US$1,7 billion boost for regional integration
The 15-member SADC regional economic bloc is set to receive €1,6 billion (US$1,7 billion) from the European Union to accelerate the implementation of regional integration programmes and projects.
This emerged after the EU signed a €4 485 million euros (US$4 948 million) technical co-operation facility with Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) recently in Zambia to support implementation of regional integration programmes for the Eastern Africa, Southern Africa and India Ocean (EA-SA-IO) region.
Head of the European delegation to Zambia and special representative to Comesa Ambassador Alessandro Mariani and Comesa secretary-general Sindiso Ngwenya signed the agreement.
The €4 485 million would be shared among five regional economic communities — Comesa (€1,525 million), Southern African Development Community (€1,615 million), East African Community (€1,525 million), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (€1,435 million) and the Indian Ocean Commission (€900 000).
“It is not an understatement that without the support of the EU, the achievements made by Comesa in regional integration would have been less than optimal.
“Comesa already has a framework to ensure that we deliver time-bound results and demonstrate value for money for the facility,” said Ngwenya, the head of Comesa at the signing ceremony.
Mariani said the funds would provide support for the studies sector, surveys, stakeholder consultations, communication, monitoring activities in various development areas such as trade integration, maritime security, wildlife and others. The funds are part of an overall of €1,3 billion provided by the EU under the 11th European Development Fund Regional Indicative (EDF) programme for the EA-SA-IO region signed in June 2015 for the period 2014 to 2020.
Recently, SADC executive-secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax and head of the EU delegation to Botswana and SADC Ambassador Alexander Baum agreed to further promote and expand SADC-EU development co-operation through EDF10 and EDF11.
After a quarterly high-level meeting held recently, the two sides agreed to accelerate implementation of the programmes and projects under EDF10 and identify new ones under EDF 11.
Regional economic cooperation continues to make progress through implementation of the EDF10 Regional Economic Integration Support (REIS) programme and the Trade-related Facility (TrF).
These two programmes seek to advance implementation of the SADC Protocol on Trade, the SADC Protocol on Finance and Investment, negotiations and implementation of the SADC EPA and overall implementation of the regional trade agenda.
SADC and the EU also agreed to act swiftly to finalise formulation of new economic cooperation programmes under EDF11.
Officials from both sides further noted that the ongoing Regional Political Cooperation (RPC) programme has been instrumental in facilitating election observation; supporting mediation missions; enhancing disaster preparedness and response; and strengthening the regional response to trafficking in persons.
Under EDF11, the two sides will utilise the SADC Sub-Regional Envelope of €90 million to implement programmes in the areas of regional agricultural policy; capacity development; regional economic integration, regional political cooperation and regional natural resource management.
Opportunities for programming will also be explored under infrastructure and cross-regional funding envelopes, focusing on energy, ICT, transport facilitation, trans-boundary water management, wildlife management, migration, fisheries and maritime security.
Currently, the African Union and various economic groupings are grappling to accelerate the African integration agenda at national, regional and continental levels.
Political analysts say this integration process should be informed by a thorough understanding of five main vectors of development:
l effective policy coordination and policy discipline
l rural development and poverty reduction
l infrastructural development
l the role of science and technology, education, and research and development
l and industrial development and export-oriented growth
They further point out that Africa needs to nurture visionary and dedicated leadership system, capable and competent bureaucracy, effective policy planning and coordination and policy discipline to succeed in its regional integration drive.
Some political commentators say African countries have long acknowledged that with generally low per capita income, vast but untapped natural resources and single-commodity dependence, they cannot individually sustain growth and development within the global economy.
The continent has the largest mineral deposits in the world in terms of quantity and diversity but has the largest number of least-developed countries.
Despite heavy criticism, Africa has through its regional economic blocs, taken steps to enhance trade through the removal of trade barriers, harmonised several policies and regulations in an effort to ease cross-border trade and strengthen intra-continental trade.