SANF 16 no 54 – by Joseph Ngwawi
The curtain comes down on 2016 amid great optimism in southern Africa over an expected improvement in food security and the dawn of the official countdown to a continental free trade zone set for 2017.
Other key issues this year were that of energy demand and access, equal opportunities for women and men, protection of the region’s rich resource of wildlife, plans for greater self-reliance by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and a new SADC university.
The year started on a gloomy note, with fears of food shortages in many parts of the southern Africa and concern over political instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Lesotho.
Combined food-relief efforts by SADC member states, with support from the international community, averted food shortages in most countries.
According to the SADC Early Warning and Vulnerability Assessment Systems, the region faced an estimated cereal shortfall of 9.3 million metric tonnes.
The poor season was due to the drought cycle in the region, with the worst drought in 35 years caused largely by a strong El Niño weather phenomenon that refers to the warming of the Indian Ocean waters off South America. This cyclical event is associated with extreme global weather patterns, including drought in southern Africa.
To address the food security situation and coordinate a response, SADC established a regional El Niño Response Team in May, in close collaboration with member states.
The team prepared a US$2.7 billion regional humanitarian appeal for assistance and by November a total of US$757 million was raised, including US$222 million from member states and US$535 million from International Cooperating Partners (ICPs).
SADC also adopted a number of measures to revolutionize the agricultural sector, including the promotion of investment in research and improved access to financial resources for smallholder farmers.
The forecast for the 2016/17 cropping season indicates that most parts of the region can expect adequate rainfall.
Energy issues continued to dominate the regional integration discourse in SADC during the past year. Significant progress was made towards development of a regional strategy that will allow the uptake of cleaner, alternative energy sources as well as developing innovative ways of using less energy to power the development agenda.
Energy experts from the region approved the Regional Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Strategy and Action Plan (REEESAP) in October in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The REEESAP (2016-2030) provides a framework for SADC member states to develop renewable energy strategies, leading to the greater uptake of RE resources as well as mobilization of financial resources in the sector.
The 36th SADC Summit held in Swaziland in August witnessed the launch of the inaugural SADC Energy Monitor as well as the sixth edition of the SADC Gender and Development Monitor, both produced by a SADC knowledge partner, the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC).
The SADC Energy Monitor, the first of its kind in southern Africa, documents progress towards implementation of SADC energy policies and initiatives, including the SADC Protocol on Energy.
The SADC Gender and Development Monitor 2016 presents an account of progress towards implementation of regional commitments to achieve gender equality and equity in line with the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.
The 36th SADC Summit approved the Revised SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, which contains new provisions on emerging gender-related challenges such as climate change, child marriages, sexual reproductive health and reproductive rights, and addresses gender disparities in media, information and communication.
Other publications launched at the summit were a baseline study on Trafficking in Persons in the SADC Region, and a policy toolkit to assist member states on managing economic transformation and value chain development, as well as a booklet on the Efforts and Benefits of Mainstreaming Gender in the SADC Energy Sector.
The 36th SADC Summit approved a landmark agreement that is expected to go a long way in allowing the region to take full charge of its integration agenda by funding its own developmental plans – the Agreement on the Operationalization of the SADC Regional Development Fund.
It is estimated that only nine percent of regional projects are funded by SADC member states while the balance comes from ICPs. This has compromised the ownership and sustainability of regional programmes.
The SADC chairperson, King Mswati III, announced plans to establish a regional institution to train citizens in innovation and entrepreneurship as part of efforts to transform southern Africa into an industrialised region.
The SADC University of Transformation scheduled to have its first intake in 2017, is one of initiatives proposed by King Mswati III to improve industrial productivity. He offered to host the proposed university in Swaziland and pledged to offer scholarships for 300 students – 20 each per member state for the initial intake.
The past year witnessed the commencement of the process to develop a costed action plan for the industrialisation strategy and roadmap for finalization in the first quarter of 2017 when southern African leaders plan hold an Extra-Ordinary Summit.
