A lack of political will remains SADC’s Achilles heel
SADC was established as an inter-governmental body to promote sustainable and equitable economic growth as well as socio-economic development through efficient productive systems, deeper co-operation and integration, good governance and durable peace and security among its members. Ever since its formation in 1992, the SADC Head of State and Government have been religiously meeting on an annual basis to plan and commit themselves to common goals to improve conditions in the region.
During these retreats, the political leadership has made numerous pronouncements in the form of agreements, protocols and declarations that seek to deepen regional integration and improve living standard in the region.
This year, they meet at the weekend for their annual gathering, in Pretoria to make more commitments and declarations.
The 37th SADC Summit of Head of State and Government, was held under the theme, “Partnership with the Private Sector in Developing Industry and Regional Value Chains”.
This was a befitting theme, but in our view it does not make much sense at this moment in time.
It is commendable that SADC leadership tried to reach out to the private sector in pursuant of regional integration.
However, the regional body, specifically the political leadership seem to be unconscious of the fact that the business sector thrives under certain conditions that makes it easier to conduct business, specifically cross-border trading.
The ideals of SADC are guided by the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP), a comprehensive development and implementation framework guiding the regional integration agenda of the organisation that was revised in 2015 until 2020.
The plan is designed to provide clear strategic direction with respect to SADC programmes, projects and activities in line with the regional common agenda.
This regional integration blue print was first adopted by the region in August 2003.
But, lack of political will remains the biggest challenge to SADC prosperity, because member countries have missed countless datelines as espoused in the RISD to sign, and ratify agreements and protocols.
The SADC Protocol on Trade, which was agreed to in Maseru in 1992, and entered into force in 2000 is hailed as the most important instrument for deepening regional integration.
Nonetheless, due to lack of political will by the regional leadership, this important protocol is not yet implemented to the fullest.
This is due to failure by member countries to set a specific date of implementation.
The region still lags behind with implementing agreements that ought to make it easy for the private sector to play a meaningful role in regional integration. For instance, not all member states have fully embraced the Free Trade Area that is aimed at addressing trade barriers through the creation of one-stop border posts.
The region is yet to agree on a specific date when to launch the common currency, the Univisa, and the SADC Customs Union, just to mention but a few.
This lack of political will, was recently highlighted by Swaziland Prime Minister, Sibusiso Dlamini who expressed his disappointment at failure by the region to operationalise the SADC Regional Development Fund (RDF).
The RDF, which was first proposed in 2013 is meant to create a financial mechanism to mobilise resources from Member States, Development Partners and Private Sector to support regional development and deepening of regional integration.
“To those Member States that have already signed the Agreement I encourage you to also proceed with the depositing of the instruments of ratification.
To those who have not signed, I urge you please to hasten the conclusion of your internal consultations,” Dlamini said, while address the SADC Committee of Ministers of Finance and Investment, in Swaziland recently.