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Nigeria: Less GDP-ish, Hello SDGs

Updated: May 29

Nigeria with Africa’s largest youth population and a GDP figure of 397.3 billion USD in 2018 ahead of South Africa’s 368.3 billion USD remains the world’s poverty capital. Despite GDP growth at an average of 7% per year between 2000 and 2014 according to the World Bank. The GDP dropped by 2.7% in 2015, while the economy contracted by 1.6% during the 2016 recession, this shows the economy has not been resilient enough to withstand shocks. Barely hanging onto a growth of 2% and ranked 152 of 157 countries in the World Bank’s 2018 Human Capital Index, the socio-economic growth is a weak ally to depend upon to lift millions of Nigeria out of poverty. With debt, insecurity, massive poverty, high unemployment, weak institutions, and persistently high inflation, Nigerians need more than GDP to thrive.

China made headlines in 2020 for deciding to abandon the GDP target to give priority to getting more people employed and improving living standards. In the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic which has adversely affected the economy, China has made an unusual move of not setting a GDP target this year according to Premier Li Keqiang. It is the first time since 1990 that any numerical target has not set as a guide for resource use.

What can Nigeria learn from China abandoning its GDP target?

The idea of economic prosperity has always meant a growing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) equals a thriving economy. The economy must continue to grow even when ordinary citizens do not prosper in the practical sense, as long as the quantity of goods and services bought and sold in the market grows, regardless of who the buyers and sellers are. If GDP growth means prosperity, why are more people getting poorer? For an oil revenue-dependent economy like Nigeria, GDP-focused planning has meant more deprivation for millions and less push for investment and diversification of revenue from other sources. This dependency on only oil with high price volatility creates room for uncertainty as to when Nigeria’s banner Oil price went as low as $12 with millions of barrels unsold, pushing the government to borrow more right in the middle of a pandemic.

Economic policy and planning in Nigeria must look beyond GDP which is already being faulted for excluding some key sectors of the society and externalizing social and environmental costs. Nigeria is already challenged with sourcing quality data which can be effective in policy planning, it also has a massive population engaged in economic activities outside the radar.  Traditional tax-to-GDP ratios cannot apply in the Nigerian economy as it operates presently. Labor data shows that millions of Nigerians operate in the informal sectors with businesses (market women, shop owners, okada riders.

Bus drivers, local transporters) spanning in billions which are usually extorted and asked to pay illegal taxes that remain unaccounted for, physical cash is mostly involved in this shoddy levy system run by local gangs and syndicates, who do not make any remittances to the government. Instead, they use the same money to establish the bribe of people higher up the same illegal hierarchy. Relying on GDP alone to capture this complexity and plan infrastructural development will continue to aid corruption, and waste of taxpayers’ money which would have otherwise been mapped out for tangible development projects. Structural and economic push for more growth creates pressure to profit in every venture sometimes, against basic ethical beliefs, to politically hold onto power unjustly raising taxes and pushing consumer propaganda for consumption. The homo economicus in a capitalistic system is a match made in GDP heaven.

Aiming for unending economic growth regardless of who bears the cost or who benefits is no longer sufficient to close Nigeria’s widening inequality gap. The growth ideology designed to aid a linear degenerative economic model of creating more waste from depleting limited resources creates even more poverty. If GDP-driven policy planning in the past has not yielded enough trickle-down results, what guarantee is there that with the new data by NBS, policymaking can be improved?  Even if the metrics of GDP are changed to justify it as sustainable growth, inclusive growth, balanced growth, flexible growth, green growth (also known as decoupling), smart growth, resilient growth, in whatever form growth is qualified or renamed based on GDP indices, it will further complicate Nigeria’s complex economic situation; this is merely rebranding a problem without aiming for solutions.

Growth is no longer enough because the wealth of a nation is beyond just national income.

Economic prosperity means prioritizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) over the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at every stage of resource planning and governance. The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals are time-bound targets for Prosperity, People, Planet, Peace, and Partnership – known as the five P’s to which countries have committed themselves. The SDG framework which contains The Paris Agreement requires countries to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century. (UN, 2030). Human life and dignity must be at the core of the economy, no one must be left behind. Cleary, GDP reliance has failed to deliver on the promise that the benefits of a bigger/growing economy will trickle down to those at the bottom, it has raised the ceiling instead of raising the floor, widening the inequality gap. The present policies are resilient enough for Nigeria’s economic complexities even in the local areas with multiple feedbacks.

