By Lovemore Ranga Mataire
In an article published in The Sunday Mail of September 4, 2014, Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Simbarashe Mumbengegwi succinctly located President Robert Mugabe’s regional and continental legacy within the framework of his call to expedite the industrialisation of the continent through beneficiation of its vast mineral resources.
In locating President Mugabe’s regional and continental legacy, Dr Mumbengegwi cited the Sadc Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap initiated by the Head of State and Government in 2015.
Regional Heads of State touted the roadmap an enduring strategic document and recommended that it becomes a permanent agenda item for all regional summits.
In his own words, Dr Mumbengegwi wrote: “The Heads of State and Government had been so impressed by what had been done in one year of President Mugabe’s chairmanship of SADC and felt the foundations the President had laid required building upon in subsequent years. This issue will be on the agenda not just one year or two, three, but for the next 50 years.”
True to Dr Mumbengegwi’s words, the idea hatched by Mugabe has today become a dominant force in the development of the region judging by the number of countries that have so far initiated beneficiation efforts particularly in the mining sector.
It is thus not surprising that industrialisation dominated discussions at the just ended Extraordinary Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government held in Lozitha Royal Palace in Swaziland.
It must have been a complete anathema for most European audiences constantly fed with negative stereotypical depiction of Mugabe to accept the idea that it is the same man’s visionary leadership that birthed the regional industrial strategy.
But Africans know their true heroes. Although Mugabe, like any other being, is fallible, there is no denying the fact that he possesses a perceptive mind. Many will remember that it was under his stewardship that the African Union adopted the 50-year long Agenda 2063, the blueprint for Africa’s development over the next 50 years.
Much to the chagrin of his detractors, Mugabe will continue being an inspiration reference point in the development of both SADC and the African Union for the next half a century. It must be acknowledged that while the actual realisation of Mugabe’s industrialisation vision in Zimbabwe has been hamstrung by Western imposed sanctions; no one doubts the fact that he has bequeathed to Zimbabweans an enduring empowerment legacy in the economy, politics, education and other various spheres. Future generations are assured of a solid foundation upon which they can marshal the country to prosperity.
While a number of issues were discussed at the summit including developments in Lesotho and DRC, focus was on the need to expedite industrialisation. A bit of background leading to the summit is essential in contextualizing overall proceedings and the final communiqué issued after the meeting.
The argument often peddled by anti-regional integration pundits is that most summits by African Heads of State are mere talk-shows devoid of concrete action.
Such statements are normally peddled by pseudo analysts oblivious of the pragmatic steps that have so far been undertaken to ensure that the region moves in unison in uplifting the lives of its people.
One such concrete step taken by the regional body was initiating the Regional Development Fund. It is important to note that as envisaged by President Mugabe, the Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap is based on projects, programmes and value chains within the region.
The rationale behind this strategy is hinged on the understanding that no SADC country must lag behind in the industrialisation drive. Each country must therefore be able to produce something for export.
What informs this strategy is the fact that it is virtually impossible for the region to spearhead industrialisation without ensuring that each country identifies a high value product for export. This is done to ensure that no country becomes a supermarket for those with the capacity to manufacture goods for export. Overall, the strategy is structured in a manner that ensures value chains through bankable projects. The operationalisation of the industrialisation strategy calls for a collective effort between the private sector and governments in creating sustainable projects that are not only profitable but are able to attract investors. In short, the regional development fund will also be a collective effort between the private and public sectors.
Realising the crucial need for coordination, the regional body decided to restructure its Secretariat to ensure that it executes this coordination role through infusing of experts who will then advise individual countries in the actual suitable aspects for industrialisation.
Pertinent to the realisation of the industrialization strategy is the need for setting up the Regional Development Fund.
At the 36th SADC Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government held in Mbabane in August 2016 under the theme “Resource Mobilisation for Investment in Sustainable Energy Infrastructure for Inclusive SADC Industrialisation for the Prosperity of the Region,” the regional body agreed to set up the fund to focus on industrial development, infrastructure development, economic integration and social development.
It was at that summit where it was agreed that the fund will be used to mobilise resources from member states, the private sector and development partners to finance programmes and projects to deepen regional integration.
Further to this, member states will hold 51 percent shares, with private sector having 37 percent and 12 percent for international cooperation partners.
A statement posted on the regional body’s official website further states that the fund will have a seed capital of US$1.2 billion, with member states expected to contribute $612 million of the share capital with $144 million coming from international cooperation partners. It is envisaged that the fund will be operational by 2020. President Mugabe’s footprint and visionary leadership is also reflected in the manner in which the regional budget is structured. During his tenure as both SADC and AU chairperson, Mugabe called for “homegrown” budget as a safe-net against foreign manipulation.
It is through President Mugabe’s incessant calls for mobilisation of local resources that 59 percent of the budget now comes from member states with the remainder coming from cooperating partners.
As illustrated by the communiqué released at the end of the Extraordinary Summit in Lozitha, Swaziland, President Mugabe remains an inspirational reference point in executing the region and continental industrialisation strategy. It was that recognition that the summit received the report of the Ministerial Task Force on Regional Economic Integration and approved the Costed Action Plan for SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015- 2063.