An ambitious agenda in Africa

At Africa Forum in October, the continent’s blindness community will focus on UN’s sweeping new development goals

A dozen African children's hands reach for fresh water

The U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals could improve the lives of millions of people with disabilities. U.N. Photo by P. Mugabane.

July 15, 2015

Call it a blueprint for a better world.

Ambitious plans are in the works to eradicate global poverty and hunger, protect the planet’s natural resources, and promote equality, inclusion and education for all.

The United Nations hopes to achieve these lofty objectives by 2030 under its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a sweeping new international development agenda that world leaders are expected to adopt in late September.

Just one week later, Africa’s blindness community will convene in Kampala, Uganda, for the 6th Africa Forum, the continent’s premiere conference on blindness and visual impairment. Perkins International is a founding sponsor of Africa Forum, which is scheduled for Oct. 4-8.

So the timing is perfect, according to Martin Kieti, for Africans who are blind and visually impaired to come together and develop an ambitious agenda of their own.

“The SDGs will be hot out of the stove,” said Kieti, program coordinator for the Institutional Development Program (IDP), which hosts Africa Forum. “We have a chance to put ourselves on the map as blindness and disability advocates, just as the nations of Africa prepare to implement this wide-ranging framework that promises to improve millions of lives.”

The theme of the 6th Africa Forum is, “Beyond 2015: Delivering on the Agenda for Persons with Visual Impairment in Africa.” Each day of the four-day conference will feature presentations, workshops and trainings inspired by specific components of the SDGs.

The first day of Africa Forum will focus on the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies. Subsequent days will cover topics including economic opportunity and education for the estimated 20 million Africans living with blindness and visual impairment.

The SDGs are comprised of 17 unique goals that touch on everything from infrastructure and public health to energy, agriculture and more. By achieving these goals, the U.N. hopes to improve the wellbeing of the more than 1 billion people who live in poverty and experience inequality, without harming the planet.

Kieti, who has low vision, said nearly every aspect of the U.N.’s development goals has the potential to impact the lives of Africans with disabilities.

“All of this has a bearing on disability advocacy,” he said. “Whether it’s the development of safe and affordable housing, or combating climate change and its impacts – topics seemingly unrelated to disability – they all relate to an inclusive society in which people with disabilities deserve full participation. As advocates for the blind and visually impaired, we are eager to come together at Africa Forum and take part in this discussion.”