Nigeria’s poor ranking in the 2019 SDG Development Report

Countries with a high SDG Index, scoring above 80%, according to the 2019 Sustainable Development Report measuring the achievement of SDG targets like Finland, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, France and Germany have included SDGs in their public policy and planning. Nigeria ranked poorly at 159th out of 162 countries with a score of 46.4%.

In some cases, these top-ranking countries have prioritized SDGs over GDP and focused on specific SDGs which has translated into an improved standard of living for their citizens. These countries have established some sort of “basic minimum” giving citizens, and registered residents access to free quality healthcare, education, housing and monthly stipends based on a working tax system used to sustain the economy.  In 2018, Sweden presented five implementation briefs during the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). It was focused on Sweden’s transformation towards sustainability and resilience.  The specific SDGs include 6, 7, 11, 12 and 15 - Clean water and sanitation, Affordable and clean energy, Sustainable cities and communities, Responsible consumption and production, and Life on land.

Sweden is also known to champion gender equality (SDG 5) where they have scored high in implementation in their public policy, which has allowed women to thrive in key roles both in government and private sectors. The Swedish government invests heavily in sustainable and smart cities in sync with SDG 11 with initiatives like Smart City Sweden. Sweden has mastered the art of recycling so much it has become a normal way of life for many Swedes, cities, and businesses are planned around this idea of recycling and reuse. In 2018, Uppsala won the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) One Planet City Challenge globally.

Likewise, the Netherlands has built the 10 themes around the 17 SDGs, 169 targets and 231 indicators. Each theme is built on selected SDGs, aggregating the indicators to fit in the goals and objectives of policy and corporation. The 10 themes include;

Civil society; Food Security; Prospects for refugees and migration cooperation; SRHR (Sexual and reproductive health and rights); Humanitarian aid; Climate; Human Rights and Gender Equality; Private sector development; Security and rule of law; water.

Sustainable Development Index

Despite the high-ranking positions of these “model’’ countries on the UN annual SDGs Index report, questions on ecological footprint is now being asked as the idea of “development” and globalization allows Western countries to chase development while moving burdens of ecological impact and environmental pollution abroad to poorer countries. Furthermore, comparing Nigeria with many countries in the West would be unjust; as many of these countries especially in Scandinavia and other parts of Europe are relatively closed societies that speak only one language, are less culturally diverse with less population and many people indifferent to religious beliefs unlike Nigeria with over 400 languages, ethnic groups and very religious.

Nigeria surprisingly ranks 89th out of 164 countries on the Sustainable Development Index (SDI) table ahead of countries like Sweden, Singapore, the United States and Japan, based on 2015 data has the potential for more practical progress if policy planning can be focused on implementing the SDGs 169 targets and aggregating the 231 indicators at every level of governance.  The Sustainable Development Index (Hickel,2019) was created to update the Human Development Index (HDI) which was hailed for offering better metrics for measuring progress than GDP, but it fell short for ignoring ecology, and climate change and fixated on high-income like GDP. The Sustainable Development Index measures efficiency including the ecological efficiency of different countries concerning human development. SDI is different from SDG Index by the United Nations which tracks country performance on the 17 SDGs as agreed by the international community in 2015.

The SDI measures human development scores including life expectancy, education, CO2 emissions, material footprint, and income. It shows more “developed” countries with high life expectancy, and education yet has very high CO2 emissions and material footprints, scoring low SDI compared with poorer countries, with lower life expectancy, and education but with very low CO2 emission and low material footprint.

With the SDI, GDP and the development ideal can be viewed beyond dominant paradigms which constantly rank western countries of the global North ahead of countries of the Global South can be reviewed in both National and internal policymaking. SDI reinforces the need for Nigeria to pay more attention to SDGs and less on GDP. It shows why Nigeria must embrace homegrown solutions instead of GDP or HDI which is only fixated on income ignoring Monday's repressive international trade deals that aid carbon colonization, indiscriminate toxic waste dumping, land grabbing, unproductive resource politics creating unequal access to commons, and massive resource extraction from mineral-rich rural areas displacing many poor communities, while global corporations profit and their presence never translates to any form of tangible infrastructural development in these communities.

