Trade as a tool to achieve the SDGs in Africa

18 October 2016

In September 2015, world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 related targets. This ambitious new global development programme provides a broad framework that will guide international development efforts for the next 15 years. It covers a wide range of aspects spanning across the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. While the extensive nature of the 2030 Agenda shows the international community’s willingness to address sustainable development issues in a comprehensive way, translating the aspirational SDGs into practical reality will not be an easy task.

Implementing this new agenda will require policy actions on many fronts, including trade and investment. Several targets related to various SDGs refer directly to trade and trade policy with a view to achieving specific outcomes. More generally, trade policy arguably has a role to play in achieving most of the SDGs, which is reflected in the 2030 Agenda by recognising trade as a cross-cutting means of implementation under SDG 17.

In Africa, the stake is especially high. The continent has witnessed only limited progress towards achieving some of the most crucial targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and it continues to lag behind on many aspects of development. In particular, Africa is the only developing region where the MDG of halving extreme poverty by 2015 was not met. Against this backdrop, how can trade and trade policy be leveraged to spur development and help achieve the SDGs on the continent? This issue aims at shedding light on this question.

In the first article of this issue, Christophe Bellmann offers an overview of the potential contribution of trade to realising the SDGs. After having provided a snapshot of the way trade is treated in the 2030 Agenda framework, the author presents potential avenues for trade governance reforms to help advance these goals.

This article is complemented by three other pieces, which look at the trade-SDGs nexus from different angles. In their contribution, Lily Sommer and David Luke explore the potential of trade to improve African livelihoods and outline nine key trade policy actions in order to achieve the SDGs on the continent. Eugenio Díaz-Bonilla and Jonathan Hepburn’s article, which addresses the issue of food security, looks at how policies on trade and markets can help overcome malnutrition. In a more geographically-focused piece, Francis Osiemo offers a reflection on the challenge of energy insecurity in Eastern Africa.

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