Kizito Sikuka Correspondent
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has made significant progress towards achieving its vision of a united, prosperous and integrated region.
This was said by SADC Chairperson President Hage Geingob of Namibia while presenting a report on the status of regional integration in SADC to the inaugural African Union (AU)-Regional Economic Communities (RECs) Coordination Meeting held on July 7-8 in Niamey, Niger.
“Our review of the status of integration in SADC reveals that implementation has progressed well, notwithstanding some challenges,” President Geingob said.
He said some of the major milestones recorded by SADC include the launch of a Free Trade Area (FTA) in August 2008.
The SADC FTA, which covers 12 member states, has led to an increase in intra-regional trade in SADC to above 22 percent of the collective Gross Domestic Product, compared to the pre-FTA era high of around 16 percent.
Furthermore, the launch of the SADC FTA has allowed consumers in the region to get better products at lower prices due to increased production, while producers are benefiting from tariff-free trade for all goods originating within the region.
The main aim of the SADC FTA is to promote the smooth movement of goods and services across borders, as well as to encourage member states to harmonise trade policies to promote equal competition and increased trade.
Another achievement for SADC is the establishment of a regional payment system to settle cross-border transactions faster without having to rely on intermediary banks from outside the region.
Commonly known as the SADC Real Time Gross Settlement System, the system was established in July 2013 and piloted in four countries – Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa.
The system is now operational in 14 SADC Member States and only Madagascar and the Union of Comoros are not participating. “The SADC cross-border Real Time Gross Settlement System has improved efficiency and reduced transaction costs,” President Hage said.
He said the system has “performed impressively, with 81 banks participating, and over 1,2 million transactions settled by end of 2018, representing ZAR5,21 trillion (about US$373,5 billion) worth of SADC’s intra-regional trade.”
On the energy front, the establishment of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) has provided a platform for power utilities within the region to share electricity across borders, thereby allowing countries to manage their energy surpluses and deficits.
All mainland SADC member states, with the exception of Angola, Malawi and Tanzania, are interconnected to the regional grid through SAPP, allowing them to trade electricity. The island states of Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles are not yet members of SAPP.
The region has witnessed significant investment in renewable and non-renewable energy sources, a development that has seen a number of power generation and transmission projects being implemented during the past decade.
Such investment has led to increased generation capacity in the region, which has faced power deficits since 2007.
With regard to peace and security, the region has remained largely stable and continues to put in place measures to promote and strengthen its stability.
For example, as part of the Good Governance and Democracy Tenets, SADC member states have been encouraged to adhere to the Revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, which provide a normative peer review framework to measure adherence to standardised universal best practices in relation to the conduct of elections and, ultimately, the prevention of election-related conflicts.
In this regard, since the adoption of the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, the region has successfully deployed the SADC Electoral Observation Missions (SEOMs) to observe elections in member states.
In 2018 and 2019 alone, SEOMs have so far been deployed to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Kingdom of Eswatini, Madagascar, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The deployment of the SEOMs, supported by the SADC Electoral Advisory Council, has, by and large, contributed to the enhanced credibility of electoral processes in member states and towards deepening democracy in the region.
President Geingob, who will hand over the SADC chair to his counterpart President John Pombe Joseph Magufuli of the United Republic of Tanzania at the 39th SADC Summit set for August 17-18 in Dar es Salaam, said the SADC Standby Force has strengthened capacity for collective defence and rapid response to security threats in the region and in Africa.
Established in 2007, the SADC Standby Force successfully assumed Africa Standby Force (ASF) roster duties from January 1, 2019 to June 30, 2019.
The assumption of the ASF standby roster duties entailed that the SADC Standby Force had the primary responsibility of being the first responder to conflict situations on the continent by providing a rapid deployment capability.
The ASF is an important tool of the African peace and security architecture for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts in the continent.
The ASF became fully operational in 2016 and is based on standby arrangements among Africa’s five sub-regions — North Africa, East Africa, Central Africa, West Africa and Southern Africa.
The regions agreed to be placed on a six-monthly rotational basis to lead the ASF.
To mainstreaming of gender in peace and security, SADC has developed a regional framework that will serve as a guide on mainstreaming gender into the regional peace and security systems and processes.
President Geingob said despite these achievements, various challenges continue to hinder the ability of SADC to make the benefits of belonging to a shared community in southern Africa enjoyable by all its citizens.
“Some plans and commitments are either unrealistic or are not fully owned by member states. This negatively affects implementation of the plans and the ultimate realisation of the set milestones. We, therefore, need to ensure that the plans are realistic, and all member states are fully consulted and subscribe to them,” he said.
Another challenge is the multiple and overlapping membership of various RECs by SADC member states.
A number of SADC member states belong to more than one REC, a situation that has led to conflicts of loyalty and confusion of commitment, thereby hindering progress of integration in Africa.
However, the issue of overlapping membership is being addressed by the operationalisation of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Free Trade Area, and the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area, whose operational phase was officially launched on July 7.
Other obstacles to deeper integration is limited participation in regional programmes by non-state actors, including the private sector, civil society and the media.
“We need to effectively bring on board the private sector as a critical partner to regional integration,” Geingob said, adding that “lack of prioritisation and implementation of plans and activities that promote regional integration” is another challenge that should be tackled if SADC wants to achieve deeper integration.
He said that to address these challenges the region has also “pursued a developmental approach to integration that focuses on sectoral cooperation.”
This developmental approach is premised on four interdependent priority areas, which are aligned to the African Union Agenda 2063. These priority areas are:
Industrial Development and Market Integration;
Infrastructure Development in Support of Regional Integration;
Peace and Security Cooperation; and
Special Programmes of a Regional Dimension.
The inaugural AU-REC Coordination Meeting sought to enable RECs in Africa to take a critical look at the progress made in implementing and meeting the objectives of their integration agendas, as well as provided an opportunity to take stock of the synergies between the activities of the RECs and the AU agenda and programmes.
The AU is made up of eight RECs. These are the Arab Maghreb Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Community of Sahel-Saharan States, East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD) and SADC.
The RECs are the essential building blocks of the proposed African Economic Community (AEC) envisaged to be in place by 2028.
The overall objective of the AEC is to promote cooperation and development in all aspects of human activity, with a view to raising the standard of life of Africa’s people, maintaining economic stability and establishing a close and peaceful relationship among member states. — sardc.net
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