By Hilary Mare
THE 38th SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government in Windhoek this week will seek to review progress towards regional integration and socio-economic development with a theme that builds on the focus of the past four SADC Summits that sought to advance industrial development.
Imperatively, the theme also resonates with one of the key pillars of the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP 2015-2020) in which integrated infrastructure networks are regarded as an important enabler of industrialization and market integration.
As expected, the highlight of the Summit is the presentation of a progress report on implementation of the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063.
The SADC industrialization strategy, adopted in April 2015, seeks to achieve major economic and technological transformation at national and regional levels to accelerate economic growth through industrial development.
A costed Action Plan for the strategy covering 2015-2030 was approved in March 2017. The Action Plan details the key actions, with reference to the three pillars of the strategy and the requisite activities, as well as the key enablers needed to unlock the region’s industrial potential.
One of the three pillars of the industrialization strategy is Enhancing Infrastructure. The other two pillars are Strengthening Value Chains, and Corridor Development.
Summit will also discuss progress towards implementation of the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP) which is pivotal to the socio-economic growth of the region, including the industrialization agenda.
The RIDMP is the region’s strategy for the development of integrated regional infrastructure to meet projected demand by 2027, at an estimated cost of US$500 billion.
The historic decision to approve the RIDMP in 2012 was informed by the perspective that infrastructure development and maintenance is a priority for accelerated regional integration, economic development, industrialization and trade.
The SADC Secretariat is currently reviewing progress of the first five-year phase 2012-2017, and this is expected to add impetus to the implementation of regional infrastructure projects.
SADC aims to develop cross-border infrastructure in the six priority areas of energy, transport, tourism, water, information communication technology and meteorology.
Energy limitations have presented barriers to socio-economic development, and the solution for the energy deficit is one of the main priorities of infrastructure development that the region must collectively tackle.
SADC has made significant progress in addressing power shortages experienced since 1999 which became more pronounced after 2007.
The region produced surplus electricity generation in 2017 for the first time in a decade as a result of regional cooperation in energy planning.
SADC leaders will seek to deepen a coordinated approach to the provision of energy in the region, as electricity is essential to advance the industrialization agenda which aims to ensure that SADC achieves its longstanding goal of a united, prosperous and integrated region.
Summit is expected to approve strategies for addressing food security in the region, including the need to increase investment in high-impact interventions that address chronic food and nutrition insecurity.
According to a report released in July, the State of Food and Nutrition Insecurity and Vulnerability in Southern Africa, the SADC region is estimated to have a cereal surplus of 6.3 million metric tonnes, down from 7.5 MT the previous year.
The number of food insecure people in the 2018/19 consumption year is 29 million, about 14 percent of the population in SADC according to the report, thus reversing the improvement achieved in 2017/18.
As part of the theme for the Summit, the leaders will explore ways of harnessing the human capital dividends through youth empowerment. The youth make up the majority of the population in SADC, hence their importance in advancing the regional integration agenda.
As the timespan of the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap progresses towards 2063, the youth of today will reap the benefits of the key elements contained in the strategy.
SADC strategies of today will enable the youth to take an active role in promoting development and deepening integration.
Development needs peace. So another important issue for SADC leaders will be how to enhance peace and security as well as consolidate democracy and the rule of law in the region.
SADC is among the most stable and peaceful regions in Africa. However there are pockets of instability that continue to hinder peace and development.
The Summit will discuss constitutional reforms in the Kingdom of Lesotho, preparation for general elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the political situation in Madagascar.
The SADC Resource Mobilisation Framework (Alternative Sources of Funding SADC Regional Programmes) is intended to determine how fiscal space can be created to enable SADC Member States to finance regional programmes, projects and activities.
The six options for innovative sources of financing regional integration in SADC are the introduction of an export and import tax; a tourism levy; a financial transaction tax; a lottery system; philanthropy; and regional events.
It is estimated that SADC can earn in excess of US$1.2 billion annually from these alternative sources, a development expected to remove the current dependency on external funding
According to the SADC Secretariat, less than 10 percent of regional projects are funded by SADC Member States while the balance comes from International Cooperating Partners.
The SADC Secretariat was tasked to finalize the draft SADC Regional Resource Mobilisation Framework for submission to the Committee of Ministers of Finance and Investment, and ultimately to the SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government.
Summit will also receive a report from the human resources and administration committee, pertaining to review of the regional recruitment for the Secretariat. This was triggered by several challenges, including that of failing to fill positions because some Member States had exhausted their allocated quota points.
Reviewing the application of the quota system is intended to ensure that the SADC Secretariat has access to a high quality of human resources from Member States in a fair, effective and objective manner, while observing the principle of equity and representation without compromising delivery.
Summit is expected to present a common position on the African Union (AU) Institutional Reform, in line with an AU Assembly decision in January this year to consult the eight Regional Economic Communities that make up the AU on the need to review the institutional structure.
An effective institutional structure is essential to achieving the AU Agenda 2063 for the Africa We Want, a vision of inclusive economic growth and development.
The SADC Secretariat prepared an analytical paper that was considered by the SADC Council of Ministers in March and is expected to go to Summit for approval. Some key issues proposed by SADC for AU institutional reform include:
African leaders to be given sufficient time to consult nationally on strategic issues; an urgent and thorough study of the bureaucratic barriers that affect service delivery in the AU Commission and other organs and institutions; and reduce AU Summits from two to one per year.
Additional reporting by Southern African News Features (SANF)
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