Championing the SDGs in Lagos

Abraham Ologundudu is a +SocialGood Connector and digital media professional in Lagos, Nigeria. As the co-founder of the Lagos local +SocialGood chapter, he has a deep understanding of the issues facing his community, and is passionate about leveraging partnerships and creative approaches to tackling them. Learn more about Abraham’s work as part of our SDGs on the Ground series.

Abraham Ologundudu (left), and +SocialGood Advisors at the World Government Summit in UAE

Tell us about your current work driving momentum on the SDGs in your community. From an SDG perspective, what are the most immediate needs specific to your community? As a media and communications specialist, I am currently working on furthering the SDGs — particularly gender equality — through education. I’m currently working on an audio documentary that explores ways in which women in the tech and design field in Nigeria tackle gender inequalities in their professional work, and how they manage to thrive in these male-dominated fields. Understanding how women are exercising agency locally can help develop solutions that are unique to the Nigerian context.

In my role at +SocialGood Lagos, we are always keen on creating connecting platforms to share ideas and hatch innovative solutions for the SDGs through partnerships. We’re currently focused on involving more youth in our work. For example, we are launching a program to educate and encourage teenagers to become SDG champions through global citizen education, design thinking workshops, and skills development.

We’re also launching a series of climate change-focused dialogues focused on topics such as e-waste recycling, and how to inform citizens about disposal, and how to strengthen government infrastructure and legislation to institutionalize recycling.Nigeria is known as the e-waste capital of Africa, processing over half a million tons of dumped appliances every year. This threatens both the health of people as well as the natural environment.

In my opinion, based on the most dominant conversations I’ve observed on social media and on mainstream media, the two most pressing issues in Nigeria are SDG 8 (“decent work and economic growth”) and SDG 16 (“promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies”). There is media censorship in the country, and government constantly tries to regulate public use of social media. We also have a quickly deteriorating security situation from the northeast to the northwest and southwest regions — it is quiet scary. We’ve had numerous cases of mass kidnapping, ethnic clashes among herdsmen and farmers, and terrorist attacks, just to mention a few.

And in the case where citizens exercise their human rights through peaceful protest, we see a repressive response — as was the case during the recent #EndSARS protests against police brutality. The economic situation in Nigeria is also vulnerable, with a current inflation rate that isover 17%. There is also little budgetary room for any significant social and infrastructure investment, or to cushion an economic downturn.

Do you feel that your community/ region/ nation is invested in the SDGs, and do you believe they are making progress?

Despite the prevailing challenges, the government’s participation in the Voluntary National Review (VNR) of the SDGs is a commendable effort. According to the country’s 2020 VNR, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is focused on the key issues of poverty (SDG 1) and an inclusive economy (SDG 8), health and well-being (SDG 3), education (SDG 4), gender equality (SDG 5), peace, justice, and strong institutions (SDG 16), and partnerships (SDG 17).

The Nigerian government has implemented a number of initiatives to improve access to water and sanitation, including the construction of nearly 2,300 new water points and 6,546 sanitation compartments and hygiene facilities around the country.

In addition, the National Social Investment Programme is launching a yearly graduate Jubilee Fellows Programme that will provide 20,000 outstanding Nigerians with practical ‘on-the-job’ skills and leadership competencies through a 12-month fully paid placement opportunity. This is being executed in partnership with UNDP and other private sector partners.

Is the Nigerian government making an effort? Yes. Have the efforts in these areas shown progress based on the SDG targets and indicators? Currently, we are far from that. At this current pace, 2030 seems like a far-fetched reality. Nigeria ranks 160/165 in the 2020 SDG index, which already says a lot. Since there’s no real-time tracking, it’s difficult to assess if the ranking has improved or worsened.

How has COVID-19 impacted SDG implementation in your community/ region/ nation? As some countries begin to focus on recovery from the pandemic, do you notice a greater emphasis on the SDGs or using the SDGs as a roadmap for recovery in your community, and if so, how?

COVID-19 did more to highlight the frailties of the Nigerian system, underscoring urgent areas for attention. The focus on stopping the spread of COVID-19, especially through the lockdown, exacerbated many other critical issues such as infrastructural deficiencies (especially in health), prevailing armed conflicts, poor education quality, inequalities, and weak institutions. This also affects the poverty rate, and has meant a setback on the implementation of the SDGs.

Beyond COVID-19, what are the main challenges you’ve experienced in your work to advance the SDGs in your community/region/nation?

The main challenge with advancing the SDGs for my team is accessing available and reliable data up to the micro-level. It’s difficult to identify trends, monitor and report progress, and hold the government accountable without the enhanced capacity of the nation for data collection, organization, storage and analysis.

Do you feel that there is still a gap in overall awareness of the SDGs and collaboration on tracking progress and implementation in your community? If so, how could these gaps be addressed?

Of course, in a nation of over 200 million people, SDGs still need a lot of awareness. In a large country like Nigeria, there are 774 existing Local Government Areas that the government has to oversee. If we’re able to reach the most remote parts of the nation, we can have more adoption of the SDGs andgrow awareness, track, and monitor progress. A reporting system that feeds into a central database that can be updated in real-time will be crucial to transparency and accountability for the SDGs in Nigeria.

What SDG solutions have you seen in your community that could be scaled up either regionally, nationally or globally?

One SDG solution that has caught my eye is DigiLearns , an edtech start-up. Taking advantage of the rise of mobile penetration, DigiLearns allows students across Nigeria to access instantly delivered, locally relevant and curriculum-aligned learning outcomes through their phones. The users don’t need to have internet access to receive an education. Students can learn in their local languages and select their subject of choice.

I believe it’s a notable effort to bridge the digital divide in education.

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