NEW YORK, USA; Eswatini has formulated a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Recovery and Acceleration Plan that will cost over E30 billion (about US$1.6 billion) to implement.
This plan will cover investment in diverse areas, including digital transformation, renewable energy, agriculture, industrial expansion, transformation of the education system, social protection, health, environment, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH).
This plan was presented to the United Nations General Assembly by the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade, Manqoba Khumalo, during the UN 2023 SDG Summit convened by the Secretary General, Antonio Guterres yesterday, as part of the country’s renewed commitment to the implementation and acceleration of UN Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Khumalo reported that Eswatini has had mixed experiences with SDG implementation, both encouraging and challenging in equal measure.
He said some of the areas of promise include health, education, and energy, while challenges abound in poverty, food security, employment and many others, adding that the multiple crises the world has experienced and continues to experience have watered down some of the gains made over the years.
The summit was informed that Eswatini had identified SDG 8, in particular target 8.5 on job creation across industries, as one of the priority areas of focus in the remaining period.
“Investing in this goal would optimise progress across many other SDGs. Analysis shows that the positive impacts of SDG 8.5 on other SDGs would be profound, with the potential to reduce food insecurity, improve access to education, health, water, electricity, facilitate civil registration and many others,” he said.
The minister related that in creating jobs, the country would ensure that priority would be placed on emerging sectors such as green jobs for the youth, as these have positive spinoffs on reducing crime, violence, civil unrest, substance abuse, political extremism and many other social ills.
This priority involves the upscaling of the Youth Empowerment Programme and Active Labour Market Programme, which provide internships mostly for young people so they can gain the skills needed for the job market.
“For those with an inclination towards business, the programme equips them with relevant skills and the mentorship they need to help them navigate that space. The plan is that job creation should transcend all the programmes in the Recovery and Acceleration Plan, as we will ensure that we implement everything with a lens firmly focused on jobs,” he explained.
Khumalo further disclosed that the plan will also improve the social security programmes through establishing a National Social Registry, which is a smart data base of all the beneficiaries of social protection schemes.
Particular attention, he said, will also be paid to investing in agriculture because of its importance to the majority of people in terms of food security and employment creation. In doing so, there will be a promotion of gender equity, technological advancement, innovation and creativity.
“We will use digital transformation as a vehicle for ensuring that no one is left behind. Therefore, programmes for improving access to reliable and high-speed internet for business, the general public, and schools, particularly rural schools, will also be implemented,” said the minister.
The summit was also informed that the Eswatini government had also reviewed the coordination structures in line with the whole of society approach in order to be inclusive in the acceleration, review, follow-up and reporting on the SDGs.
By working in collaboration with development partners, Khumalo said the government would strengthen efforts to ensure the collection of disaggregated, timely and accurate data that will inform decisions, plans and resource allocation.
“As signatory to the SDG’s reporting and follow-up mechanism, Eswatini will continue to share progress achieved on global and regional platforms in order to allow for learning and continuous improvements,” he assured.
The country further assured the summit that for the remaining 7 years, it will continue to prioritise the implementation of the SDGs so that they remain the core agenda for the country’s development.
“The SDGs will be the guiding star that shapes national policies, budgets, institutions and national and sector strategies,” concluded the minister.
Eswatini has done well in combating HIV and AIDS, but His Majesty has cautioned of existing gaps that could reverse these gains.
He identifies these gaps in the task of getting all HIV-positive emaSwati to know their status, be on treatment and virally suppressed. Another gap is in curbing new HIV infections, while other gaps exist in the need to advance and economically empower the youth.
The King, speaking through the Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi at a high level action event on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, said the government was committed to programmes to close these gaps.
The high-level event was held to celebrate achievements, consolidate successes and extend progress in the fight against HIV and on ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
The King said these programmes put in place to protect the gains made by Eswatini include targeting affluent men in the workspaces with messages on HIV prevention, gender-based violence and intimate partner violence which are among the key drivers of the HIV epidemic.
He also said government had set out to empower the youth through initiatives such as the youth revolving fund and regional development fund, the ONE UN YOUTH programme focusing on economic empowerment, entrepreneurship, education and health and wellbeing for the youth, and the PEPFAR DREAMS programme.
“I believe that the initiatives we have put in place will ensure that we sustain the gains and close the gaps for the 95-95-95 and ensure that the 95-95-95 agenda is rolled out at all levels, especially amongst all priority populations at risk of HIV,” he said.
Unpacking Eswatini’s achievements, the king said these made the country become one of the first nations in the world to reach and surpass the set global target of 95-95-95, where as a nation we achieved 94-97-96.
This means that 94 per cent of Emaswati living with HIV know their status, 97 per cent of those who know their HIV status are on life-saving treatment (ARVs), and 96 per cent of those on treatment are virally suppressed. “By achieving the targets in advance of the 2025 target date, we are demonstrating and providing evidence of the effectiveness of the country’s HIV treatment programmes,” he said.
He informed the gathering that emaSwati see HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths decreasing and putting the country on course to achieving epidemic control.
His Majesty acknowledged the role played by donors, development partners, and friends of the kingdom in collectively responding to the calls made to end AIDS as a public health threat and to see emaSwati’s health and quality of life improving.
“They ensured, among other things, that all emaSwati who are living with HIV are on treatment and they remain on treatment. For this, we sincerely thank all donor partners for their efforts.
“There is no doubt that Eswatini’s successful strides in the HIV response would not have been possible without the continued and predictable funding and technical support from you all,” he commended.