By Joseph Ngwawi
THE continental vision of the “Africa We Want” defined by the African Union as Agenda 2063 serves as an inspiration for the sub-regions to review their own plans and vision for the future.
Southern Africa is therefore in the process of assessing and redefining its regional integration agenda with a view to creating a region in which all citizens share in and benefit from the vision of a shared community.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is an intergovernmental body that has evolved from the Frontline States of Southern Africa to the Southern African Development Coordination Conference in 1980 and later to a regional community underpinned by the Windhoek Treaty of 1992, which transformed the organisation from the status of cooperative development into a community in pursuit of deepening regional integration.
The mandate of the organisation is defined by the SADC Treaty (as amended), and the plan for implementation is the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2015-2020 adopted by SADC leaders at a special Summit in Harare, Zimbabwe in April 2015.
The SADC Treaty sets out the main objectives that would lead to the attainment of the SADC Common Agenda. These are:
to achieve development and economic growth and alleviate poverty;
•to enhance the standard and quality of life of the peoples of Southern Africa; and
to support the socially disadvantaged through regional integration.
The Treaty outlines the SADC vision that aims to build a region in which there will be a high degree of harmonization and rationalization, to enable the pooling of resources to achieve collective self-reliance in order to improve the living standards of the people of the region.
The vision is one of a Common Future, a future within a shared regional community that will ensure economic wellbeing, improvement of the standards of living and quality of life, freedom and social justice, and peace and security for the people of southern Africa.
The realisation of this vision is predicated on the existence of functioning governance structures and smooth implementation of programmes and activities of mutual benefit to the 15 member states – Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
In March 2016, the SADC Council of Ministers noted the need for a special strategic session at ministerial level to deliberate on the implementation of SADC programmes and projects under the auspices of RISDP (2015-2020) and the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap (2015-2063).
In this regard, council directed the SADC Secretariat to organise a special strategy session to review the pace and level of the implementation of the SADC integration agenda.
This is to take stock of what SADC has achieved since its establishment in 1980, as well as the challenges the region is facing, and what needs to be done to accelerate the pace and level of the SADC integration agenda. A SADC Strategic Ministerial Retreat was held on 12-14 March in Mbabane, Swaziland, to determine what needs to be done to create the “SADC We Want” and come up with scenarios about the possible trajectory that SADC could take. Ministers discussed the institutional arrangements to drive regional integration, especially for industrialisation and explored alternative options of financial resources for implementation of SADC programmes and projects. The retreat also assessed the effectiveness of the SADC governance and institutional structure.
The key issues and recommendations of the ministerial retreat werepresented to the Council of Ministers, followed by the Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government scheduled for Swaziland on 18 March.
The Summit of Heads of State and Government of the 15 member states is the supreme policy-making institution of SADC responsible for the overall policy direction and control of functions of the community. The ordinary Summit meets once a year in August/September.
Political and policy decisions on regional development and integration are taken by the full SADC Summit or Summit Troika that comprises the current SADC chairperson, the deputy chairperson and the immediate past chairperson.
The Summit vests authority in this group of three leaders to take decisions on behalf of SADC that are ordinarily taken by summit, as well as providing policy direction to SADC institutions between the regular SADC Summits.
The SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation is also managed on a Troika basis and is responsible for maintaining peace and security in the SADC region, as well as providing direction regarding matters that may threaten peace, security and stability in the region.
SADC operations are centralised at a Secretariat which is the principal executive institution of SADC, responsible for strategic planning, facilitation, coordination and management of all regional programmes. Based in Botswana, the Secretariat is headed by an Executive Secretary and made up of eight directorates and eight stand-alone units responsible for crosscutting issues.
The directorates are responsible for infrastructure and services; trade, industry, finance and investment; food, agriculture and natural resources; social and human develop and special programmes; policy, planning and resource mobilisation; budget and finance; and human resources and administration.
The stand-alone units are responsible for gender; public relations; internal audit; macroeconomic convergence surveillance; conference services; procurement; legal issue; and information and communication technologies.
The Secretariat reports to the Council of Ministers, which usually comprises ministers responsible for foreign affairs or home affairs or finance and economic planning in member states, and is responsible for monitoring the work of the SADC Secretariat and ensuring that policies are properly implemented.
Council meets twice a year – around February/March and in August, just before the summit of heads of state and government.
Other crucial structures are the SADC National Committees established to provide inputs at national level in the formulation of regional policies and strategies, as well as coordinate and oversee the implementation of programmes at national level.
The committees comprise key stakeholders from government, private sector and civil society in each member state, and are responsible for the initiation of SADC projects and issue papers as an input into the preparation of regional strategies.
The ministerial retreat will assess if the current structure and mandate of the Secretariat are adequate to drive the integration agenda to meet the aspirations of the founding fathers who believed in a united region where all citizens enjoy high living standards and peace.
The retreat made recommendations for accelerating the SADC regional integration agenda; agreed on approaches to successfully implement SADC programmes and projects; and, identified alternative sources of financial resources for implementation of the SADC Programme of Action. – sardc.net