Southern African states bank on new economic blueprints

By Timo Shihepo

WINDHOEK–Southern African countries are pinning their hopes on new economic plans but research reveals that they are yet to fully embrace SADC’s Protocol on Finance and Investment.

Aresearch by The Southern Times reveals that southern African countries such as Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe all have new national economic blue prints with most of them as new as since 2015.

Botswana introduced a bold economic stimulus plan in 2015 to use its R119 billion in foreign exchange reserves to stimulate the economy after a drop in diamond prices.

Likewise, Namibia introduced an audacious Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) last year, which aims to build 20,000 houses, service a minimum of 26,000 housing plots, build 50,000 rural toilets in the next four years and eliminate the bucket toilet system by 2017.

The plan also aims to eradicate poverty in the country by 2025. HPP will be complemented by Namibia’s Fifth National Development Plan (NDP5), which will be effective April this year and has a lifespan of five years.

South Africa, on the other hand, created a Nine-Point Plan in 2015 to boost economic growth and create much-needed jobs.

Some of the points include, revitalising agriculture and the agro-processing value chain; advancing beneficiation or adding value to the mineral wealth and encouraging private-sector investment amongst others.

In 2015, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe also announced a Ten-Point Plan to revitalise economic growth. One of the key elements included in the plan is restoration and building of confidence and stability in the financial services sector as well as encouraging private sector investments.

Although the plans have been lauded as promising, a quick glance at the 2006 SADC Protocol on Finance and Investment shows that the countries are doing this individually, in contrast to what the regional protocol states.

The protocol states that the need to accelerate growth, investment and employment in the SADC region can only be met through increased cooperation, coordination and management of macroeconomic, monetary and fiscal policies and established and sustained macroeconomic stability.

It further states that through this protocol, member states acknowledge their collective duty to achieve economic growth and balanced intra-regional development, compatibility among national and regional strategies and programmes in order to develop policies aimed at the progressive elimination of obstacles to the free movement of capital labour, goods and services, and of the residents of the member states.

This would result in improved economic management and performance through regional cooperation, and creation of appropriate institutions and mechanisms for the implementation of programmes and operations in the region.

Namibia’s Ministry of Economic Planning has admitted to The Southern Times that it is true that just having economic plans is one thing while having them achieved is entirely a different situation.

The ministry said it was very important that lessons were learned from past experiences so as not to repeat what did not work and emphasize on what worked.

Economic planning ministry public relations officer, Fillemon Nangonya, said it was important to have development plans for a country, as they would help give a strategic direction and clear picture of what needs to be achieved.

“We can still do better when all of us see ourselves – as individuals, institutions, government – having a responsibility and an obligation to make it work and not to concentrate on pointing fingers at those we perceive to be the only ones who must to things.”

Namibian economist, Dr Omu Kakujaha-Matundu says planning is very important for the region but implementation is still lagging behind. He says this is based on different factors and one is that the lack of financial resources.

Kakujaha-Matundu further says the other challenge is capacity constraints to implement these projects.

“The other pit stop is half-heartedness. Some people who are tasked to implement these projects do it half-heartedly and it’s shared with political interest.  They only do this for political survival,” he says, adding that countries in southern Africa can come up with plans on how to collaborate, especially with human resources, to implement these projects.

“For example, we have engineers in Zimbabwe, if Namibia or South African governments can come up with a strategy to utilise these people by sharing costs then it will be useful.

“In this region, if we grow, we grow together, if we fail, we fail together.”

Namibia University of Science and Technology Vice Rector for Academic Affairs and Research, Dr Andrew Niikondo, says the main problem is the issue of human capital, adding that the region simply does not have enough human capacity with the drive to implement these projects thus most of these projects are doomed to fail.

“The other issue is corruption where money which was intended for the economic plans is diverted for personal gains.”

March 2017
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