Deeper integration: SADC sets priorities for 2014
At least seven priority areas have been identified for implementation this year, as southern Africa intensifies efforts to deepen integration for socio-economic development.
The priority areas were adopted by the SADC Council of Ministers, which met in March in Lilongwe, Malawi.
The ministers agreed to intensify efforts towards finalising the review process of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) and consolidation of the SADC Free Trade Area (FTA) launched in 2008.
Other key priorities are conclusion of negotiations to establish a single market covering 26 countries in eastern and southern Africa; fast-tracking implementation of the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan; strengthening measures to improve food security; and implementation of the HIV and AIDS cross-border initiatives.
The seventh priority is on peace building and consolidation of democratic practices in the region.
The SADC Council of Ministers that oversees the functioning and development of SADC is made up of ministers of Foreign Affairs, Economic Planning or Finance from the 15 member states.
The current Chairperson of the SADC Council, the Malawian Foreign Affairs Minister, Ephraim Chiume, said implementation of the priority areas is critical in promoting regional development, particularly in an era of the weakening global economic outlook.
“The world economy is showing signs of slowing down, and this may have the domino effect on the economies of SADC and that calls on us to find innovative ways of subduing these effects,” said Minister Chiume.
A multi-stakeholder task force has been set up to implement recommendations of an independent review of the RISDP that was concluded last year.
The task force is expected to propose new priorities, main focal areas, milestones, outputs, targets and timeframes for the remainder of the implementation period of the RISDP; and suggest new policy, strategy, and institutional innovations for the post-2018 period after the development plan comes to an end.
The team is expected to prepare a summary of key recommendations and priorities for completion of the RISDP and present these to Council for deliberation and endorsement when the latter meets again in Zimbabwe in August.
The review of the 15-year SADC development blueprint that was adopted in 2003, aims to ensure its targets are realistic and in line with regional agreements as well as continental and global dynamics.
Council resolved to devote greater energy to implementation of the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan that aims to create an efficient and cost-effective infrastructure network in southern Africa by 2027.
Implementation of the master plan got a boost in February following the signing of a about US$16.5 million agreement between SADC and the European Union for the operationalization of the Project Preparation and Development Facility (PPDF).
The PPDF aims to facilitate preparation of bankable projects in the region.
Under its ambitious US$64-billion infrastructure programme, SADC aims to develop cross-border infrastructure in the six key areas of energy, transport, tourism, water, information communication technology and meteorology.
Implementation of this programme started in 2013 and will be done in three five-year phases of short term (2012-2017), medium term (2017-2022) and long term (2022-2027).
With regard to food security, the region is aiming to boost capacity through greater commitment to various regional measures on agriculture such as those identified in the Dar es Salaam Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security.
Adopted in 2004, the Dar es Salaam Declaration encourages member countries to allocate at least 10 percent of their national budgets to agriculture annually.
Other measures include improving the availability and access to agricultural inputs for farmers, consisting of improved seed varieties, fertilisers, agrochemicals, tillage services and farm implements.
Significant progress has been made in meeting some of the targets. However, a number of countries still lag behind in implementing the plan ‑ a development that could derail efforts to boost production and make the region food self-sufficient.
Full implementation of the HIV and AIDS cross-border initiatives would enable the region to curb the spread of the virus, allowing SADC to strengthen its human resource base – a key component in advancing the regional integration agenda.
As part of the initiative, member states are expected to improve the regional response to HIV and AIDS among mobile populations, including long-distance truck drivers, commercial sex workers and communities that live close to border areas.
At least two mobile clinics are expected to be established in each member state to provide various services such as testing and counselling, and medical referrals as well as behaviour change communication.
In addition to fast-tracking the various regional targets and programmes, SADC plans to deepen integration this year by consolidating gains from the FTA and the peace that prevails in the region.
The SADC FTA came into force on 1 January 2008 following implementation of agreed tariff phase-down commitments between 2000 and 2007.
From 2008, producers and consumers no longer pay import duty on an estimated 85 percent of all trade in goods between participating member states, which are Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Two countries, Angola and the DRC, have said they will join the FTA later.
With regard to engagement with other Regional Economic Communities, the finalisation of the tripartite agreement with COMESA and EAC would boost intra-regional trade, by creating a wider market covering 26 countries in eastern and southern Africa.
SADC companies will have access to a combined population of approximately 600 million people, spanning from Cape to Cairo. The single market would serve as one of the building blocks of an African Economic Community.
The target for COMESA-EAC-SADC is to reach an agreement by June, paving the way for the launch of the grand FTA that will become a new benchmark for deeper regional and continental integration in Africa. ‑ sardc.net