The Sustainable Development Index is rooted in sustainable development, which indicates how uncomplicated solving the problem of poverty, hunger, and inequality would be with the right policies, especially for countries with a low ecological footprint. It also shows how many poor countries would get ahead with the right infrastructural development. It tells us why we must focus less on models of countries like China with high ecological impact and more on countries like Cuba, Costa Rica or places like Kerala, India with a good human development outcome and less ecological impact. Nigeria needs an improved standard of living for millions, solve the housing deficit, invest in commons like public hospitals, schools, and create jobs while staying within the planetary boundaries. 

Statistics of Poverty

In Nigeria, the world’s poverty capital, stomach infrastructure is king, with statistical data to back this up. The Nigerian 2019 Consumption Expenditure Pattern by the National Bureau of Statistics (in collaboration with The World Bank) reflects everyday spending on different items and categories. Aside from the surprise revelation that Nigerians spend more on healthcare (₦2.4 Trillion) and transport ((₦2.5 Trillion) than services including telecoms ((₦2.2 Trillion), a larger percentage of expenditure is on food at 56.6%. This massive food expenditure means there is very little left for investment and savings. The consumption expenditure showing food, healthcare and transportation spending as the top three proves Maslow's hierarchy of needs; for the average Nigerian, survival before anything else and making basic needs is the greatest motivation. The challenge now is how these data are being transformed into working public policies and positively move millions from hanging on the survival thread of living hand to mouth.

Hunger rooted in poverty has become some sort of a natural phenomenon like corruption, a second nature with Nigerians becoming used to suffering in a way that blurs the deprivation line. The kind of poverty manifested in so many households, institutions, businesses and on the faces of millions on the street.  The 2019 Poverty & Inequality in Nigeria report published by NBS shows the Average expenditure by the richest 20% was N415,254 and the poorest 20% was N65,690. The difference between the five selected groups of the population explains the increasing inequality and poverty which the business-as-usual policy planning of reliance on Gross Domestic Product can no longer solve.


Like corruption, poverty is a deep systemic issue that requires a solution-oriented approach that is practical within the Nigerian context. Tested home-grown solutions that can produce results beyond posh economic and political grammar, business-as-usual policymaking approach and focused on the wellbeing of the poorest Nigerians on the street. The inequality statistics show that the 2019 national poverty rate at 40.09% in 35 states including the FCT (excluding Borno State), representing 82.9 million persons while the urban poverty rate stands at 18.04% far lower than the rural poverty rate at 52.10%.  The highest poverty rate is 87.73% and the lowest at 4.50%.  The national inequality rate is at 35.13% (excluding Borno), while the urban inequality rate is at 35.13%. Rural inequality rate at 32.77%. The highest inequality is 40.2% & Lowest is 23.49%. With such a high poverty and inequality rate (which has grown in 2020), more growth will not salvage the situation; to dependency on growing the GDP is no longer sustainable.

 Coronavirus and SDGs

The coronavirus outbreak has exposed massive inequalities globally, with different suggestions on how to improve the economy, focusing on monetary or fiscal policies. Reviving the economy will be based on the ability of each country to utilize available resources to manage the pandemic. The Nigerian budget had to be readjusted since oil revenue was no longer certain, many Nigerians have become jobless as businesses scramble to stay afloat, and health systems and frontline workers have been stretched far beyond capacity, yet the situation is far from being salvaged.  Famers across Nigeria count their losses in millions of Naira due to low patronage as goods can longer move long distances to consumers and food systems are not sustainable to encourage storage of both perishable and unperishable foods, resulting in massive food waste. 

Earlier in the year, fishing communities in Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, and Ondo witnessed the massive fish death along Niger Delta Atlantic Coastline affecting health and livelihood.  An incident that was under-reported by the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA). The number of rapes, child abuse and gender-based violence has been on the rise in the pandemic. Palliative measures by the government, individuals and donations from sources have fallen short in easing poverty, hunger, and insecurities across the country. Urban and rural areas across Nigeria are plagued by insecurities; an example is the One Million Boys that plagued communities in Lagos and its environs. Online learning remains inaccessible to millions of children and tertiary institution students amid the pandemic.

The head of the United Nations Development Programme, Achim Steiner has said in its latest report that unlike the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa and the 2008 Financial crisis, the novel coronavirus outbreak is a set to yearly development returns, a triple threat to education, health, and income.

