Southern African News Features                                           SANF 09 No 24, September 2009
Infrastructure development can unlock SADCís economic potential

With a combined population of some 260 million and a regional market worth over US$430 billion, southern Africa has vast potential for socio-economic development.

However, to achieve this, the Member States of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) need to work towards developing an efficient, seamless and cost-effective trans-boundary infrastructure network as a thriving economy depends on a reliable infrastructure base at both the national and regional levels.

A vibrant transport network also has the capacity to boost regional integration as well as ensure that the SADC Free Trade Area (FTA) launched in 2008 and the impending Customs Union in 2010 are successful through addressing delays at border posts and promoting the free movement of goods and services across southern Africa.

According to the SADC Secretariat, about US$20 billion, mainly from member states and cooperating partners, is required to support trade facilitation measures and upgrade regional infrastructure, particularly roads, rail and ports.

Targeted development corridors include the Dar es Salaam Corridor, Shire-Zambezi Waterway, Mtwara Development Corridor, Nacala Development Corridor, Beira Corridor, Limpopo Corridor, Maputo Corridor, Libombo Development Corridor, Trans-Kalahari Corridor, Walvis Bay Corridor, Trans-Caprivi Corridor, North-South Corridor, Trans-Kunene Corridor, Lobito Corridor, Western Power Corridor project, and the Malanje Corridor.

Other regional infrastructure projects are the Kazungula Bridge, which would link Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, the proposed Zimbabwe-Zambia-Botswana-Namibia power transmission line code-named ZiZaBoNa, which links the four respective countries, and the Benguela railway line between Angola and Zambia.

However, due to various reasons, chief among them lack of funds and will to implement the programmes, regional integration has been greatly affected -- a concern raised by SADC Heads of State and Government at their 2007 Summit in Zambia.

The leaders have since directed the SADC Secretariat to work out a regional Master Plan for Infrastructure Development to coordinate and harmonize all regional infrastructure developments.

The five priority sectors for regional infrastructure development are energy, transport, telecommunications, water infrastructure and tourism.

Stakeholders hope the move by southern African leaders will yield positive results and ensure that SADC countries re-double their efforts in implementing and developing regional infrastructure initiatives, particularly at entry points.

Studies show that trade in the region is being hampered by poor infrastructure at border posts, which hinder the smooth movement of goods and services across the region.

Joint cooperation in elimination of such inconveniences brought about by inefficient infrastructure and poor services at entry points will pave the way for a more economically-productive region.

This includes setting up of One-Stop Border posts across the region such as the one at Chirundu between Zimbabwe and Zambia.

This development will also boost arrivals in the tourism sector and have a positive impact on other industries such as agriculture and communication, unlocking the economic potential that lies within SADC.

The region has an abundance of resources that range from renewable energy to tourist attractions, which can only be fully exploited when physical infrastructure such as roads, rail, and transmission lines are built.

An improvement in the generation and distribution of energy will also help the region deal with the crippling electricity situation that is affecting growth in southern Africa.

Other initiatives needed to develop the infrastructure base in southern Africa include the establishment of a smart partnership between the private sector and government as the latter cannot go it alone. Southern African News Features offers a reliable source of regional information and analysis on the Southern African Development Community, and is provided as a service to the SADC region.

This article may be reproduced with credit to the author and publisher.

SANF is produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), which has monitored regional developments since 1985

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