Lets make 2018 count
2017 will go down in the history books as an eventful year for SADC.
By December 2016, the region was still facing a severe drought that threatened the lives of many. The economy was slowing down considerably as a result of falling commodity prices. As a result, jobs have been lost, some businesses closed shop and governments lost out on tax revenue.
Some governments like Namibia and South Africa were down graded to low investment grade status by so-called international rating agencies.
On the political front, the region remained on edge as post-election situations in Zambia and Lesotho remained tense and worrisome. The DRC is still to hold elections, while Angola and Zimbabwe experienced peaceful transfer of power from one president to another.
Zimbabwe is still a work in progress as President Emmerson Mnangagwa is not only working towards reforming the country’s economy but has also promised elections in 2018.
In Namibia, President Hage Geingob was in late November elected the president of ruling SWAPO Party after serving in acting capacity since 2015. This secures him presidential candidature for the next presidential election in 2019, which will decide whether he will serve for the second term as Head of State. If elected, this will enable him to focus on delivering on the country’s promised prosperity.
There are some lessons to be learnt from 2017 and one of them is that SADC is matured enough to guarantee political stability for its citizenry. The region has also proven that it can ensure that its members are able to hold peaceful, free and fair elections, which do not require supervision from the outside world, Angola being a case in point.
For that the region deserves a pat in the back for its achievements this year. But the year has come to an end and we are already looking at 2018. Our wish for the year is that each and every SADC member state makes it their new year’s resolution to build on the current success to ensure that SADC implements and achieves its aims and objectives and to solve the immediate challenges facing the region, which are regional integration, industrialisation and stability.
With regional integration, we would like to point out that it is diversity that at times drives growth and innovation.
The free movement of people, goods and services, is a model that can improve trade among member states.
This would come with governments in the region reducing visa restrictions and allowing people to move freely in the region in pursuit of trade. We can no longer afford to have visa requirements for people attending a one-day business meeting in SADC, while a significant number of Europeans can freely move in the region free form the stringent visa requirements imposed on Africans. This was also emphasised by President Geingob when he said that such restrictions seem to mainly target Africans.
Regional integration is closely linked to regional industrialisation.
Regional industrialisation cannot be achieved if we as a region fail to implement regional integration, because how then will we tap into the resources, both human and material, available in the region? In order to industrialise, we need to work towards a common good. Without lowering the cost of production the region will find it difficult to industrialise. But history has taught us that some countries refuse to partner up with their neighbours to jointly work on projects that can make the cost of production in the region cheaper.
The abandonment of the Inga hydro-power project in the DRC is just one example.
As a region we are talking about the fourth industrial revolution, which is basically focused on using ICT as a means of development, economic growth and improved productivity. This will require us to invest in education to ensure that our citizens are able to utilise ICTs not only as a means of production but to ensure smoother service delivery in other sectors such as health care, water and electricity.
It is also a fact that without peace and stability all our aspiration for creating a utopian SADC will fail if peace and stability is not guaranteed in the region. We might want to take a cue from Zimbabwe, when the country’s military found a Zimbabwean solution to a peaceful exchange of power. One which did not interrupt the running of the country and also with no loss of life.
We would like the region to take a proactive approach to solving the volatile situations in the DRC and Lesotho.
After all, the region cannot see prosperity if part of it does not enjoy the same peace and stability.
We call upon our governments and leaders to make 2018 the year which we deliver for our people.