A new report COVID-19 and Human Development Report by UNDP focused on Assessing the Crisis, Envisioning the Recovery showed that 6 out of 10 children are presently not getting any form of education as a result of school closures around the world. There is a glaring divide from UNDP estimates of just 20 percent of out-of-school children in primary education compared with 86 percent in poorer countries. As COVID-19’s global death toll exceeds 300,000 people and global per capita income is expected to fall by 4 percent this year, human development will be hard hit in poor countries.

Equity-focused solutions inclined with the SDGs must be the way forward. Planning based on equity is not only affordable but can be replicated with flexibility across different levels of the economy and long-term solutions that are sustainable beyond the pandemic; a move from business as usual, GDP-induced planning which has left millions in poverty. Despite the challenges of the outbreak, interventions that are focused on equity and overall human well-being will help struggling economies like Nigeria mitigate the effects of the pandemic. Every stage of planning and resource use must be focused on closing the inequality gap. Countries like Ghana, Madagascar and Senegal have model pandemic management solutions that Nigeria can learn from.

“This crisis shows that if we fail to bring equity into the policy toolkit, many will fall further behind. This is particularly important for the ‘new necessities’ of the 21st century, such as access to the Internet, which is helping us to benefit from tele-education, telemedicine, and to work from home,” says Pedro Conceição, Director of the Human Development Report Office at UNDP.

Nigeria with a very poor SDG Index faired ecologically better with SDI as earlier stated. This ecological advantage puts Nigeria in a good position to progress economically with the SDGs instead of GDP without exceeding planetary boundaries. As countries look forward to opening borders and revitalizing the global economy, sustainability, inequality, poverty, human well-being, resilience, and climate change are now central to policymaking across the world. Questions of failed policies, and resource management that aid inequality have challenged the GDP-growth paradigm of focusing only on making the economic pie bigger with no consideration for equity.

Despite the increasing GDP per capita in countries like the US or UK which has been a model for Nigeria, the quality of life has drastically fallen. People work longer to meet up with bills and basic needs, but they remain poor. As millions of Nigerians continue to wallow in abject poverty, policies that can positively affect the poorest must be implemented in the poorest communities to reflect meaningful development. Government expenditure will keep rising in a growth-locked economy without delivering even on the smallest of the basic needs. Amid the pandemic when millions spend on basic needs to survive, less on luxuries, it is clear how economic growth without efficiency is unsustainable but an economy that is indifferent to growth but aimed at improving human welfare will remain resilient.

Achieving SDGs through Transformation for Progress

Nigeria is poorly prepared for the present pandemic and future shocks with low buffers and over-reliance on just one portfolio, it is unsustainable to enter a recession with poor buffers; the ultimate economic contagion.

  • How can Nigeria plan forward with available data, and limited resources beyond the coronavirus to deliver tangible progress to millions of Nigerians?

  • How can Nigeria move beyond the GDP-style planning to strategize in a way that is focused on more home-grown solutions and less on aid?

  • How can Nigeria organize the massive economic activities concentrated in the informal sectors off the radar where millions of naira are being exchanged daily with a lot of irregularities?

  • How can Nigeria move beyond cultural, institutional, political, and technical barriers to ensure accountability, transparency and responsibility in managing limited resources?

  • How can Nigerian States efficiently diversify, and maximize the expected $1.5bn World Bank COVID-19 economic stimulus in a way that is resilient and inclusive?

 The complexity of the 17 SDGs, 169 targets, and 231 Indicators requires an overall understanding of implementation within the context of different countries; it is not a case of one-size-fits-all. What works in Scandinavia or Asia would not always translate to success when implemented in Africa. Also, what will work in different countries within the same region varies in the implementation. As explained earlier, the approach used by Sweden is different from how the Netherlands in achieving SDGs, even though both countries are in Europe; different methods, the same goal.  SDG transformations offer stakeholders a platform for a shared understanding on how to operationalize the 17 SDGs with 169 targets within different government structures while considering interdependencies across all SDGs (Sachs et al, 2019)

The transformation idea originated from “The World in 2050 Initiative” which was focused on organizing the flexible implementation of all SDGs realizing the need for deep structural changes across sectors. SDG transformations offer pathways for successfully achieving both long- and short-term policy and planning. This pathway must be constantly revised by stakeholders in a way that is flexible for continuous improvement.

