Progress in regional integration efforts

 

Gaborone – The SADC Task Force on Regional Economic Integration and the Council of Ministers has appreciated the progress on the ongoing negotiations for the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement (TFTA) between SADC, the East African Community (EAC), and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

Botswana’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Vincent Seretse who recently attended a meeting to discuss the launch of the TFTA said this week that two meetings were held recently to consider a number of issues.

There had been concerns the TFTA might be delayed after the Technical Working Group meeting in Malawi recently failed to reach consensus on trade related issues.

This resulted in the convening of two more meetings to thrash out the outstanding issues.

Seretse said Council considered the update in relation to the progress made towards the launching of the Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) negotiations in June 2015 by the African Union heads of state and government.

Seretse said the Council urged SADC member states to prepare for the launch with a view to promoting industrialisation so that it can take centre stage in the quest for regional integration.

The Minister said the council had instructed the SADC policy organs to meet in advance of the launch of the TFTA by heads of state and government in June 2015 in Egypt, and to possibly harmonise SADC positions leading thereto.

Seretse shared sentiments expressed by other regional leaders that the year 2015 promises to be an exciting period for Southern Africa, with crucial regional processes expected to be concluded as deadlines for a number of important regional and global milestones beckon in the next 12 months.

At the meeting, discussions also focused on how the region could improve its industrial capacity as it aims to move away from an economic path built on consumption and commodity exports onto a sustainable developmental path based on value-addition and beneficiation.

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.

Furthermore, Seretse said the council also endorsed the SADC candidate for the presidency of the African Development Bank, Thomas Sakala, and urged member states to give him material and/or other support in his campaign for the position.

The meeting also considered and recommended to summit, for approval, the resolution on the establishment of the SADC administrative tribunal.

“The council considered and appreciated the progress made in the review of the regional indicative strategic development plan and the development of the SADC regional industrialisation strategy and roadmap, together with the parallel development initiatives at both the tripartite and continental levels,” said Seretse.

Furthermore, the council also noted the progress made by the ministerial task force on regional economic integration.

“That came in the form of the interim report which provides inter alia the strategic objectives for achieving major socio-economic and technological transformation at both national and regional levels, and accelerating economic growth and enhancing the comparative and competitive advantage of economies in the region,” said Seretse.

He added that: “All in all, the above are in line with the economic priority objectives of Botswana and dovetail with our endeavours to grow the economy through industrialisation (manufacturing and value-addition) which are espoused in the revised Industrial Development Policy of 2014, the Economic Diversification Drive, and the draft National Entrepreneurship Policy and thus look to the challenges ahead with optimism.”

The 34th SADC Summit held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe in August 2014 postponed the approval of the revised RISDP to allow synchronization of the four SADC regional integration pillars – industrial development and market integration; infrastructure development for regional integration; peace and security cooperation; and special programmes.

The Summit felt that the implementation of the pillar on industrial development and market integration was skewed in favour of trade issues, with little progress made on the industrialisation component.

The RISDP, which is a 15-year blueprint for SADC regional integration and development, has been under review since 2010 as part of efforts to align the region’s development agenda in line with new realities and emerging global dynamics.

March 2015
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