SADC Summit opens tomorrow

… to review economic milestones
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
THE Southern African Development Community (SADC) will soon carry out an assessment to review its performance towards meeting milestones, such as the planned Customs Union and the Monetary Union.
The SADC Director of Trade, Finance, Industry and Investment (TIFI), Boitumelo Gofhamodimo, told journalists ahead of the 34th SADC Summit underway in Zimbabwe’s resort town of Victoria Falls that the assessment will help the region to recalibrate its economic integration agenda.
She noted that while SADC was able to launch the Free Trade Area (FTA) as planned in 2008, the region has missed other economic milestones.
These include the Customs Union, which was expected to be launched in 2010.
The region had also set a target to launch a Common Market by 2015, Monetary Union by 2016 and eventually adopt a Single Currency by 2018.
However, these targets are unlikely to be met.
“We will make an evaluation on how we are progressing on our regional milestones,” Gofhamodimo said, adding that “this will determine how we move to the next stage.”
Furthermore, SADC member states are still focusing on consolidating and implementing the FTA.
Under the FTA, an estimated 85 percent tariff on all goods was attained by most SADC countries in 2008, while maximum liberalisation was finally reached in 2012 when tariffs on sensitive products were removed.
All SADC countries, with the exception of Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Seychelles, are members of the FTA.
Gofhamodimo revealed that Seychelles was now ready to join the FTA after its offer to remove all tariffs on goods to promote the smooth movement of goods and services across the region.
Figures released by the TIFI director showed that intra-SADC trade has gradually increased since 2000.
“Although not so big, regional trade has increased from US$13.8 billion in 2000 to US$58 billion in 2012,” she said, indicating that these trade figures only relate to the 12 countries that belong to the SADC FTA.
If all the 15 SADC member states are included, she said intra-regional trade had increased from US$14 billion in 2000 to US$66 billion in 2012.
She said South Africa is the largest trading partner in the SADC region. For example, its exports to the region are estimated at 40 percent of total intra-regional trade. Other major exporting countries include Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
In terms of imports, Botswana
is the leading importer in the region together with other members of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), which is made up of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and South Africa.
She said it was pleasing to note that other countries in SADC are also increasing their share of intra-regional trade, particularly exports to the region.
With regard to general economic situation in the region, Gofhamodimo said most countries are making steady progress towards consolidating and improving their economies.
A number of countries, she said, have managed to keep their debts below 60 percent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
However, SADC members are not performing well in terms of curbing inflation. Only five member states kept their inflation rates to within five percent by the target date of 2012.
“Most are not doing well in containing inflation,” she said.
SADC agreed to curb the inflation rate to a single digit. The region set a target of five percent by 2012, and three percent thereafter.
The 34th SADC Summit is being held under the theme “SADC Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region’s Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development through Beneficiation and Value Addition.”
The Summit of Heads of State and Government, which is set for 17-18 August, is preceded by meetings of senior officials, followed by the Council of Ministers who will adopt the agenda for the leaders.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is becoming the SADC chair at this Summit for the coming year, taking over from his Malawian counterpart President Peter Mutharika.
The journey has been long but worthwhile.
From a series of consultations held in the late 70s by representative of the Frontline States to forge closer alliance, southern Africa was finally able to form a vibrant regional organisation, the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) in 1980, which was later transformed to SADC in 1992.
Initially made up of nine countries namely Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, SADC has grown to 15 members which now include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa and Seychelles.
Closer cooperation among the 15 member states has seen the region achieve a number of milestones aimed at advancing political freedom into broader socio-economic independence that ensures improved living standards for its people.
For example, the region has broken down colonial barriers by opening up its borders to encourage the smooth movement of goods, services and people within the region.
This development has improved intra-regional trade, and facilitated the movement of skilled personnel in the region, as well as deepened people-to-people exchanges.
Unlike in the past, it is now possible for SADC citizens to easily move within the region without first obtaining a visa, as most countries have signed bilateral agreements between themselves to remove any stringent measures.
On the economic front, SADC citizens are now getting better products at lower prices due to increased production as a result of the implementation of the SADC Protocol on Trade in 2000 and the ultimately launch of the SADC Free Trade Area (FTA) in 2008.
By attaining the status of the FTA, producers and consumers in the region benefit from a tariff-free trade for all goods originating within the region.