The UN 2019 Sustainable Development Report generated 7 major findings which included SDG operationalization through six transformations, alarming climate change trends, eradicating poverty, high-income countries generating environmental effects, human rights abuse sustainable land use and healthy diets, eradicating poverty and countries falling short of their political commitment to the SDGs. Even though Nordic countries scored higher index, they still had challenges and no country was on track to implement all the SDGs.

“Out of 43 countries surveyed on SDG implementation efforts, including all G20 countries and countries with a population greater than 100 million, 33 countries have endorsed the SDGs in official statements since January 1st, 2018. Yet in only 18 of them do central budget documents mention the SDGs. This gap between rhetoric and action must be closed”.

 Government and stakeholders must be determined to design interventions based on improving policies, and private and public investment rooted in the SDGs. To successfully transform society, SDG transformations must align with the way the different governments are organized for effective implementation through system-based approaches; leaving no one behind.

The 2 guiding principles for SDG transformations are; (1) Leave no one behind (2) Circularity and decoupling of resource use from human wellbeing

Leave no-one-behind principle

Circularity and decoupling principle

This is the 2030 agenda. Inequalities and discrimination can be overcome with the principles of equity and fairness.  Upholding fairness and social inclusion


A move to reduce environmental footprint promoting circularity and decoupling of resource use and pollution to achieve human wellbeing.

Table; Two principles underlying the 6 SDG transformations

The six SDG Transformations are:

Six Transformations to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Transformation1; Education, Gender, and Inequality 

Transformation 2; Health, Wellbeing, and Demography;

Transformation 3; Energy Decarbonization and Sustainable Industry;

Transformation 4; Sustainable Food, Land, Water, Oceans;

Transformation 5; Sustainable Cities and Communities; and

Transformation 6; Digital Revolution for Sustainable Development.

Contribution of each SDG transformation towards the 17SDGs, Sankey Diagram illustrating relationships between each transformation and the SDGs

To simplify; The 6 SDGs transformations have 2 underlying principles (Table 1). Each of these principles targets specific SDGs for each transformation as I will demonstrate in the next table below. (Table 2) 

The 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) to transform our world


Table 2; Six Transformations and Underlying Principles:

6 SDG Transformations

Leave-no-one behind principle & SDG targets

Circularity and Decoupling Principle & SDG targets

Practical Application

Education, Gender and Inequality

Targets; SDGs1,5,7-10, 12-15,17

Targets; SDGs 1,2,4,5,8,9,10


Nigeria must invest heavily in education at all levels

builds human capital which translates to economic growth.


Nigeria's planning and policy must aim to promote gender equality, and inclusiveness to lower inequalities and promote better education for all to reduce illiteracy.

An investment that can transform educational systems starts from boosting early childcare development which is known to boost both emotional and cognitive development from childhood to adulthood.


Policy, planning and implementation must create room for quality universal basic education at primary and secondary school levels especially in rural areas with the poorest infrastructure because the quality of these early forms of education is the bedrock of the educational systems of Nigeria.


Teacher training, and curriculum development which is the core of learning must be constantly reviewed and upgraded.


Vocational training, study exchange schemes, and curriculum which are presently underdeveloped must be upgraded to boost the transition from the classroom to the real world and reduce inequalities. There must be new standards that allow Nigerians to compete internationally at affordable rates to earn world-class certifications.



Nigerians are naturally creative people, to promote economic growth, it must boost innovation and research, empower innovation hubs where research and development presently exist, and encourage entrepreneurship through public and private collaboration to improve the adoption of innovations into the mainstream.



Nigeria must improve safety nets to reduce massive poverty and give people access to basic things in life. Nigerians present spend a large percentage of their income on basic needs. If the government can make the provision for a “basic minimum”, improve labor laws that exploit workers, and encourage child labor and human trafficking, the Poverty level will drastically fall.


Health, Wellbeing and Demography

Targets; SDGs 1,2,3,4,5,8,10

Targets; SDGs 2,3,5

The coronavirus outbreak has exposed the weakness of poor infrastructure in Nigeria. Beyond donations for coronavirus intervention, available resources must be invested in sustainable healthcare structures and systems that are resilient beyond the pandemic.  Policies and metrics targeted at better well-being and quality of life for all Nigerians.


Investment in environmental health, and health education leads to better healthcare choices that can be accessed by millions without leaving anyone behind regardless of who they are or where they come from.

