|Southern African News Features SANF 09 No 06, January 2010|
|2010: The world is watching southern Africa
The world is watching southern Africa this year as the region prepares to host the Soccer World Cup finals, set for South Africa in June-July.
To ensure that the region benefits from staging such a major event, neighbouring countries have been actively engaged in upgrading of facilities, and refurbishing hotels, roads and airports to cater for an expected surge in visitors to the region.
In addition to upgrading sports facilities, they have been actively marketing to the qualifying football teams as suitable venues for training and camp, especially those venues that are less than a 90-minute flight from Johannesburg.
The region has adopted a coordinated approach to manage activities related to sports in a bid to deepen regional integration in this period.
Running under the theme, "One Team - 15 Nations", the programme aims to ensure that all countries in the region benefit from the international exposure.
A "SADC 2010" investment promotion programme, approved by Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2009, provides a framework for seizing this opportunity to market the regionís assets, and to guide, inform and coordinate the activities of the region in preparation for the World Cup.
A coordinated approach by SADC is expected to help the region to attract tourists and investment through strengthening of joint projects such as Trans Frontier Conservation Areas.
Among the range of planned activities, the region will hold a music festival and musicians from various countries will record a World Cup song together.
This major world sporting event, surpassed in size only by the multiple events of the Olympic Games, will be hosted for the first time in Africa.
As many as 90,000 soccer fans and officials, mainly from qualifying countries, are expected to come to the region for the finals, according to the world football governing body, FIFA.
This is in addition to more than 400,000 tourists from all over the world who are expected to visit southern Africa during the tournament.
The month-long soccer showcase should have enormous socio-economic effects in various sectors such as tourism, trade and infrastructure development.
2010 is the year of football in southern Africa, and the year started with a major continental event, the African Cup of Nations, hosted by Angola.
The excitement of the competition, which includes some of Africaís best footballers, and the perfection of the opening display were however marred by the ambush of the buses carrying the Togo national team from their camp in Pointe Noire, Congo, into Cabinda in Angola, resulting in the death of an assistant coach and a publicist.
The region shared the agony of the captain, Emmanuel Adebayor, and his team-mates as they flew home to mourn their colleagues and were barred from returning by the Confederation of African Football.
This attack took place in a remote part of the region and does not reflect on preparations for the main event in South Africa, but it casts a shadow that is a sharp reminder of the need to prepare for the unexpected.
Four southern African countries qualified for the competition -- Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. For the World Cup later this year, the only qualifier from the region is South Africa.
Another defining moment for southern Africa is the expected launch of the SADC Customs Union later in the year, to promote the movement of goods, services and capital across borders.
Though SADC is yet to set a date, such launches are often done during the annual summit of heads of state and government held in August or September. Southern African leaders noted at their meeting in September 2009 that significant progress has been made in preparation for the Customs Union this year.
The launch of a Customs Union would usher in one of the largest free trading zones in Africa with a combined population of more than 250 million. The launch planned for this year comes exactly two years after the launch of a SADC Free Trade Area (FTA), which is one step before a Customs Union.
A Customs Union allows Member States to trade freely among themselves without such restrictions as tariffs or quotas on goods originating from within the region.
The year 2010 marks one year after the global financial crisis whose negative effects were felt across the region.
Most of the regional economies have since shown signs of recovery. The economic boom expected from the Soccer World Cup and the Customs Union could not have come at a better time for southern Africa.
And the drive to promote regional cooperation through a wider FTA with the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC) is expected to improve SADCís trade and investment environment even more.
SADC, COMESA and the EAC have started a process of creating a single FTA by 2012 combining a market straddling over 26 countries which ultimately will lead to the establishment of a single Customs Union.
If successfully implemented, the development would resolve the long-standing conundrum of overlapping membership, as technically a country can belong to only one Customs Union.
Regarding energy development, 2010 should be a crucial year for the region as the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) intensifies the implementation of short term generation projects to ensure full energy recovery by 2013.
