SADC must catch up
Socio-economically, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) is not at the desired level. Member-states are endowed with most of the natural resources on the planet, but they are poor and backward socio-economically.
Citizens are living in abject poverty, and diseases are ravaging societies.
Like many African states, countries in the regional bloc are independent politically, but not independent economically.
This is proving to be an elephant in the room, and hindering socio-economic transformation in the region.
However, SADC member-states, together with other African nations, can use their political independence, natural resources and sovereign power to put an end to economic dependence.
They must simply look for long-term developmental prospects, put in place institutions as well as policies required to guarantee that natural resources profit all citizens, and catch up industrially. Naledi Pandor, the Minister of Science and Technology in South Africa, concurs: “Industrialisation is the normal route to development. None of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries became high-income countries without developing a substantial manufacturing base that in turn provided for full or nearly full employment.”
Sharing same views, Dr Martyn Davies of Frontier Advisory, a leading research, strategy and advisory firm that specialises in emerging markets, says: “I cannot think of a single developmental success story in which an economy has developed without first industrialising. Arguably, African governments have not taken advantage of the past decade’s growth spurt to move towards diversification.
“But if Africa is to deliver on The Economist’s ‘Africa Rising’ narrative, it is imperative that the economies diversify, and there is only one way to do this: industrialisation.”
Dr Davies and Pandor subscribed to African Union (AU) and SADC Chairman, President Robert Mugabe’s chorus that Africa must industrialise so as to transform socio-economically and compete globally.
“Africa is a continent endowed with abundant resources. We have agreed, as part of our 2063 Agenda, to leverage our resources for the benefit of our people.
“To achieve this objective, we have to intensify our efforts to value add and beneficiate our mineral resources, as well as to industrialise and create employment for our people, especially the youth,” said President Robert Mugabe soon after assuming his AU Chairmanship recently.
SADC member-states together with other African nations must, therefore, unite to industrialise the region and the continent so as to secure growth that is strong, inclusive and sustainable – growth that creates jobs, benefits the broad categories of citizens and combats inequality.
Political leaders must also unite for the peace and security of the region, and for cooperation in effecting a robust industrial revolution, to say the words of media personality, Don Muvhuti.
He further advises that “the regional bloc’s goal should be to ensure that all citizens enjoy the fruits of development.”
Muvhuti says that regional countries must aspire to reach a time soonest possible when novel inventions as well as innovations also generate from SADC. This demands heavy investment in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) – pillars that can enable Africans to make use of their proportional knowledge and location advantages to create jobs.
Governments must, however, increase investment in science, technology and innovation to at least one per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) if the region is to increase its high-tech research and development towards a stronger industrial base.
Without doubt, industrialisation requires SADC leaders to work closely with business leaders to build viable blocks for growth that allows member-states to become economically impendent.
Policy decision makers should craft plans, policies and strategies that enable and propagate inclusive economic growth over and above broad socio-economic development.
Still at policy level, Southern Africa needs to forge proactive business-friendly growth models rather than aid-supported reactive economies driven by commodity prices that result in nothing more than dependency.
As the Chair of both the SADC and AU, President Mugabe must use his visionary leadership to make sure that industrialisation becomes a reality in the continent by ensuring that manufacturing expands in African countries.
The starting point is already there as industrial development has long been identified as one of the main drivers of regional integration in SADC as it promotes the diversification of economies, as well as the development of productive capacity and the creation of employment to reduce poverty. What is needed is commitment and will from political leaders, development partners and the private sector.
Last year, for instance, member-states at the SADC Summit of Head of State and Government decided that “industrialisation should take centre stage in SADC’s regional integration agenda”.
They mandated the Ministerial Task Force on Regional Economic Integration to develop a strategy and roadmap for industrialisation in the region. This follows the adoption of the SADC Industrial Development Policy Framework.
The Framework sets out the region’s vision for industrialisation, key interventions for implementation and areas of cooperation at regional level.
It is, therefore, the sole responsibility of governments in the region to regularly monitor and evaluate progress so as to ensure member-states do not backtrack in their efforts to industrialise. The convening of an Extraordinary summit on industrialization must be used to push the value addition and beneficiation agenda.