Targets needed on infrastructure development
Infrastructure development is the key to socio-economic advancement and the Southern African Development Community has been on a drive to build infrastructure in the national economies of member states and at the regional level.
The drive recently received a major boost when leaders from the region signed the SADC Declaration on Regional Infrastructure Development in which they committed themselves to promote mutual co-operation between member states in the rapid development of bankable projects that will foster adequate and efficient trade routes for regional and international trade.
Infrastructure in the transport, energy and information communication technology, tourism and water sectors has been identified as the catalyst to facilitating economic development both at the national and regional levels.
It was, therefore, important for the SADC leaders to show their commitment to accelerate the development of infrastructure in these key sectors. The region envisages to embark on an industrialisation crusade in order to beneficiate its primary products so that they seek more revenue on the markets. But that can only happen when there is enough energy, water, efficient ICTs and reliable transport to facilitate the movement of goods and people.
But appending signatures to a declaration is one thing and implementation is another. We urge the SADC bloc to set itself targets on the regional infrastructure projects that it wishes to implement.
Regular reviews of the state of implementation will help the countries involved in the projects to check progress or lack of it. Under the declaration which the leaders signed at the recent 34th SADC Summit in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, they undertook to implement regional agreements and protocols to facilitate the development of infrastructure that promotes industrial development and creation of regional value chains and in order to achieve sustainable growth and development.
It is encouraging that the Heads of State and Government undertook “to identify innovative solutions to deal with the infrastructure deficit in the region, and to this end embrace advanced technologies through more efficient decision-making processes, greater coherence, close coordination and bolder action in different sectors”.
Many a time progress is hampered by failure to take timely decisions and coordination among the countries implementing the projects. Above all sourcing funding is the greatest challenge facing the region and the African continent at large.
Under the declaration, the SADC leaders pledged to collaborate with the African Development Bank, international co-operating partners, the private sector and other stakeholders to secure funding for infrastructure development in the 15-member grouping.
But co-operation alone will not be adequate because the potential funding partners need clarity on policies.
And as the declaration rightly points out implementation of all the necessary legal, institutional, fiscal, policy, procedural and regulatory measures is important to lure the private sector so that it can play a meaningful role in infrastructure development, construction, expansion, maintenance and rehabilitation.
The declaration mandates the SADC ministers responsible for infrastructure to prioritise the implementation of the declaration and monitor its progress accordingly in order to achieve its intended objectives.
The ministers must waste no time in starting their work as directed by the Heads of State and Government.