Lack of action at country level retards SADC integration agenda
By Kizito Sikuka.
Southern Africa has the capacity to benefit fully from its integration agenda if all regional initiatives and strategies are implemented according to the agreed timelines.
President Hage Geingob of Namibia, who is the current Chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said the lack of implementation of strategic decisions by SADC Member States is hindering sustainable development and integration in the region.
During a recent visit to the SADC Secretariat, he stressed that SADC should focus more on the implementation of existing action plans instead of producing new ones.
“Sometimes we take decisions and after failing to implement them, we simply move on to another decision,” he said.
Many SADC commitments and protocols have been ratified to advance the regional policies, but a lack of domestication of agreements and implementation at national level has delayed the impact for citizens to access the benefits of belonging to a shared community in southern Africa.
More than 33 protocols have been signed by Member States since the transformation of SADC from the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) in 1992, however many of the protocols have not been ratified or implemented at national level, thus derailing the integration agenda in the region.
These protocols range from trade and investment, peace and security, to transboundary natural resources and the empowerment of women and young people.
Geingob said it is critical for SADC to “walk the talk” and implement its agreed decisions since these regional commitments can promote sustainable development and deeper regional integration.
He said one “case in point is the SADC Free Trade Area, which was envisioned as a tool to augment the private sector in the region by increasing domestic production and business opportunities, as well as supporting higher regional imports and exports.”
While the launch of the SADC FTA in 2008 has seen producers and consumers in the region benefit from tariff-free trade for all goods originating within the region, SADC has however, faced some challenges in consolidating the gains of the FTA through implementation of a Customs Union, a Common Market, Monetary Union, and adoption of a single currency for the region.
SADC had planned the launch of a Customs Union in 2010, a Common Market by 2015, and a Monetary Union by 2016, with adoption of a single currency by 2018.
All these targets have proved elusive.
“No one can question the fact that all of these regional agreements were signed in good faith and with the best of intentions,” Geingob said, adding that “the question we need to ask ourselves is whether we have done or are doing enough in terms of implementation.”
He said it is now time for SADC to deal with the slow pace of implementation to ensure that the region is able to attain its longstanding goals of a united, prosperous and integrated region.
“It is imperative that as Africans, we should manage our regional economic communities as corporations. Therefore, the core principles of corporate governance should be inculcated at all levels within the SADC Secretariat. Fairness, accountability, responsibility and transparency should constitute the DNA of our organization,” he said.
“This is the only guarantor of future growth and the successful implementation of our developmental aspirations.”
He said these principles should be applied to ensure the smooth and successful implementation of all agreed regional decisions, activities, programmes and projects such as the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2015-2020 and SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap.
First approved in 2003, with strategic revision in 2015, the RISDP is the blueprint for regional integration and development.
The SADC industrialization strategy seeks to achieve major economic and technological transformation at national and regional levels to accelerate economic growth through industrial development.
Geingob said the SADC Secretariat should continue to take an active approach in coordinating the implementation of the regional integration agenda.
He will hand the rotating SADC chair in August to his Tanzanian counterpart Dr John Magufuli at the 39th SADC Summit, to be hosted by Tanzania.
Southern African News Features are produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC). Www.sardc.net