Sustainability challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa: Trade-offs, opportunities and priority areas for Sustainability Science

In Sustainability Challenges in Sub-Sahara Africa II: Insights from Eastern and Southern Africa
Chapter: Chapter 10
Book Chapter
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The sustainability challenges that sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) faces tend to be multidimensional and span multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Despite the inherent difficulty in solving them, such sustainability challenges also offer opportunities for achieving progress on multiple SDGs. This concluding chapter summarises the main characteristics of the different sustainability challenges covered in the two edited volumes. We identify three common underlying themes between chapters, namely, (a) the emergent trade-offs between energy, agriculture, environment and the economy; (b) the low resilience and adaptive capacity to environmental and socioeconomic change; and (c) the constraints and opportunities for designing and implementing solutions to multidimensional sustainability challenges. It is argued that the emerging field of sustainability science is well positioned to lead the research agenda for both understanding and solving the most pervasive sustainability challenges in the continent. In order to achieve this, there is a need to (a) increase the output and visibility of African scholars and facilitate creative collaborations with researchers outside SSA, (b) invest in the development of state-of-the-art infrastructure for research and education, (c) create comprehensive educational curricula offering theoretical and practical tools to tackle sustainability challenges and (d) integrate more meaningfully African voices and perspectives in sustainability research and education. Arguably, the development of new research funding mechanisms, by Africans and for Africans, can usher a new wave of research that can truly address the prevailing sustainability challenges in the continent.