The role of impact assessment in achieving the sustainable development goals in Africa

Ibeh, Christopher and Walmsley, Bryony; (2021) The role of impact assessment in achieving the sustainable development goals in Africa. In: IAIA21 Smartening Impact Assessment in Challenging Times. International Association for Impact Assessment, [Fargo, ND.], pp. 1-15. (

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Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is considered an important regulatory tool with the potential to assess the ecological, economic, and social sustainability of developmental projects. However, since its adoption into the legislation of most sub-Saharan African countries and with the introduction of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda 2030, there has not been an adequate assessment of the role that EIA could play in achieving the SDGs. Here we present a review of environmental impact assessment legislation in selected African countries compared to the attainment of the United Nations SDGs. We also examine the challenges of achieving the SDGs in sub–Saharan Africa, and the role that EIA can play in achieving the SDGs in sub-Saharan Africa. We showed that there is a good positive correlation between development of EIA legislation and SDGs attainment in sub-Saharan African countries. In addition, we provided practical actions and consideration for environmental practitioners towards ensuring the alignment of SDGs to the EIA process. It is observed that the EIA process is a very effective tool in evaluating the sustainability of development proposals. Significant improvements on achieving the SDGs can be advanced by good EIAs and strict adherence to regulations. This requires a close collaboration and cooperation between environmental practitioners and the decision makers to ensure that the consideration of the SDGs is an integral part of every EIA; this will maximise opportunities for sustainability. Sustainability should be explicitly incorporated into EIA legislation, guidelines, and institutional arrangements in sub-Saharan Africa. There is also the need for coherent policies at different government levels on the environment and strategic impact assessment, ensuring implementation and establishing a review process to ensure compliance in sub-Saharan Africa.