The Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs) were adopted by the United Nations last month. The culmination of years of discussion and debate among governments, civil society and private sector organisations, the 17 individual SDGs provide targets to guide international development efforts for the coming 15 years.
As a small social enterprise, Alive and Kicking stayed out of the debates about what should be in and what should be out. We did this partly because we don’t have the resources to engage in such debates. But mainly we stayed out of the debate because we are confident that what we are doing is working to transform people’s lives in a sustainable way.
We are delighted that SDG 8 recognises that ‘decent work for all’ is a critical element of development. We’ve known that for years. Of the 150 ethical, full-time jobs that Alive and Kicking currently sustains in the production of sports balls in Africa, 74% are filled by people who have never had a proper job before. We strive to create jobs for marginalised groups in society, taking unskilled workers and teaching them a trade, while adding value to local inputs to increase economic value in the country. In targeting our recruitment as we do, we are actively working towards SDG 10, reducing inequality within countries.
The danger in setting up a framework like the SDGs is we can start operate in silos and only see certain projects as focused on education or the environment and not consider the interlinked nature of many development issues. For example, we survey our staff every year and know that every wage we pay is used to support on average 6 other people. We know that 90% of our staff spend a portion of their wages every month on health care, for their children, for their parents, for their siblings or extended family. 77% use their wages to pay for education expenses, for themselves or their families; 96% have improved housing and 98% report a general improvement in their standard of living. One proper, ethical, fairly paid, full-time job can transform an entire family and indirectly help achieve many of the SDGs.
Economic growth isn’t the magic bullet for development either; pockets of extreme poverty still exist in many middle income and indeed high income countries. Traditional development projects, working with local governments and institutions will play a significant role in determining which of the Global Goals are met and which aren’t. But as the rise of China highlighted during the past 15 years, rapid economic growth can help the world meet development targets, in that case the Millennium Development Goals.
Africa faces a major problem with a youth bulge and high levels of unemployment – in 2015 an estimated 19 million young people in sub-Saharan Africa will enter the labour market. A total of 370 million young people in sub-Saharan Africa will look for a job for the first time in the next 15 years. That is a massive challenge for the continent; how to make productive use this incredible pool of resources.
Alive and Kicking is a small to medium sized enterprise. We want to do our bit and create an additional 350 jobs in the coming 5 years. It is a challenging target, but we believe we can do it. We think we, and thousands of organisations like us, have to do it in order to help meet the ambitious targets set in the Global Goals.