Reaping the benefits of regional integration
> Kizito Sikuka
The benefits of belonging to a shared community in southern Africa are reaching the lives of many people in the region, according to a new publication released by the Southern African Development Community.
SADC Success Stories reveals that the regional integration agenda matters to people in southern Africa and has contributed to reducing poverty and enhancing the quality of life.
For example, the establishment of the Maputo Development Corridor by Mozambique and South Africa in 1996 has not only improved trade between the two countries, but has also made a world of difference to SADC citizens such as Aly Ibrahimo Lalgy of Mozambique.
“If we didn’t have the Maputo Development Corridor, our income would be about 20 percent of what it is now,” Lalgy is quoted as saying in the publication.
He says the establishment of the corridor has resulted in improved infrastructure including road and rail, promoting the smooth movement of goods, people and services across the region.
To ensure that such benefits are felt throughout the region, SADC is now creating 17 other transport corridors since these are critical in supporting socio-economic integration by opening up markets and promoting increased trade and investment.
Another major advantage of belonging to a shared community of southern Africa is demonstrated at the Chirundu one-stop border-post between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Since the introduction of the one-stop border-post initiative in November 2009, the crossing time at the border has drastically been reduced, saving most travellers time and huge sums of money since they no longer spend long periods waiting to cross into another country.
Where it used to take several days to clear customs and immigration procedures, it now only takes a few hours.
This means that truck drivers such as Godfrey Magaba from Zimbabwe now spend less hours on the road, reducing chances of accidents and other “social ills such as corruption, pilferage and increased exposure to risky sexual behaviour.”
Furthermore, the saving being realised by transport companies is being passed on to the end-users, making goods cheaper for consumers in the region.
Equally important, cooperation among SADC countries has allowed citizens to enjoy peace and stability.
One such person who has benefited from this cooperation is Thaba Bosiu of Lesotho.
While most of her friends were pondering leaving the country because of possible unrest in the run-up to the February elections, she “wasn’t nervous at all,” as she pinned her hopes on other SADC countries that had sent peacekeeping missions to observe the elections in her country.
“They (the peacekeepers) were neutral so they could keep the peace between the police and army,” she says.
Cooperation in maintaining regional peace and stability has also saved lives in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar.
With regard to water resources and management, of notable benefit has been the establishment of river basin commissions for shared watercourses, which have made it easier for the joint management and utilization of transboundary water resources.
For example, cooperation has made it possible to bring water from one part of the region that has the resources in abundance to a water scarce area in another country.
“We know that water can be a source of conflict, but we also think that, in particular for the SADC region, water has become more a driving force for cooperation as opposed to conflict,” Paulo Cesar Alone Selemane of Mozambique says.
Another benefit is that there is better coordination among SADC countries to prepare for any natural disaster such as drought or floods as member states share information ahead of time.
The SADC Success Stories publication – the first of its kind in southern Africa, was launched by the SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax in August at the 35th Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government held in Gaborone, Botswana. The publication presents some notable achievements of regional integration in various sectors such as trade, transport, finance, tourism, energy, disaster management, water resources, peacekeeping training and political cooperation.
The book was compiled and published by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC) and Frayintermedia with support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). – sardc.net