An estimated 85 percent tariff on all goods was attained by most SADC countries in 2008, while maximum liberalisation was finally reached in 2012 when tariffs on sensitive products were removed.
All SADC countries, with the exception of Angola and DRC are members of the FTA. The two countries are expected to join the FTA soon, after requesting time to rebuild their economies following decades of armed conflict.
The next stage for SADC is to consolidate the gains of the FTA by creating a Customs Union, Common Market, Monetary Union and with regard to energy development, more SADC citizens now have access to sustainable modern energy services.
This has been made possible through a number of initiatives including the establishment of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) – a regional body that coordinates the planning, generation, transmission and marketing of electricity on behalf of SADC member state utilities.
In 2013 alone, SAPP added 1,360 Megawatts (MW) of new electricity to the regional grid, and the region plans to install more than 6,000 MW in 2014 with the hope of ensuring that sufficient generation reserves of installed capacity is achieved in the few years to come.
The recently launched SADC regional infrastructure Master Plan identifies a total of 73 power generation projects to increase generation from the current 56,000 MW and surpass the projected demand of 96,000 MW by 2027.
Another major regional initiative that has improved access to energy for SADC citizens is the commission of the competitive electricity market, commonly known as the Day Ahead Market (DAM) in December 2009.
The DAM has allowed SADC countries to easily sell and buy surplus electricity from each other, thereby helping some Member States to meet their growing demand for energy.
Improving energy access is a top priority for all SADC countries, and the region is working together to fully exploit the rich energy resources in the region which include solar, hydro and wind.
On the political scene, SADC has succeeded in consolidating peace and security. Political stability, peace and security are seen by SADC as the foundation for socio-economic development.
Except for one or two trouble spots such the political situation in eastern DRC, the SADC region is considered as one of the most stable regions in Africa.
In 1998, SADC-led troops helped DRC defend its sovereignty when some neighbouring countries tried to invade it, and the region continues to support DRC’s road to recovery and the restoration for total peace in the eastern part of the country.
The involvement of SADC in Madagascar and Zimbabwe is yet another success story, which gives credence to the ability and effectiveness of SADC to solve its own challenges without unnecessary outside interference.
With respect to gender, SADC has made significant progress to elevating women in decision-making positions. August 2013 was the historic appointment of Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax from Tanzania as the first woman to assume the position of SADC Executive Secretary.
At parliament level, SADC countries are making efforts to attain 50/50 representation in all decision-making positions by 2015.
According to the SADC Gender Monitor 2013 released at the 33rd SADC Summit held in Lilongwe, Malawi, representation of women in the Lower House of Parliament ranges from more than 40 percent in Seychelles and South Africa to around 10 percent in Botswana and the DRC.
Average SADC representation by women in parliament was 25.8 percent as of mid-2013, marginally up from 20.6 percent in 2005 and 23 percent in 2011, but still short of the 50 percent target.
Six SADC countries are significantly close to the target of parity in parliament, having gone above the 30 percent threshold set previously by regional leaders for representation of women.
These are Seychelles at 43.8 percent representation of women as of 2012, South Africa (41.3 percent), Mozambique (39.2 percent), Tanzania (36 percent) and Angola (34.1 percent). Zimbabwe, since the July 2013 elections, has 31.5 percent representation in the National Assembly and 47.5 women representation in the Senate.
As the momentum builds towards the 34th SADC Summit in Victoria Falls, SADC should aim at consolidating these gains and ensure deepen integration among member states.
The 34th SADC Summit whose theme is “SADC Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region’s Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development through Beneficiation and Value Addition” will be held from 17 to 18 August.
SADC was established on April 1, 1980 in Lusaka, Zambia, when nine independent states signed a Declaration titled “Southern Africa: Towards Economic Liberation,” whose main objectives were to reduce dependence, particularly on apartheid South Africa, as well as secure international understanding and support.
The transformation from SADCC to SADC was achieved in August 1992 in Windhoek, Namibia, when the leaders signed the SADC Declaration and Treaty.
The leaders realised that, although the coordination conference had served them well and had demonstrated the crucial need to cooperate in their development efforts, the time had come to give the organisation a more formal legal status.
There was also a need to shift the focus of the organisation from coordination of development projects to a more complex task of integrating the economies of member states. – SARDC.NET.

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