SADC’s attitude change laudable


The just-ended SADC Summit held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, showed an attitude change in the manner the region wants to pursue its integration agenda.

The summit resolved to make industrialisation the driver of SADC’s regional integration agenda. Under the plan, SADC member states undertook to add value and beneficiate their minerals and other primary products to earn more revenue from their resources and create jobs for their citizens. 

This change of attitude is an important starting point. It is about changing the rules of the game. For years, Africa has supplied the world with resources which are under the control of multinationals while it gets very little in return. Those who have been stealing and continue to loot its resources always insist on a good return on their own investment but have never given Africa a good return for its resources.

Zimbabwe might have made a lot of blunders in the land reform, but there is no doubt that lessons have been learnt. 

Those who have been looting the continent’s resources may also continue to denounce and denigrate Zimbabwe for its so-called ruinous and disastrous policies, but that is just cold comfort. They don’t sleep ease anymore.

 That is why Lonmin is being forced to consider the sale of some of its mining concerns in South Africa in light of losses suffered as a result of prolonged strikes by platinum mines in that country.  There is a growing realisation among Africans that employment on its own, especially given the unpredictability of market trends and the global economy does not provide sufficient security for the worker. By extension, talk of foreign direct investment and employment creation only provide temporary shelter. The fact that questions on resource-ownership and funding for SADC programmes were asked by journalists from outside Zimbabwe is a big political statement on its own. It means these issues are being raised in the region. 

It means the young people are worried about the continent’s dependency on foreign funding. It means people are beginning to realise that without guaranteed funding, policy is likely to remain an empty, unfulfilled wish or promise. More than that, reliance on foreign funding means you have to compromise on your plans. As the late Burkinabe revolutionary Thomas Sankara once pointed out, “he who feeds you can impose his will on you”. 

If SADC is to be part of the “rising Africa” it must think seriously and implement urgent strategies for industrialisation for resource beneficiation and value addition. More importantly, it must mobilise internal funding to reduce external debt. That means there must be increased inter-state and intra-state trade. 

That means on the global stage, Africans must begin once again to view their destiny as shared. 

That is why African leaders must guard against being divided by those who posture as masters of the universe who call them to their countries to tell them how they should run their countries and what is best for the continent. It is the same old and tried and tested trick of divide and rule by sowing seeds of disharmony and unnecessary competition for European and American patronage.

Africa has got the resources to deploy its influence in global politics. It is an infantile lie to claim that even as a continent Africa cannot dictate and set its own terms for engagement with Europe or America. The trick lies in community of purpose and accepting the challenge that it’s us Africans who know best what is best for ourselves.

August 2014
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