A total of 2200 megawatts (MW) were expected to be added to the SAPP grid in 2009, while 1000 MW are expected this year.
SADC Member States are expected to increase the uptake of cleaner energy sources that result in less carbon emissions in line with the new trends in the global energy sector.
Clean energy has emerged as the most lucrative source of "carbon financing" and SADC has the potential to boost power generation if various energy resources such as wind, solar and hydro are harnessed.
The SADC Energy Ministers meeting set for April in Angola should provide further impetus for the region to fast track any rehabilitation work and promote efficiency, coming as it does ahead of the World Cup tournament, a period when the region, especially the host nation, can least afford power disruptions.
A detailed and more comprehensive plan to ensure South Africa and the rest of the region has adequate power supply during the 2010 World Cup finals is expected to be finalised by the ministers.
SADC made a commitment in 2009 to provide power to the host nation to make sure the finals are a success.
On the environment front, southern Africa together with the rest of Africa will continue to negotiate on a better climate deal after failing to reach a consensus at the recent Copenhagen Summit held in Denmark. The next summit is scheduled for December in Mexico.
Africa favours an approach in which developing countries will be beneficiaries of technology transfer, capacity building and funding to the tune of US$200 billion a year by 2012, instead of the proposed US$100 billion a year by 2020.
The year 2010 will also see Southern Africa prepare for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
At the last CITES, southern African countries such as Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe that have a ballooning elephant population were restricted to trading in elephant products.
The long-running global debate over African elephants focuses on the benefits that income from ivory sales may bring to conversation and communities living side by side with the elephants. The debate also focuses on whether such ivory sales may encourage poaching.
Member States are still preparing ratification and domesticatoin of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development approved by Summit in 2008, and will join the rest of the world in reviewing the Beijing + 15 Platform For Action (PFA) that aims to advance gender equality.
The last review in 2005 showed that, despite important milestones being reached, SADC governments still face challenges in meeting the PFA targets. In some countries, however, significant progress has been made by women in reaching decision-making positions.
The African Union, at its Summit last year, declared the African Decade on Gender starting 2010, and SADC will join the rest of the continent in celebrating achievements made by women over the years as well as accelerating implementation of various policies that promote equality.
On the political field, 2010 brings in elections in at least two countries in the region. The United Republic of Tanzania is set to go to the polls in October while Mauritius is scheduled to hold its National Assembly election in July and Local Government polls in October.
There is also a possibility that Madagascar may go to the polls in 2010. However, the 2009 SADC-initiated agreement in Madagascar which requires the country to have elections this year is already on shaky ground as the parties have failed to honour their commitments.
In Zimbabwe, the major milestone this year is the writing of a new constitution as provided for in the SADC-inspired Global Political Agreement signed in 2008 leading to an inclusive government in 2009.
Angola has written its own piece of history when parliament passed its first home-grown Constitution on 21 January.
Under the new Constitution, the President and the National Assembly will continue to be elected through universal adult suffrage at regular intervals of five years, however a President will serve only two terms.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, where sporadic fighting in the eastern part of the country has derailed full economic recovery will be hoping for a quieter year.
DRC President Joseph Kabila, who received a vote of confidence from his fellow southern African leaders last year when his country hosted 2009 Summit, will hand over the rotating SADC chair to Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba at the annual Summit to be held in Windhoek later this year.
The year 2010 is expected to see Malawi assume the African Union chair from Libya at the AU Summit to be held at the end of January in Ethiopia.
The AU chair rotates according to regions and the next chairperson should come from the SADC region. Southern African leaders have already endorsed the candidature of Malawi.
If elected, Malawiís term is likely to be dominated by the hot issue of the proposed continental government.
In the discussions to date, African leaders have retained different perspectives on the time-frame for implementation with some pressing for the immediate establishment of a union government while others want a more cautious approach.
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This article may be reproduced with credit to the author and publisher.
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