In 2015, countries committed to address the challenges of financing sustainability by encouraging the mobilization of private capital. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda strengthened collective action and provided a global framework to finance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by aligning all financing flows and policies with economic, social and environmental priorities.

But four years after this commitment, how much has the world progressed? Based on the research conducted by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Finance for Development, the Financing for Sustainable Development Report reveals that, despite some progress, investments in the SDGs remain severely underfunded. For example, private investments in infrastructure of developing economies at $43 billion are lower than they were in 2015.

Private commitments to developing countries remain low in comparison to estimated infrastructure needs.
Image: UN Financing for Sustainable Development Report

These figures do not match with the growing number of initiatives and efforts established since 2015. Both public and private institutions have activated innovative practices and progressive solutions to finance sustainability – not only through groundbreaking vehicles to de-risk investments, but also by launching programmes to align national planning processes to the SDGs or contributing to capacity building.

The Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) is one of the key supporters of the Regional Africa Hub of the Sustainable Development Investment Partnership (SDIP), a global, neutral platform of 42 public, private and philanthropic institutions, with the shared ambition to scale finance for the SDGs.

The SDIP Africa Hub has conducted a comprehensive assessment of the African project pipeline, analysing the key challenges that are preventing commercial capital from being mobilized for the SDGs.

The analysis determined there is a significant lack of coordination among the key players at a local level: multilateral development banks, development financial institutions, investors, financiers, and projects promoters all work in a tangled system, advancing distinct priorities through diverse approaches.

In this complex system, capital tends to follow fashions and become dependent on specific themes, rather than being deployed where is needed the most, given the high risk of lack of transparency and ambiguity. Even for experts, it is sometimes hard to grasp the big picture and list the scope of work and purpose of all the initiatives contributing to SDGs financing.

In this ecosystem, governments find themselves unable to prioritize action to mobilize capital for sustainability, and the different agendas of multiple stakeholders tend to jeopardize a country's ability to strategize their SDGs financing.

To address the risk of duplication and inefficient use of resources, the SDIP Africa hub has embarked on a mapping exercise to identify all projects, initiatives and programmes financing the SDGs. The result is COSMOS – the first-of-its-kind digital tool allowing users to navigate the development finance ecosystem.

How to navigate the complexity and identify the stars

COSMOS, launched in beta version at the World Economic Forum on Africa, will be featured at the Sustainable Development Impact Summit to shine a light on one of the pillars of the Summit – Financing Sustainable Development. COSMOS, launched in beta version at the World Economic Forum on Africa, will be featured at the Sustainable Development Impact Summit to shine a light on one of the pillars of the Summit – Financing Sustainable Development.

What is the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact summit?

It’s an annual meeting featuring top examples of public-private cooperation and Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies being used to develop the sustainable development agenda.

It runs alongside the United Nations General Assembly, which this year features a one-day climate summit. This is timely given rising public fears – and citizen action – over weather conditions, pollution, ocean health and dwindling wildlife. It also reflects the understanding of the growing business case for action.

The UN’s Strategic Development Goals and the Paris Agreement provide the architecture for resolving many of these challenges. But to achieve this, we need to change the patterns of production, operation and consumption.

The World Economic Forum’s work is key, with the summit offering the opportunity to debate, discuss and engage on these issues at a global policy level.

Financing Sustainable Development

The world’s economies are already absorbing the costs of climate change and a “business as usual” approach that is obsolete. Both scientific evidence and the dislocation of people are highlighting the urgent need to create a sustainable, inclusive and climate-resilient future.

This will require no less than a transformation of our current economic model into one that generates long-term value by balancing natural, social, human and financial conditions. Cooperation between different stakeholders will be vital to developing the innovative strategies, partnerships and markets that will drive this transformation and allow us to raise the trillions of dollars in investments that are needed.

To tackle these challenges, Financing Sustainable Development is one of the four focus areas at the World Economic Forum's 2019 Sustainable Development Impact summit. A range of sessions will spotlight the innovative financial models, pioneering solutions and scalable best practices that can mobilize capital for the the world's sustainable development goals. It will focus on the conditions that both public and private institutions should create to enable large-scale financing of sustainable development. It will also explore the role that governments, corporations, investors, philanthropists and consumers could play to deliver new ways of financing sustainable development.

The digital tool allows users to navigate the development finance ecosystem by interactively selecting the interventions and providing visibility on the organization or institution leading the efforts.

To provide structure to the tangled system, the initiatives are being mapped by form of support:

  • Financing: initiatives related to financial instruments and vehicles providing capital to sustainability projects
  • Capacity building: programmes to provide technical assistance and train civil servants by providing knowledge, insights and key skills
  • Enabling environment: mechanisms put in place by governments to make investors more comfortable and build confidence through business-enabling policies

The mapping not only provides structure for the system, but also helps countries identify gaps and potential areas for collaboration to ensure an efficient use of resources while addressing the challenges hindering the mobilization of private capital for the SDGs. The tool illuminates the opportunities that can be captured to finance the Agenda 2030 – the stars in the COSMOS to achieve the SDGs.

While the tool currently focuses on Sub-Saharan Africa – given that the project was initiated by the SDIP Africa Hub in collaboration with the Development Bank of South Africa – the objective is to find new partners in other regions and eventually turn COSMOS in a truly global, digital tool mapping every effort active in the development finance ecosystem.

COSMOS aims to deepen the international community’s understanding on the most effective ways to finance the SDGs, by identifying the best stars to help countries on their journey to Agenda 2030.