By Alfred R. Bizoza, Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR)
Since 2000, poverty reduction within the framework of sustainable development has received global and country level attention. Since 2013, two years before the end of the Millennium Development Goals, the process started to introduce the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for another 15 years based on the lessons learnt from the Millennium Development Goals. Despite the universality of these goals yet they need to be individualized especially through the domestication process that helps to understand what the goals and their respective targets mean for each country’s national development. SDGs targets are set universally to give guidance to all countries on how they should perform towards poverty eradication but they are not “one –size- fits –all”. But this does not preclude each country’s intelligent choice among the items on the SDG menu that fits well the context and the major challenges facing the population as far as poverty eradication is concerned. The new SDGs mainly aim at ending poverty, fighting inequality and injustice, ensuring peace and stability, tackling climate change and environmental degradation by 2030 as well as putting in place a robust global partnership in support of the realization of the goals.
Rwanda is among the very few countries worldwide that have embarked on the process of SDGs domestication. Through the collaboration with development partners, the country has already started to assess how to domesticate the SDGs targets in the national development and poverty reduction strategies such as the Vision 2020, the Economic Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS), and the Sector Strategic Plans (SSPs) as well as the District Development Plans (DDPs) at the local government level. This domestication process goes beyond the assessment of whether the SDGs targets are reflected in the national development strategies but involves also their integration in the sense of implementation towards reaching the 2030 development goals. To judge whether SDGs will be achievable will depend on a number of considerations. Reference made to the MDGs, the country has made enormous progress on the MDGs especially in areas of poverty reduction (from 60.4% in 2000 to 39.1% in 2014/15), net enrolment ( from 72.6% to 96.8%) from food security, reduction of under five mortality(from 196 in 2000 to 32 in 2015), gender promotion, and environment and natural resource management.
From the lessons learnt so far from the MDGs, there is a need for Rwanda to continue eradicating poverty , addressing issues related to child malnutrition, promoting a sustained and inclusive economic growth, youth productivity and employment , quality education that is customized to the challengesof development and employment. Social protection programs will still need to feature among priorities due to their double sided effects – ensure equity in wealth distribution and create more jobs through public investments such as feeder roads in rural areas. Furthermore, efforts should be made on improving the private sector productivity in areas with greater multiplier effects in terms of wealth creation and poverty reduction. The climate change adaptation and resilience especially adapted to small scale farmers will also need adequate consideration because this remains one of the main impending factors to the agricultural development. Since governance is key in this process, ensuring inter-institutional coordination through the existing mechanisms such as the Sector Working Groups remains enabling condition to the success towards SDGs . In addition, Rwanda’s economy needs diversified products before diversified markets especially those that may substitute the importations. This sounds classic but industrialization remains capital in sustaining different ventures of the country’s economic and structural transformation to address some of the structural challenges faced by the country such as unemployment and heavy dependence on imports. If the ICT has been able to revolutionize some of the sectors and promoted efficiency in the service delivery ( such as in the banking sector), then deciding on what industrialization Rwanda needs and implement it should continue to feature on the development agenda.
The role of research and technology development needs to be updated to respond to the needs of policy advisory and to the emerging challenges calling for more technology innovation. For example will farmers in Rwanda and elsewhere in Africa continue to cultivate their lands with “hoes” beyond the SDGs? If so, how farmers will then feel that SDGs have been implemented among other issues they are faced with.
Against the above, the implementation of SDGs will need more and efficient coordination mechanisms customized to the local institutional arrangement, generation of data required to inform the monitoring and evaluation frameworks that are flexible for reporting purposes, clear division of labour between and within sectors, and capacity development in various areas to uptake this very dynamic development pathway of the world.
 Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Kigali, Rwanda.