BACKGROUND: Measuring national progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals
(SDGs) enables the identification of gaps which need to be filled to end poverty, protect
the planet and improve lives. Progress is typically calculated using indicators stemming
from published methodologies. South Africa tracks progress towards the SDGs at a
national scale, but aggregated data may mask progress, or lack thereof, at local levels.
OBJECTIVE: To assess the progress towards achievement of the SDGs in four low-income,
rural villages (Giyani) in South Africa and to relate the findings to national SDG indicators.
METHODS: Using data from a cross-sectional environmental health study, the global
indicator framework for the SDGs was applied to calculate indicators for Giyani. Local
progress towards SDG achievement was compared with national progress, to contextualize
and supplement national scale tracking.
FINDINGS: Village scores were mostly in line with country scores for those indices which
were computable, given the available data. Low data availability prevented a complete
local progress assessment. Higher levels of poverty prevail in the study villages compared
to South Africa as a whole (17.7% compared to 7.4%), high unemployment (49.0%
compared to 27.3%) and lack of access to information via the Internet (only 4.2%
compared to 61.8%) were indicators in the villages identified as falling far short of the
South African averages.
CONCLUSIONS: Understanding progress towards the SDGs at a local scale is important when
trying to unpack national progress. It shines a light upon issues that are not picked up by
national composite assessments yet require most urgent attention. Gaps in data required
to measure progress towards targets represents a serious stumbling block, preventing the
creation of a true reflection of local and national scale progress.