New wines, old bottles? Cities in the global South and the Sustainable Development Goals

  • Martin Oteng-Ababio Department of Geography and Resource Development, University of Ghana; Legon
Keywords: sustainable development, cities, transformation, Ghana


Sustainable development recently topped the global agenda again when, on 25 September 2015, the UN adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), including
SDG 11 on cities: ‘Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient
and sustainable.’ Though heralded with pomp and pageantry, in reality the relevance of cities to global development is hardly new. For example, the first two UN Conferences on Human Settlements (Habitat I and II) saw governments back then making qualified commitments not only to universal water and sanitation but more importantly also to the upgrading of informal settlements. This viewpoint[1] therefore reflects on
how cities, especially in the global South, can implement the global agenda with targets in areas
of critical importance: people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership. In this paper, I argue that the novel approaches and strategies for addressing the global agenda (SDGs) tie in with the hopes and aspirations of the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA)[2] and offer hope of greater effectiveness, particularly by giving recognition to the fact that how urban growth is managed in developing countries, the type of infrastructure that is put in place, and the jobs and city socio-economies that are developed will be crucial to the SDGs for decades to come. Hinging on the multi-faceted nature of the urbanization debate, I consider that without a well-managed urban transition, it will be difficult to see how the SDGs—and SADA for that matter—can be achieved in Ghana.

[1] I first presented this viewpoint at the maiden edition of the ‘Impact Africa Summit: Ghana’, which went off successfully at the Tang Palace Hotel in Accra on Thursday, 7 July 2016. The summit brought together key government officials, senior diplomats, academia, top local and international business executives, civil society, and the media to share ideas on the implementation of the SDGs in Ghana. Six distinguished personalities (described by the Summit Council as the ‘New African Personality’) from different fields were honoured and awarded for their impact and contributions to the socio-economic development agenda of the country in various fields. The summit presented the much-awaited forum for these prominent groups of leaders in Ghana to display a deep and a broad commitment to the global SDGs.

[2] Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) is a Government of Ghana agency responsible for coordinating a comprehensive development agenda for the savannah ecological zones comprising the three northern-most regions and stretches of Brong Ahafo and Volta Regions that are contiguous to the northern region of Ghana.

Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 0855-9414