42nd SADC Summit takes a keen, realistic look at regional integration
This article is the first of a series to unpack some of the key issues to be considered by the 42nd SADC Summit on 17 and 18 August in Kinshasha.
The Democratic Republic of Congo will host the annual SADC Summit later this month when southern African leaders will discuss regional integration and sustainable development.
The theme for the 42nd Summit of Heads of State and Government is “Promoting industrialization through agro-processing, mineral beneficiation, and regional value chains for inclusive and resilient economic growth.”
The theme continues the trajectory of the previous nine summits, building towards the integration goals of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and resonates well with the vision of the Summit that conceived the industrialization drive, held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe in 2014 with a focus on economic transformation “through beneficiation and value addition”.
Natural resources can propel southern Africa’s growth:
Southern Africa is endowed with vast natural resources that include fertile soils, forests, wildlife and minerals such as gold, diamonds and coal.
However, very few SADC countries process their own raw materials, with the bulk of the value addition taking place elsewhere and benefiting others.
In this regard, one of the key issues for discussion at the forthcoming summit is how SADC can develop viable strategies that ensure the region fully benefits from its vast natural resources.
In a wide-ranging interview in May, the new SADC Executive Secretary, His Excellency Elias M. Magosi said the region has the capacity to fund its own developmental growth and become a dominant force in global affairs if it industrializes and adds value to its vast natural resources before exporting them.
“The exportation of none-processed minerals should be stopped now,” he said, adding that it is time for SADC to advance its industrialization agenda and ensure the creation of regional value chains that allow the region to collectively benefit from its natural resources.
“We must make sure that when we export anything related to our minerals it is in a finished form because when that happens jobs are created, the economy thrives and money is spent here.”
Tracking implementation of industrialization policies:
The 42nd SADC Summit is also expected to assess the implementation of various projects, programmes and activities on industrialization, as contained in the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063, as well as the Protocol on Industry.
The Protocol on Industry adopted in 2019 is a binding instrument that gives legal effect to the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap and seeks to ensure adequate coordination, monitoring and evaluation of its implementation.
The SADC industrialization strategy, adopted in April 2015, seeks to achieve major economic and technological transformation at national and regional levels to accelerate economic growth through industrial development.
A Costed Action Plan for the Strategy covering 2015-2030 was approved in March 2017, detailing the key actions needed for the three pillars of the strategy and the requisite activities, as well as the key enablers needed to unlock the region’s industrial potential.
The three pillars are Enhancing Infrastructure; Strengthening Value Chains, and Corridor Development.
With respect to Enhancing Infrastructure, special focus is on water and energy projects, while Strengthening Value Chains gives priority to mining and mineral beneficiation, agro-processing and pharmaceuticals.
Corridor development involves various enabling factors such as standards and quality infrastructure, trade facilitation and transport infrastructure.
Therefore, the highlight of the Summit will be the presentation of a progress report on the implementation of the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063.
Breaking down trade barriers:
The 42nd SADC Summit will focus on how member states can take full advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFCA).
The AfCFTA has the capacity to change the global economic landscape and boost intra-regional trade across the continent.
Bringing together all 55 AU Member States, the AfCFTA is the largest trade arrangement, creating a combined market of more than 1 billion people and a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of more than US$3.4 trillion.
According to the African Union, the AfCFTA when fully operational is expected to increase African intra-regional trade from the present 10 percent to about 40 percent.
The smaller TFCA involves the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (ECA) and SADC, and aims to promote the smooth movement of goods and services across borders, as well as allowing member countries to harmonize regional trade policies to promote equal competition and increased trade.
The TFCA covers 26 countries in eastern and southern Africa and has a combined population of almost 600 million and a total GDP of about US$1 trillion.
Striving for food security:
Agriculture and food security remain a top priority, and the summit is thus expected to focus on measures to improve food security in the region, in particular how to improve production, productivity, competitiveness and trade in the agricultural sector.
In line with the theme of the 42nd SADC Summit, the meeting will discuss ways to develop a vibrant agro-processing system.
An agro-based industry is critical as it increases industrial products, provides employment, improves income levels and develops downstream industries.
Agro-processing also has the potential to increase nutritional value and food security through a reduction in food spoilage and wastage.
This increase in food security and nutritional value is important, particularly when some parts of the region are experiencing food insecurity due to poor harvests and low rainfall – with the impact further exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19.
According to the 2021 Synthesis Report on the State of Food and Nutrition Security and Vulnerability in Southern Africa, the region has a cereal deficit and an estimated 47.6 million of the 370 million population are food insecure.
Summit is expected to approve strategies for addressing food security in the region, including the need to increase investment in high-impact interventions that address chronic food and nutrition insecurity.
The SADC We Want:
Another important agenda item for the 42nd SADC Summit is reviewing progress towards the implementation and attainment of various socio-economic development goals as contained in the SADC Vision 2050 and the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030 which were both approved in 2020.
The SADC Vision 2050 envisions a peaceful, inclusive, competitive, middle-to-high income industrialised region, where all citizens enjoy sustainable economic wellbeing, justice and freedom.
The SADC RISDP (2020-2030) is the regional plan which prioritises regional integration issues of infrastructure development, industrial development and market integration, social and human capital development and other crosscutting issues including the environment, climate change, disaster risk management, gender and youth empowerment.
SADC has urged international cooperation partners to align their support to these two key strategic documents — the SADC Vision 2050 and the Revised RISDP 2020-2030.
Alignment of support to the two regional documents will ensure the smooth implementation of agreed activities and programmes, thereby promoting socio-economic development and deeper integration.
Southern African News Features are produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC) based in Harare. www.sardc.net