SADC gears up for economic integration
Socio-economic issues topped the agenda at the two-day SADC conference held in Maseru, Lesotho last week, with outgoing SADC chairman, president Festus Mogae of Botswana urging members of the regional block to contribute more to the organisation’s budget. At least 61 per cent of SADC’s budget is donor funded.
Heads of state and government meeting in Maseru expressed their commitment to the regional grouping’s efforts to work towards the establishment of a Free Trade Area by 2008, a regional customs union by 2010, and then a monetary union by 2016.
The Maseru Summit came only a day after heads of state of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa had inaugurated the Giriyondo Tourist Access Facility, which joins South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to form part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.
SADC executive secretary, Tomaz Augusto Salomao, identified five priority areas for the implementation of the regional integration agenda, namely, political stability, trade liberalisation, infrastructure development, food security and HIV/Aids.
Issues of trade within the region were discussed at length, with the bloc’s Council of Ministers giving policy directions on the integration effort, expected to lead to a monetary union within a decade.
Ministers of finance and economy from the 14 countries represented have been working on a finance protocol, which was signed at the Maseru summit as part of the effort to build the infrastructure of a free trade area.
The leaders convening at the regional meeting were also concerned about Africa’s declining influence in the UN and other world institutions, an issue discussed by SADC ministers of finance and economy in Mozambique a fortnight before the Maseru meeting.
“African ministers of finance and economy met in Mozambique on August 3-5 and made a recommendation to our heads of state and government to endorse the issue of protecting Africa’s voice and participation in the world arena.”
The concern with Africa’s declining influence especially in negotiations over quota increases from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, has been an issue of major importance to members of the block.
President Mogae highlighted the issue of SADC’s largely donor-funded budget, saying the organization was still facing problems in the implementation of its programmes with its own resources.
“If one looks at our budget for 2007/2008 SADC states are expected to contribute 39% while its international partners are expected to contribute 61%,” he said, urging SADC countries to show a spirit of self reliance, their regional integration and development efforts.
Mogae handed over the chairmanship of the regional bloc to host Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili at the closing of the Maseru Summit last week.
The Maseru Summit, which improved the level of engagement between member states on different issues, is widely expected to kick-start the organisation’s regional integration agenda, especially in the area of trade.
The implementation of the bloc’s Regional Indicative Strategic Development Programme (RISDP) and contributions to the ongoing construction work at the SADC headquarters in Gaborone, Botswana, were discussed at the summit.
The leaders also made deliberations on the social and political situation in the region, with the SADC tribunal and HIV and AIDS featuring in discussions.
The SADC region has the world’s highest rates of HIV infection and the highest number of people living with AIDS. Although peace prevails in the region, it continues to rate among the poorest in the world, with recurrent droughts and food shortages.
Established 26 years ago, SADC comprises of 14 countries. These are Angola, South Africa, Mauritius, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Madagascar, Namibia, DR Congo, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.