Unilag Housing Centre


Integrating Sustainable Development Goals in Local Governance Regimes: The Case of Freetown City Council, Sierra Leone

Bankolay Theodore Turay

Doctoral Scholar in Sustainable Urbanization
Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development
University of Lagos, Nigeria

Email: bankolay@gmail.com

The Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030) was adopted by all 193 UN Member States in 2015, with 17 goals and 169 targets. Practitioners, governments, and stakeholders have taken action to localize the Agenda, aligning national development plans with the SDG framework targets and indicators identified by the Inter-Agency Expert Group on the SDGs. The Sierra Leonean Government has integrated the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into its Agenda for Prosperity (A4P) development program, aiming to create inclusive local governance structures. This initiative aligns with pillar 16 of the SDGs, ensuring inclusion in Sierra Leone’s short- and medium-term development plans. One of the oldest cities in West Africa is Freetown. Since its inception in 1787, Freetown hosts the legal, commercial and diplomatic communities as well as the main capital city, which is also the largest. Despite housing only 15% of the country’s population (Statistics SL, 2022) and occupying less than 0.5% of the country’s land area (GoSL, 2011), Freetown is considered Sierra Leone’s economic engine, contributing 30% of GDP (MoF, 2018).

Domestication of the SDGs by Freetown City Council

The Freetown City Council (FCC) is implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of its development strategy, aiming to eradicate poverty, combat inequality, protect the environment, promote sustainable economic growth, and foster social inclusion. Local councils play a crucial role in achieving these goals, requiring resources, knowledge, and consensus building.

Incorporating the SDGs into FCC activities will improve community ownership, ensure transparency, and promote inclusive growth and equity. Nevertheless, local governance functions have been limited by cross-cutting interactions that require a holistic approach to achieving the SDGs. It will be necessary to overcome significant bureaucracy to achieve the SDGs. As a result, the Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyer, launched the ‘Transform Freetown project in 2019 in a bid to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (Transform FCC, 2019). The project supports Environmental Management, Urban Planning and Housing, Education, Skills Development, Job Creation as well as  Health and Disability.  Local governance, however, affects all aspects of community development (UN, 2017). To effectively implement decentralized actions to create sustainable communities  in line with the SDGs, significant resources are needed. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP 2018) recognizes the vital contributions local governments play in integrating programs into their development to achieve the SDGs and their importance for global development, as agents of change and engines of growth. With appropriate resources, information and consensus, this would be feasible (Duong, 2016).

Key challenges of the Freetown City Council approach to integrating SDGs

The Freetown City Council (FCC) needs to enhance revenue collection to achieve SDGs, reduce dependency on the government, and ensure sustainability. The current collection falls short, causing uncertainty and affecting fiscal autonomy and self-reliance. The FCC have capacity gaps that are hindering service delivery to communities resulting in low absorption capacity. The councils require;

  • improved human resource capacity development given the paucity of core professionals;
  • enhanced skills training; and
  • provision of logistics to effectively carry out essential tasks to achieve the SDGs.

FCC lack sufficient human resources to effectively and efficiently monitor and supervise service delivery at the community level and as well as comply with certain directives from Ministries, Departments and Agencies across devolved functions. This has to be tackled to ensure that the implementation of projects and activities follows the requirements of the Sustainable Development Goals. In addition, it is crucial to increase accountability and address rent-seeking behaviour and corruption risks by closely monitoring project implementation and enhancing reporting requirements complemented by robust accountability arrangements involving ward committees, civil society organizations and citizens at local levels. The FCC and the government’s International advocacy initiatives and continuous policy dialogue are not aligned to achieve the SDGs. Donors, together with civil society and other stakeholders, have not been able to strengthen multi-national engagement to maintain the momentum of the SDGs created by the FCC at the national level.

Opportunities, lessons learned and the way forward

Freetown City Council effectively integrates Sustainable Development Goals into its development programs, demonstrating the importance of learning from other African cities and avoiding reinventing the wheel. It is imperative that Local councils’ build their capacity to enhance domestic resource mobilization and efficient utilization of public finance towards implementing the SDGs. This will provide an effective follow-up to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development. Local councils need to initiate research to determine the chances of achieving the various goals in the various local councils, and the investment resources (financial, technical, and institutional) required. Freetown city council should use the SDGs as an investment in their future, planning cities based on local conditions and population requirements. Economic, political, and technical forces can enhance economic growth and build resilience, contributing to sustainable growth in African cities, rather than a charitable cause.


Duong, P (2016), Regional Knowledge Exchange Implementing Agenda 2030 for sustainable development, United Nations, Bangkok, 24-25 October 2016.

Freetown City Council, (2019). Transform Freetown project, https://fcc.gov.sl/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Transform-Freetown-One-Year-Report.pdf (Access 20/10/2023).

Government of Sierra Leone (2011), Local Councils Equitable Grants Distribution Formulae and Annual Allocations 2011, LGFD

Government of Sierra Leone (2018), Medium Term National Development Plan (MTNDP) (2019-2023), Policy, Planning and Research Department of the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development in Freetown, Sierra Leone; http://moped.gov.sl/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/sierra_leone_national_development_plan-1.pdf (Access 20/10/2023).

Statistics Sierra Leone (2022) Mid-Term Population and Housing Census (MTPHC): Summary of Final Results. Planning for a Better Future.

UNDP Sierra Leone (2018) Annual Report Committed to Leaving No One Behind, UNDP Sierra

Leone Country Office:https://www.undp.org/sites/g/files/zskgke326/files/migration/sl/UNDP-Sierra-Leone-2018-Annual-Report.pdf (Access 20/10/2023).

United Nations (2017), “Workshop on Sustainable Development Goals- From the Global Agenda to Local Action: Partnering to make the SDGs a reality for all”, Regions and Cities for Development, Brussels, 10-11 July 2017.


Author’s Profile

Bankolay Theodore Turay is a Sierra Leonean PhD candidate pursuing Sustainable Urbanization, at the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development, University of Lagos, as part of the WITS-TUB-UNILAG Urban Lab, a DAAD-funded program. Bankolay holds a B. A degree in Development Studies and an MSc. in Land Governance & Policy.