2019 – Consolidating regional solidarity

SANF 19 no 54
The year 2019 will go down in history as the year southern Africa took a united stand against a biased global political system that militates against developing countries and punishes those which dare to challenge the hegemony.

The region challenged the continued imposition of economic sanctions on one of its own, Zimbabwe.

SADC Chairperson, President John Magufuli of the United Republic of Tanzania said the illegal sanctions “have not only affected the people of Zimbabwe and their government but our entire region.”

In this regard, the 39th SADC Summit held in August in Dar es Salaam called for the immediate lifting of the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe, and declared 25 October as the day on which SADC Member States “can collectively voice their disapproval of the sanctions through various activities and platforms until the sanctions are lifted.”

Indeed on 25 October, SADC Member States spoke with one voice and held various activities denouncing and calling for the removal of the sanctions that have hurt ordinary citizens and caused economic challenges for the country.

Zimbabwe has grappled with economic and banking sanctions since 2002 when the United States and its western allies imposed an embargo on the country in response to the manner in which the land reform programme was carried out and the leading role played by Zimbabwe in the intervention in Democratic Republic of Congo in 1998 in support of the government.

These sanctions were imposed by the US Congress under the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economy Recovery Act of 2001 and have been renewed at intervals, but were not approved by the United Nations Security Council.

However, the impact of the banking sanctions has been felt by much more than the targeted officials and companies, having a negative impact on the credit rating of Zimbabwe and serious trickledown effects on the economy and, by extension, the SADC region.

Another show of solidarity was when SADC Member States sent out a strong message to the global community declaring that the time has come for the people of Western Sahara to attain their right to freedom and self-determination.

The declaration was made at a SADC Solidarity Conference with the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic held in Pretoria, South Africa in March.

The solidarity conference signified the growing call for global unity to ensure the right to freedom and self-determination of the people of the Western Sahara.

Western Sahara remains the only territory in Africa under colonial occupation and oppression, and the country has been under Moroccan occupation despite several declarations by regional, continental and international bodies such as the United Nations for Western Sahara to take charge of its internal processes.

On the security front, the SADC Standby Force successfully assumed its Africa Standby Force (ASF) roster duties on 1 January 2019 for six months up to the end of June 2019.

The assumption of the ASF Standby Roster entailed that the SADC Standby Force had the primary responsibility of being the first responder to conflict situations on the continent by providing a rapid deployment capability.

In this regard, the SADC Standby Force was the AU torch-bearer for implementing peacekeeping and peace-building efforts for the period January-June 2019, including post-conflict disarmament and demobilization.

The ASF, which became fully operational in 2016, is an important tool of the African peace and security architecture for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts in the continent.

Throughout the year, SADC remained seized with the political situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho and Madagascar.

The SADC region successfully deployed SADC Electoral Observation Missions (SEOMs) to observe elections in seven Member States that held elections in 2019 – Botswana, Union of Comoros, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa. The purpose of the SECOM is to enhance the credibility of electoral processes in southern Africa as well as deepening democracy in the region.

With regard to economic development, 2019 saw SADC continuing with its efforts to strengthen the implementation of activities set out in the industrial development strategy and the regional development blueprint.

The SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063 provides a framework for major economic and technological transformations in southern Africa.

To support its implementation, the region in August approved the SADC Protocol on Industry, which aims to improve the policy environment for industrial development.

The protocol becomes a stand-alone and binding legal instrument that will entrench and give legal effect to the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap and its related Cost-Action Plan and will ensure adequate coordination, monitoring and evaluation of implementation.

The year also witnessed a review of the regional blueprint – the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) –as the region took stock of its integration agenda.

The review was meant to inform the process of recalibrating cooperation and the regional integration strategy for SADC when the current development blueprint ends in 2020.

In July, SADC joined the rest of Africa in launching the free trade agreement that will change the global economic landscape and boost intra-regional trade across the continent.

Commonly known as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the enlarged market seeks to promote the smooth movement of goods and services across the continent.

The creation of an integrated market in Africa is one of the initiatives to rid the continent of the remaining vestiges of colonization and apartheid that has seen African countries trading more with the outside world than among themselves.

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.

With respect to gender development, SADC gender ministers approved a programme aimed at promoting equal participation of women and men in policy-making processes.

The Regional Multi-Dimensional Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme was approved in May, and is expected to contribute towards the development of gender-responsive policies that are effective and equitable to advance socio-economic development in the region.

On the cultural front, the 39th SADC Summit adopted KiSwahili as the fourth official language of the regional organisation alongside English, French and Portuguese in honour of former Tanzania President Julius Nyerere’s contribution to advancing regional integration.

KiSwahili will be adopted first as a language for oral communication, before eventually being adopted for written official communication within SADC.

Nyerere had to bear the greatest burden of freeing Africa by accommodating liberation fighters in his country and providing them with logistical and military support.

Nyerere was among the leaders instrumental in the establishment of the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) – precursor to SADC – in Zambia in April 1980.

With regard to agriculture, climate change and disaster management, the region was affected by the occurrence of extreme weather events.

Between January and April, the region faced a number of weather-related phenomena such as Tropical Cyclones Desmond, Enawo, Idai and Kenneth, which caused extensive flooding in countries such as the Union of Comoros, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

Cyclone Idai was one of the worst tropical storms to ever affect Africa and the southern hemisphere and it left a trail of destruction, including extensive damage to key infrastructure such as roads, bridges, schools and clinics.

To address the impact, contingency funds amounting to US$500,000 were released by SADC towards emergency relief efforts to complement efforts by Member States, national and international partners, while a regional floods appeal was launched to raise US$323 million to support victims with immediate needs and resilience building actions.

In terms of agriculture production, a Synthesis Report on the State of Food and Nutrition Security and Vulnerability in Southern Africa released in July estimated that the region has a cereal deficit of more than 5.4 million tonnes this year following subdued rainfall during the 2018/19 season.

To minimize the situation, SADC Member States put in place measures to avert hunger, including assisting affected populations with food supplies as well as providing emergency livestock supplementary feeding to save cattle, goats, sheep and other animals.

The year ended on a sad note with the death of an African icon, former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe in September.

As SADC chairperson from August 2014 to August 2015, Mugabe was instrumental in the development of the regional strategy to promote industrialization.

Mugabe was one of the Founding Fathers of SADC, together with leaders of Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia. sardc.net

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