Zimbabwe is currently hosting the 6th African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development Goals (ARFSD) in the resort town of Victoria Falls. The event, which is being sponsored by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has been oversubscribed with close to 3000 delegates across the continent in attendance. The Forum is being held under the theme, "2020-2030: A decade to deliver a Transformed and Prosperous Africa through the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063."
Amongst the notable guests are African Union Commission Deputy Commissioner, Mr Kwesi Quartey, United Nations Deputy Secretary General Ms Amina Mohammed and UNECA Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe. The composition of the delegation on its own shows how esteemed the event is and how the continent has shown confidence in Zimbabwe by choosing her as the venue for the prestigious event.
What is also significant from the meeting is that Zimbabwe is taking over ARFSD Chairmanship from Morocco who has been at the helm for the past year. Zimbabwe is expected to pass on the button during the next ARFSD in 2021. Being given the responsibility to be Chair, means Zimbabwe will put in extra effort in working towards fulfilling the SDGs, thus improving the welfare and livelihoods of Zimbabweans.
Months back, one UK journalist, Stephen Sackur, carried out a potentially damaging documentary insinuating that Victoria Falls was running dry. The Falls, which are one of the Seven Wonders of the World, are a major tourist attraction that has boosted the tourism sector, contributing significant amounts of revenue. From this background, the event has also contributed in putting to rest claims that the Falls were running dry, and also given delegates an opportunity to tour the country's holiday destinations, including Hwange National Park, whilst promoting the tourism industry.
The meeting also comes at a time when Zimbabwe is calling for the removal of illegal sanctions imposed on her, with the AU Commission Deputy Commissioner Mr Quartey's statements weighing in that sanctions were hampering Africa's efforts to build favourable conditions to achieve the SDGs. The AU Commission's position would go a long way in supporting Zimbabwe's resolve to have the illegal sanctions lifted, so that the country is given the opportunity to realise its potential. This also weighs in on the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM)'s call that Africa should come together and collectively find own solutions to Africa's problems.
It is also important that Zimbabwe is hosting the ARFSD as it complements the country's re-engagement efforts, considering that the country has been in isolation for over two decades. The event also supports Zimbabwe's vision 2030, where the country is aiming at becoming a middle income economy by 2030. Zimbabwe, in its efforts to achieve vision 2030, also needs external support from Africa as a continent, including the rest of the world, through trade and mutual engagements.
One of the items on the meeting's agenda is climate change and Zimbabwe has not been spared from its cascading effects, worse on the background of cyclone Idai that hit certain parts of the country in 2019. Bigger challenges such as drought have also weighed on the country, with the meeting expected to discuss lasting solutions to mitigate these challenges. It is important that Africa comes together and collectively come up with workable solutions that enhance the realisation of SDGs by all African countries.
On the political front, opposition political parties such as the MDC have been making absurd allegations that the country is filled with political tension and expected to implode anytime. The opposition has painted the country as not habitable, denigrating the social, economic and political fabric that defines Zimbabwe. After the meeting, delegates in attendance would be ambassadors who would have positive and good stories to tell on the country's hospitality and the peace that Zimbabweans generally enjoy.
Despite the challenges, Zimbabwe continues to prove that it is a country that has massive potential for growth, with African countries firmly believing in opportunities it has to offer. It is important that Zimbabweans take advantage of this support and speak positively about their country or offer constructive criticism, so that Zimbabwe grows stronger. As much as the continent continues to show confidence in Zimbabwe, the onus is also on citizens to play their part by rallying behind their own nation.
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