Sterling One Foundation: Leading Partnerships for SDGs

Ending hunger, making poverty history and creating an equitable society where education is accessible, industries thrives and human capacity is enhanced is the top priority of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals-2030. Precious Ugwuzor  reports that Sterling One Foundation is now leading the charge through building enduring institutional partnerships to reach the ambitious 2030 goals

The room was charged; each one offering solutions to Africa’s perennial problems. On the pew were seated thought-leaders in the corporate, business, governance and civil society space; all gathered to attempt at ending the talks and taking bold actions to push Africa agenda forward in the quest to actualising the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Grim Statistics in Africa 

The Africa Social Impact Summit, ASIS pumps out grim statistics, showing participants from over 52 African countries what the continent is today and what it might be in the near future, if collaborative actions is not taken to make poverty history, end hunger, ensuring good health and well-being to all, maintaining quality education, mainstreaming gender equality, making sure that the environment is clean and live-able, availability of clean water, affordable and clean energy, ensuring that there is decent work and economic growth, making sure that there is an appropriate action on climate change. These are among 17 ambitious but attainable sustainable development goals.

Most critical in the mix of the goals is the 17th goal: Partnerships for Goals. It is in essence the coordinating component of the goals; calling for actions, active participation, collaborations and joint efforts from governments, businesses and relevant organisations: “One of the things we find is that organisations are working in silos; that must change” Olapeju Ibekwe, Sterling Foundation lead conveys to the ASIS audience.

 Olapeju challenged corporate organisations, NGOs and businesses to forge a united front in order to actualise the SDGs within the 2030 time frame, urging for serious partnership and an end to one-man-show-ship.

Investments in education and health topped the agenda of the summit. In Africa, the gap in education investment is so wide, it requires booths- on- the- ground action.

 On the continent: “Sub – Saharan Africa has the highest rates of education exclusion , over one- fifth of children between 6 and 11 years are out of school, followed by one third of the youths between ages 12 and 14. According to UIS data, almost 60 per cent of youths between ages 15 to 17 are not in school” as cited by a UNESCO document. 

By interpretation of the UNESCO data; more than 42million children from Sub-Saharan Africa are not in school; 18.5million of the out of school children are in Nigeria. “If urgent actions and partnerships are not built, the demand for educating the growing young population will keep rising and widening” Sterling One Foundation lead, Ibekwe said, noting specially that the gap in the educational sector can be closed faster when innovations in the education space are funded to provide access and quality education for children in any location they live.

 “This is one of the reasons why at Sterling One Foundation, we support innovative ideas, we support ideas that can bridge the gap to make Africa reach the goals faster” she said.

Africa is still a long way from achieving the goals on education and health; a child born in Africa is still at risk of not receiving quality education and decent healthcare. There is much to be done in Africa despite financial commitment of United Nations agencies and international organisations but much more than the funding is the need for unified strategies and sustained collaboration..

Experts believe that reaching the SDGs can only be near feasible in Africa if organisations form united fronts. The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Mathias Schmale points to the urgency of collaborations, while calling on organisations to ensure policy inclusivity: “Our guiding principle for development and social impact is and as well as internally displaced and refugees hit especially hard by growing unemployment, spiraling inflation, and insufficient access to education and health services; we must take a fresh look at how best to support the most vulnerable on this continent; like youth, women and girls face many challenges in reaching their potentials”, Schmale said.

“As it stands, Nigeria unfortunately, is not on track to reach many of its SDGs by 2030; a situation compounded by the COVID 19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. The same is true across many African countries” the UN Nigeria Resident Coordinator said.

“We need to be more deliberate with our collaborative efforts to channel investments into educational development. If we are going to achieve impact and scale, we have to let go of competitiveness” said Adetomi Soyinka, director of programmes and regional director, higher education, British Council.

Youths as Critical Driver 

One critical driver of Africa’s development is the need to invest in the continent’s youthful population. It is believed that Africa has the youngest population in the world; this should be viewed as smart social investment and an opportunity but for lack of investment in the youthful talents, Africa’s young population could turn huge liability, this is why ASIS 2022 focused an entire session in formulating development templates for investment in education and health, two critical enablers which can unlock talents of young people.. “The African youth collectively are Africa’s greatest natural resource. The potential of our youths must be nurtured and cultivated” said the UN Resident Coordinator in Nigeria.

Co- founder of Co-Creator Hub, Bosun Tijani drives home the point: “The biggest driver of economic prosperity in the world is talent. Nigeria is blessed to have a lot of young people who are inclined to contribute to our economic development”. 

No region or geographical location should be left out of the inclusive development plan; rural or urban, all parts of the continent needs integral system to ensure equal opportunities: “We should focus on collaborations and set agendas that impact the development of a rural and urban youth” said Ibekwe.

Governance and Policy

If the SDG must come to fruition, the participation of governance and policy must be proactively active. Sarah Alade, the special adviser to the President on Finance and Economy said: “I like that we currently have a lot of independent actors in our youth development, but we also need a lot of cooperation with the government to make a greater difference. In preparing for Nigeria’s Agenda 2050, the youths have an important role to play to be able to share their ideas with the government to make a change in the country”.

The Deal Room

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, a yearly investment of $3.9 trillion is required from public and private sector in developing countries alone to achieve SDGs. The public sector alone does not have the financial capacity to fund the actions and investments required to achieve the SDGs. 

This is why the Sterling One Foundation is at the forefront of galvanising necessary collaborations and participations of the private sector to invest in social ideas and business concerns that can move the needle closer to SDG attainment in Africa.

At the Africa Social Impact Summit, Sterling One Foundation engaged start-ups businesses from Nigeria, Namibia, Kenya and Ghana to pitch their business ideas to a selected team of investors.

“The idea of the deal room is to put funds into social ideas that can quickly scale, be expanded and targeted specifically at providing solutions to health, education, environment  and climate change as critical enablers to meeting the SDG” Sterling One Foundation lead, Ibekwe said.

 Quest For Partnerships

The rise of China and India over the last 3 decades has been built on the principles of the Millennium Development Goals. While Africa struggled to catch up with the content of the goals, China and India laced the groundwork of their development with the spirit and principles of the goals. The result is what is visible to the world; China and India, once known and referred to as densely populate with extreme poor people on the face of the earth are now leading the world in trade and technology.

Notably, China and India did not rise alone; they built strategic partnerships, they leveraged on cooperation, globalization and alliances to expand their trade, extend their technology; thereby lifting a mass of their population out of poverty within a decade. Seeing the dividends of partnerships, China is still aggressively extending its economic influence across Africa.

Partnership building is one of the big missing links to the attainment of the Millennium Development, it is a critical component which drives and coordinates other goals. Now, incorporated into the Sustainable Development Goals, it is the most critical requirement for achieving the SDG.

Partnership building formed the critical element of the Africa Social Impact Summit; this is because; little progress can be made in reaching the SDGs if partnerships are not integrated into organisations and government policy and programming.

L-R: Michael Ilesanmi, Senior Social Development Specialist and Task Team leader, Nigeria for Women Project, World Bank; Dr. Sarah Alade, Special Adviser to the President on Finance; and Peju Ibekwe, team lead, Sterling One Foundation


 Olapeju challenged corporate organisations, NGOs and businesses to forge a united front in order to actualise the SDGs within the 2030 time frame, urging for serious partnership and an end to one-man-show-ship

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