The ‘sustainability’ of developmental programmes is one of the most elusive goals of
any government services delivery system. ‘Sustainable development’ is an increasingly
important umbrella concept to integrate various desired developmental outcomes
of governmental interactions with its society. The concept is still a fuzzy one that
frequently generates controversy. This article attempts to give an operational meaning
to the term ‘sustainability’. It also distinguishes different dimensions of sustainability
and suggests a concrete measuring instrument to determine progress towards
achieving these different dimensions of sustainable development outcomes in Africa.
According to Bhamra (2015:1), “...social, economic, environmental and governance
systems cannot be treated in isolation. For the systems to be concurrently aligned in
the development paradigm, the first step is to develop a meta-metric framework
that identifies indicators and their respective roles in the development processes. A
clear comprehensive metric system that not just focuses on economic indicators but
includes social, environmental and governance systems is a pre-requisite”.
This article starts off with a brief conceptualisation of development and of
sustainability and then proceeds to summarise the main international approaches
to sustainable development, and the way in which it is applied in Africa. The article
concludes by identifying the main elements of a systematic generic instrument to
measure sustainable development outcomes, focusing on the African context.