Akosombo (E/R), July 26, GNA – The University of Environment and Sustainable Development (UESD) has opened its maiden international conference, calling for evidence-based strategies towards achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to tackle poverty, inequality, and unemployment in sub-Saharan Africa.
Several academics from UESD and outside Ghana, including researchers and representatives of civil society organisations, converged at Akosombo in the Eastern Region for the university’s Sustainable Development Conference 2021 Edition organised in collaboration with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Ghana.
It was on the theme: “Towards environmental, Economic and socio-cultural sustainability: Exploring Research and policy evidence” and created the platform for academic discourse towards achieving sustainable development.
Speaking at the opening session, Professor Eric Nyarko-Sampson, Vice-chancellor, UESD commended the researchers who submitted their abstracts, saying: “Congratulations to all 15 researchers who made it to the in-person presentation of their findings.
Prof Nyarko-Sampson said though certain progress had been made toward achieving the 17 goals before the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the goals were off-track.
He quoted SDGs Report 2021, which indicates that the global extreme poverty rate rose for the first time in over 20 years with 119 to 124 million people being pushed back into extreme poverty in 2020.
A total of 101 million children fell below the minimum reading proficiency level, potentially wiping out two decades of education gains.
It showed that women faced increased domestic violence while child marriage was projected to rise after a decline in recent years, and unpaid and underpaid care work was increasingly and disproportionately falling on the shoulders of women and girls, impacting educational and income opportunities and health.
Prof Nyarko-Sampson said the SDGs report affirmed that “the COVID-19 the pandemic crisis is threatening decades of development gains, further delaying the urgent transition to a greener, more inclusive economies, and throwing progress on the SDGs even further off track.”
Though Ghana recorded strong growth in per capita income between 2015 and 2018 partly due to strong economic growth and prudent economic management, unemployment remained high in urban areas (16.7 per cent) compared to rural areas (11.4 per cent), he added.
He said, “These issues may be worsened by the recent Bank collapse and COVID-19 pandemic. We have to strategize as a country to overcome the barriers toward the attainments of the various targets of the SDGs. This can be possible partly through research.”
“Let’s stay active and contribute to reconstruct a variable pathway for achieving the SDGs.”
Prof Joshua Narh Ayertey, Chairman, UESD Council, said despite the nature of structural transformation in Africa, which oscillates between primary industrialisation and low-employment growth, “there is the potential of creating sustainable employment and development to meet the growing population needs with minimal environmental impact.”
He said unemployment was alarmingly high, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) while the population growth kept increasing, adding, by 2050, the population of SSA will reach 2.2 billion.
He noted that the transition from agrarian to the industrial-based economy to create decent and environmentally friendly employments has encountered varying setbacks and compounded environmental challenges.
“This is evident in current galamsey issues in Ghana. Labour market inefficiencies, energy crisis, financial market frictions, rising public debts, and poor working conditions have hindered the commitments to achieve salient economic transformation in SSA.”
He added that the COVID-19 pandemic had deepened the woes of SSA, eroding some of the marginal gains made toward achieving the SDGs.
The conference provided the platform to discuss the convergence of ideas amongst nongovernmental organisations, civil society organisations, political and academic actors.
Topics discussed included; Women, ICT usage and structural transformation in Ghana; and Energy sustainability in Ghana: the role of nuclear energy in the energy mix.