Evaluating the Progress on SDG Goal 9:Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.

Evaluating the Progress on SDG Goal 9:Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.

(This is part of a series of articles that will be polished on this site looking at the progress made with the SDGs one goal at a time and in a random order.)

Ever since the inception of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the global community has been in a race to be at par with the indicators of the success of the goals. Each goal, including goal number 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) has indicators that serve as the sub-objectives to be met to ensure the success of the goals.

However, those indicators need data to determine progress and as it has been seen from previous reports published on the progress of the goals, missing data has been a huge challenge. It thus becomes a challenge to accept and adopt those reports as painting the true global position concerning the headways made towards the achievements of the SDGs.

Nevertheless, the absence of data may mean one of three primary reasons. One could be that the nations not sending data are doing too little or nothing about the goals and thus have nothing to report. Secondly, it could be that they have some data but the picture it paints is not favourable (though data whether positive or negative is data nonetheless) and they choose not to share it. Thirdly, there could be an issue of trust regarding the shared data itself. For instance, some international institutions can use the data to manipulate government decisions irrespective of the damage to their citizens.

I began on those grounds so that when I evaluate the progress on SDG number 9, then it should be known that my assessment will be dependent on available data and where there is none, we will assume that very little progress has happened towards meeting the deliverables of the goals or we will use knowledge in the public domain to give a general assessment.

Develop sustainable, resilient and inclusive infrastructures

This target deals with developing good road accesses for rural populations and measuring passenger and freight volumes by mode of transport. In terms of road access, the target looks at the availability of connectedness in rural areas with populations within a 2km road network and access to a motorable road throughout the year. Passenger volumes look at the mode of transport available in countries and how much volume of goods and passengers they handle within a specified period.

This road in Shanghai shows progress being made in urban infrastructural development. Rural areas are not developing equivalent rates. Photo courtesy of GreenBiz

There is little data shared globally regarding rural population access to all-year motorable roads, though some continents have been hailed as doing well on this end. Europe, North America, and Australia have made commendable strides. Some parts of Asia and the African continent are struggling to provide their rural populations with good roads.

As more roads are developed, so does the increase in the volume of goods that can be transported and the amount of passengers using them. Globally, urban areas have been well developed with good road networks and all other transport networks such as railways and airports. However, it remains challenging for many countries to provide quality, reliable and sustainable infrastructure at national (especially rural), regional and transborder levels.

Promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization.

Indicators developed for this target measure the manufacturing value added as a proportion of the gross domestic product (GDP) and per capita income and the manufacturing employment share as a proportion of total national employment. According to data by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) and World Bank, over 90% of countries have shared their data on these indicators.

The data shows that manufacturing sector contribution to GDP for most countries lies between 10 and 20% with manufacturing employment accounting for 5-15% of total employment. Whereas most countries aim to increase their manufacturing sector contribution to total GDP, there is a challenge with seeing an equivalent rise in employment due to massive automation where robots take charge of the manufacturing floor. But with innovations, new jobs have recently cropped up that need to be exploited. Good examples include data analytics and AI professionals.

Increase access to financial services and markets

The indicators in this target deal more with access to finance for MSMEs (Micro, small and medium enterprises) which account for as high as 80% of total employment in most countries. This indicator is measured by the proportion of small-scale industries that can access loans and lines of credit. According to available data, less than 30% of all nations have provided data on the share of their small-scale manufacturing proportion as a total of their manufacturing sector.

Of the 30% that reported, the majority indicate that 10-20% comprise the small-scale manufacturers as a share of their total manufacturing sector. Only one African country provided verifiable data on this indicator. However, there has been about 50% reporting on access to loans and lines of credit for small-scale industries. Of those reported, the majority indicate a 30-40% access to credit facilities. It can be noted that these values need to go higher to aid the success of SDG goal 9 given the huge role MSMEs play in most economies.

Upgrade all industries and infrastructure for sustainability

The COP (Conference of Parties), is a UN climate change conference that convenes annually. Among the discussions taking precedence recently, rising global temperatures have been raising concerns and one way to combat this is to reduce global CO2 emissions. This target is measured by the kilograms of CO2 emissions per dollar of GDP reported by the various countries globally.

With over 95% reporting on this target; Europe, America, Australia, North and South Africa and lower parts of South America have an average recorded value of about 0.5 kg of CO2 per dollar of GDP. The rest of the world has average values of about 0.1 Kg/ of CO2 per dollar of GDP. This is according to the Global Carbon Budget 2023 report.

This means we are lagging given the target to beat is 2030 when all infrastructures ought to have been upgraded to make them resource-efficient and adopt clean and environmentally sound technologies to make them sustainable. We are 6 years shy of our target year and the numbers don’t look that good.

Enhance research and upgrade industrial technologies.

This indicator measures the research and development spending as a proportion of the GDP and the number of researchers per million inhabitants. As noted in an earlier post on this website, in the EU, America, Asia and Australia, the average spending in R&D as a proportion of the GDP is about 1-2 % with some countries spending more than 2%. Worst-performing countries are spending less than 0.1% of their GDP on R&D.

Concerning researchers (full-time equivalent) per million inhabitants, America and Europe lead with an average of 5000-10000 researchers whereas Africa lags with an average of about 100-200 researchers per million inhabitants. This would explain why those countries serious about Research and development control the world. They are net exporters and Africa prides itself on importing even the most basic items.

There is every need for all global players to increase their focus and upgrade their technological and scientific capabilities if SDG goal 9 is to be attained by 2030. Innovation is not an option and the focus on R&D especially on emerging economies needs to be emphasized in both the private and public sectors.

Other things to consider are access to information and communication technologies, support for domestic technology initiatives and industry diversification. For instance, the overfocus of African economies on agriculture needs to be reassessed and alternative industries need to be rapidly developed.

On a global scale, the facilitation of sustainable infrastructure development for developing countries needs to be increased although the current progress is recommendable. But also, corruption should be addressed in those countries and encouragement of independent development and growth as some developing economies have become too dependent on global aid and loans to the extent they cannot exist without that support for a moment.

In conclusion, there has been a lot of progress towards achieving the objectives of goal number 9, but still, there is a lot of work to be done to ensure that we are on track in all aspects. Time is short and what needs to be done is massive. The criticality of this SDG means we need to re-evaluate our current approaches to come up with more short-term achievable yearly gains even as we race to meet the 2030 deadline.

Special credit to Our World in Data for the global diagrams illustrating the data available.

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege is the Editor and topical contributor for the Daily Focus. He writes in the areas of Science, Manufacturing, Technology, Innovation, Governance, Management and International Emerging Issues. For featuring, promotions or support, reach out to us at info@dailyfocus.co.ke
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