The government must make plans for affordable universal healthcare coverage by strengthening public health systems, improving the working conditions of healthcare workers and better-integrated information systems for better disease control measures (education, prevention and treatment), Mental health and basic surgery (WHO, 2018)


More investment in primary healthcare with effective designs better reproductive health education, and maternal and child healthcare in remote rural areas, which must be tracked for accountability. Well-being must be a policy on its own to boost human dignity across the board.

Energy Decarbonization and Sustainable Industry

Targets; SDGs 1-16

Targets; SDGs 3,6,7,9,11-15


Less dependence on fossil fuels. Decarbonize the economy. Cities like Lagos and Port Harcourt with high human and vehicle traffic must consider alternative energy sources to reduce air pollution.


With the power grid constantly collapsing, increasing need for power, and huge investments that remain unaccounted for, Nigeria must focus on alternative sources to power homes, businesses, and mobility. Excessive use of fossil fuel-powered generators in poorly planned cities must stop to improve human wellbeing.


Massive investment in green energy sources will make it affordable to millions of Nigerians who can use it to power their homes and businesses which will improve air quality and health. Integrated planning in power generation, transparent transmission and billing in a way that is inclusive to build public trust will reduce the individualistic approach to power generation which has resulted in massive air pollution and corruption in Nigeria’s energy sector


The pandemic resulted in massive online activities where millions of Nigerians have been left out because of poor energy supply and expensive ways of powering homes, and businesses. Smart-grid management with improved power transmission over long distances can reduce cost, and improve efficiency cutting out irregularities and unnecessary middlemen which can transform Nigeria’s energy sector.


Massive government and private sector investment in biomass and biofuels will also make it affordable for industries to use in manufacturing which will provide clean thermal energy and regulate influence on biodiversity conservation and food security.



Policies and interventions in states like Rivers, Lagos, and Ogun with massive industries powering the Nigerian economy are critical to regulating the use of industrial pollutants like nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide, methane gas, and organic/inorganic chemicals used in many factories as well as excessive reliance on plastic.

 Nigeria industries are built on linearity, which is focused on taking resources, using them for products, and eventually consumed resulting in massive waste. There is very little incentive or idea about recycling reuse or repair.


Policies aimed at recycling and less pollution are key to improving the environment and human health. Planning, siting of factories, filling stations, the building of new shopping malls, and gas shops must involve participatory city planning, instead of relying on just “experts” who may likely plan and implement in a bubble leaving millions behind.


Incentives must be planned to encourage recycling. In Sweden, PET bottles are returned for cash in supermarkets, and consumers go to grocery stores with bags, since they have to pay every time to get a new one, there are recycling dustbins in strategic locations to encourage the sorting of waste and help the garbage truck collect waste in a way that easies sorting and recycling. (the supermarket recycling is designed to include consumers, supermarkets and FMCGs who manufacture PET bottles)

Sustainable Food, Land, Water, Oceans

Targets; SDGs 1-3,5,6,8,10-15

Targets; SDGs 2,3,6,12-15

An improved land-use system that does not discriminate or aid inequality. While there is massive food waste on one side of the spectrum, millions are hungry, and food remains unaffordable because it must travel over long distances to get to consumers. Eventually, a lot gets wasted in transit, some wasted because of poor storage and the quality of food deteriorates.


There must be a system-integrated approach to better food systems planning from planting to consumption. Food systems in Nigeria are at the mercy of climate change, insecurity and poor transportation networks. Nigeria needs resilient agricultural systems that can support/protect food production and fisheries in riverine communities.


Food systems must include regulations on the types of chemicals used in food production like farming and storage. Chemicals used in farming wash into water bodies in many communities leading to terminal diseases and environmental pollution/biodiversity loss. 


Nigeria must invest in solid supply chains to curtail industrial wastes, food waste and toxic importation that results in dumping creating massive waste because of unfair trade agreements.

Sustainable Cities

Targets; SDGs 1-16

Targets; SDGs 6, 9, 11

Poor housing conditions, high rents, poor sanitation, massive air pollution, poor and overstretched infrastructures, overpopulation, poor drainage leading to flooding in the rainy season, etc, Nigerian cities are far from sustainable.

There is a need for sustainable city planning that is inclusive and manages population growth.


State governments must ensure inclusive access to clean water, sanitation, waste disposal and waste treatment. (clean water and toilets).


