A tale of two SADCs

In this week’s edition we carry two articles, which although tackling the same issue, highlight the contradictive nature in which SADC governments deal with intra regional trade and industrialising the region.

When reading the articles one is caught by the reality that what the SADC member states preach and agree to as a collective is not what they practice or implement in their region. The two articles reminded this paper of Robert Louis Stevenson’s narrative of the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Mr Hyde being Dr Jekyll’s evil alter ego who goes on crime sprees when unleashed. Eventually Dr Jekyll fails to reign his evil side which leads to their death.

Now back to the two articles, the first one is a news article talking about the just ended SADC industrialisation week, being held under the theme “Partnering with the private sector in developing industry and regional value chains”. South Africa’s director-general in the Ministry of International Relations and Co-operation, Kgabo Mahoa, was quoted emphasising that the promotion of investment should be a regional collective effort which will require the intensifying of a free trade area within SADC.

“There is also need to look at the rest of Africa for growth, and more utilisation of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa,” he was quoted as saying. He further said that the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap (2015-2016) was adopted by Heads of State and Government in 2015 to help in addressing the ongoing challenges that Africa face, including the transitioning from a commodity-driven growth path to value adding, and knowledge based industrial economies.

The above article depicts the positive side and that the region is committed to collectively working towards growth.

The second article was authored by Tarah Shaanika, CEO of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry regarding the just ended impasse between the Zambian government and Namibian truck drivers and owners, who transport timber from the DRC and Zamibia to the Walvis Bay harbour in Namibia. The Zambian government had just hanged its laws from prohibiting the harvesting of timber within its borders to also barring the transportation of timber within its borders. Now Zambia is an important corridor for transporting goods from the DRC being shipped via the Namibian harbours. Shaanika’s article basically says that Zambia was frustrated that it was unable to curb the smuggling of timber that it decided to come up with the law that punishes anyone who transports timber in the country, regardless of its origins. As a result 400 Namibian, Tanzanian, South African and Congolese trucks were impounded by Zambian authorities during February to July 2017.

“I could not understand why it was necessary for the Zambian government to detain trucks at checkpoints for so long just to verify documents or determine if among the timber logs on those trucks, there were those of Zambian origin. Trucks carrying suspicious products should have been investigated right at the point of entry, in this case at Kasumbalesa border post. It does not matter whether those trucks are ‘foreign’ or Zambian. It is simply wrong to impound trucks for such a long time and take as long as six months to process documents. It was the highest level of inefficiency which I have ever encountered, which speaks volumes about our countries’ readiness to engage the world markets competitively,” he highlighted.

He further pointed out that Africa needs to act in a business-like fashion if it wants to compete in the increasingly competitive global market and called for laws that would facilitate growth and not kill business and trade within the region.

Elsewhere in this issue, we also reporter that Botswana impounded four cargo trucks carrying fish bought by 30 Zambian cross-border traders. The Zambian cross-border traders were stranded in Chobe in Botswana at the time of writing, after the trucks were not allowed to leave the country.

Reports indicate that the four trucks, which were loaded with fresh fish from Botswana to Zambia, were not allowed to cross the border by the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism.

The contradiction is self-evident and should be dealt with in such a way that the SADC region realises that the time of isolating one from the region is long gone and that now is the time for the region to start working together for the common good of its people. This can only be delivered if the region allows for the free movement of goods and people to enable inter regional trade. Without putting an end to what happened in Zambia, the region will not see its potential fulfilled. When will we see goods made in Zamibia, DRC and Botswana on the shelves of other African countries and those in the SADC region?

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