others remaining of the seventeen goals, which are easily doable for countries. When some major SDGs are strongly respected, the others will automatically be done, as they are related, also as we described above. If SDGs 16 and 17 were respected, the probability for Guinea to have a higher score for the SDG index would be higher, and it would have made it easier to reach the other goals.