The plan will focus on the first 15 years of the strategy timeframe, and aims to create an enabling environment for sustaining industrial development as a driver of economic transformation; and establish an enduring alliance for industrialisation consisting of the public and private sectors as well as strategic partners.
The strategy and its roadmap is being implemented in three phases, covering the three main pillars of industrialisation, competitiveness and regional integration.
Another major development during the past year was the commencement of the process to review the organisational structure of the SADC Secretariat to ensure that it adequately responds to new and emerging issues in the region’s revised development blueprint.
The past year was also eventful on the trade front with cooperation between SADC and the European Union being strengthened with the signing in June of a trade agreement between the two blocs.
Six SADC member states – Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland – signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), the first of its kind between the EU and an African region pursuing the objective of economic integration.
The six were negotiating for the EPAs under the SADC Group banner. Angola is expected to join this SADC Group in future. The other mainland SADC countries negotiated for EPAs under the Eastern and Southern Africa banner, while the island nations are negotiating under the Pacific Group.
The year also witnessed the commencement of preparatory work on negotiations for the establishment of a continent-wide market that will promote the smooth movement of goods, services and people across Africa.
Negotiations for the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) are expected to conclude by the end of 2017. When operational, the CFTA will bring together all 54 African countries, creating a combined population of more than one billion people and a combined Gross Domestic Product of more than US$3.4 trillion.
Efforts to operationalise the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) gathered momentum during the year, with Zambia becoming the ninth SADC member state to sign the TFTA Agreement in June.
Since a historic agreement was signed in June 2015 by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and SADC to make the “Grand” FTA a reality, a total of 18 countries have signed the pact, although none have yet ratified the instrument.
The TFTA aims to facilitate the smooth movement of goods and services across borders, as well as allowing member countries to harmonize regional trade policies to promote equal competition.
The region hosted the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which was held in South Africa in late September.
The conference offered little joy for southern Africa as key expectations were not met. Despite consensus from most SADC countries to lift a ban on trade in ivory due to the record of well-managed wildlife that has resulted in huge elephant populations in some countries, CITES maintained the restrictions.
This decision is a great setback to SADC as countries hoped that CITES would either regularize international trade of ivory or at least allow them to sell off their ivory stockpiles, now valued at millions of dollars.
Southern Africa argues that the ban in ivory trade will seriously erode the revenue base for wildlife conservation and can lead to increased cases of poaching as communities are not benefiting from their wildlife resources.
Another major development during the past year was the commencement of a process to review the organisational structure of the SADC Secretariat to ensure that it adequately responds to new and emerging issues in the region’s revised development blueprint.
On the political scene, southern Africa strengthened its credentials as a relatively stable region following the holding of elections in Seychelles and Zambia.
Incumbent President Edgar Lungu of Zambia was declared winner of presidential elections held on 11 August, while the Seychellois opposition coalition, Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS), won parliamentary elections in Seychelles in September.
President James Michel resigned in October after 12 years in office, just 10 months into his third and final mandate. Former Vice President Danny Faure will complete the five-year term.
During the past year, SADC remained seized with finding a lasting solution to the political stalemate in the Kingdom of Lesotho, and supported the country in holding a technical workshop on security sector reforms held in July to rebuild trust among stakeholders in the security sector.
In November, SADC deployed members of the Oversight Committee on Lesotho to support the country in implementation of other Constitutional and Security Sector Reforms.
SADC also followed closely the developments in DRC as part of a support group of the African Union-led Inter-Congolese National Dialogue that is seeking to find a solution to the political instability in the country.
The support group was instrumental in facilitating the Congolese national dialogue agreement by the DRC government, opposition parties and civil society groups in October to pave the way for a transition leading to provincial, parliamentary and presidential elections by April 2018.
Depending on the availability of resources, the local elections may be held alongside these elections, or six months after the presidential, parliamentary and provincial elections. sardc.net