The coronavirus has proven that many people can work from home at no extra cost which would not require them to commute long distances to work, stuck in traffic like Lagos. Encouraging work from home will reduce traffic congestion with fewer people plying the road during rush hour. With fewer people on the road, the Government can effectively manage infrastructure, and traffic control and focus on building relevant new infrastructure like rail lines, roads, and ports and improve public transport, which will eventually reduce the number of cars on the road.


Cities like Lagos need to have a sustainable relocation plan to decongest the city and resettle people in communities with amenities provided instead of displacing people to build gigantic properties that many people cannot afford and will eventually remain empty. Projects like Eko Atlantic must be reviewed to stop the kind of Eco gentrification (economic gentrification) taking over Lagos states and other parts of the country.

Digital Revolution for SD

Targets; SDGs 1-4, 7-13,17

Targets; All SDGs

The coronavirus pandemic has opened the door for the full digital revolution. Systems stuck in the analog style of doing things have been greatly affected by the pandemic as those who have digital systems backup have managed to keep up with tasks and businesses while still social distancing.


Many schoolchildren and students of tertiary institutions across Nigeria have missed out on the digital learning wave; many cannot afford data and devices used for this purpose. Many businesses have remained closed, and millions of jobs lost which has greatly affected livelihood. A lot of stagnated operations with closed borders and social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus.


Digital technologies will reduce operating costs, improve productivity, and reduce environmental effects with less resource use and accessibility by more people. Digitalization supports circularity and decoupling which is central to moving from the fossil-fueled economy.


There must be massive investment from both government and private sectors in digital technologies and artificial intelligence to boost the already percentage participation in online learning, e-commerce, robotics, e-payment and trading strategies, social media, e-governance and e-voting.


More Nigerians need to access broadband offering better security against identity theft/hacking at better quality, lower price like many countries across the world, so Nigerians are left behind as the digital switch in many sectors across the world is likely to remain after the coronavirus pandemic which has no end in sight.


How to implement Transformation

1.      Deliberate, long-term structural changes in policy, planning around resource use, institution, infrastructural development and social differences. Nigeria is a complex society means we must focus on homegrown solutions to fix issues, copying the implementation style or policies of countries with social and cultural complexities will amount to more waste and no measured progress. The Goal-based designs around specific transformation must maintain diversity, and redundancy to build connectivity and effective communication across communities and between sectors in the society.

2.      Encouraging long-term funding of progressive initiatives till they can scale. Scaling out, scaling up and scaling deep (Moore et al, 2015) of social innovations, and interventions that have already thrived within the system to build on their success.

Scaling out successful ideas beyond the immediate community they originated. For example, expanding the NGO Lagos Food Bank Initiative model in other states or Replicating Flying Doctors, LifeBank, Ecobarter, or Wecycle models across Nigeria with long-term funding for continuity. This could also mean business models and educational innovations to impact the larger society.

Scaling up to redefine institutions at lawmaking and policy-making levels which limit replication of the same principles in other places while maintaining the integrity of the novel idea.

Scaling deep to encourage social activism which is effective for changing systemic norms and behaviors strongly rooted in the system can slow the speed of these innovations and ideas can sink deep through relationships, cultural values, and beliefs.

3.      Nigeria must aim for the kind of diplomacy and international cooperation that does not put the country in a disadvantaged position. The 2019 UN SD Report states how interdependencies between countries lead to both positive and negative spillovers. Negative spillovers include environmental spillovers; economic, financial and governance spillovers; and security spillovers. This leaves poorer countries at a more disadvantaged position, such imbalance keeps enriching the richer countries while the poorer countries remain poor.

4.      Nigeria must focus on developing and structuring informal sectors in which the bulk of Nigerians operate and redirect the economic activities for revenue, instead of leaving it in the hands of syndicates. By investing in quality data sourcing, the Nigerian government can better structure this sector to improve the fortunes of millions of Nigerians stuck in the system. Regulate unnecessary levies payment in local markets, motor parks and other areas where unaccounted millions of Nigeria are being exchanged daily.

5.      Invest massively in different forms of public education to counter misinformation and the spreading of propaganda which is one of the greatest challenges in Nigeria. This can help build public trust and make infrastructures available to millions across Nigeria. Education also creates awareness for improved public participation where the government can get feedback on real issues.


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