by Joseph Ngwawi in Mbabane, Swaziland – SANF 17 no 3
The Southern African Development Community has made significant progress towards achieving its vision of a united, prosperous and integrated region.
However, a lot more still needs to be done to ensure that the people of the region can access the opportunities and benefits of belonging to a shared community in southern Africa.
This was said by the Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Swaziland, Paul Dlamini at the official opening ceremony of the SADC Strategic Ministerial Retreat that runs from 12-14 March in Mbabane.
Noting that SADC has come a long way during the past 37 years, he said “it ought to have started showing tangible benefits of belonging to the regional economic community.”
Dlamini said that a lot has been achieved since the formation of SADC with respect to development of protocols and other legal instruments, adding that it is critical “to ensure that we work together and cooperate in all that we do in progressing in the achievements.”
He said SADC should belong to the people and the peoples of this region should be associated with their own regional organisation.
“The member states aspire to achieve sustainable development and economic growth, alleviate poverty and enhance the standard and quality of life of the peoples of southern Africa,” Dlamini said. “However, it seems that somehow we are chasing a shadow.”
He called on the ministers to interrogate the issue of this “disconnect between SADC and the people of the region and why is it that instead of becoming one and integrated we have become more isolated as a Community.”
The SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, said the decision to hold the ministerial retreat was informed by the directive of the Council of Ministers in March 2016 for a special strategic session to deliberate on the implementation of SADC programmes and projects under the auspices of the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2015-2020 and the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap (2015-2063).
Council directed the SADC Secretariat to organise a special strategy session to review the pace and level of the implementation of the SADC integration agenda.
“This idea came out of the debate on the implementation of SADC programmes and projects, and member states clearly expressed dissatisfaction with the pace and the progress of the regional integration agenda,” Dr Tax said.
Faced with changing regional, continental and global dynamics, including the African Union’s Agenda 2063 which presents “The Africa We Want”; the formation of the BRICS grouping by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa; and adoption of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, SADC also decided to take stock of its regional integration agenda to make its programmes responsive to the emerging imperatives.
The review process comes in the wake of the adoption of key regional and continental initiatives, primarily the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap (2015-2063) and the creation of the Tripartite Free Trade Area involving the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, East African Community and SADC.
The three-day retreat is taking stock of what SADC has achieved since its establishment in 1980 as the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), as well as the challenges the region is facing, and what needs to be done to accelerate the pace and level of regional integration and development.
It is expected to assess and redefine the regional integration agenda with a view to creating the “SADC We Want”.
The ministers are expected to assess the existing institutional arrangements to drive regional integration, especially for industrialisation, as well as explore alternative options of financial resources for implementing SADC programmes and projects.
The retreat will assess the effectiveness of the existing SADC governance and institutional structure to see if it is meeting the aspirations of the founding fathers of the organisations who believed in a united region where all the citizens enjoyed high living standards and peace.
The key issues and recommendations of the ministerial retreat are to be presented to the Council of Ministers, followed by the Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government scheduled for Swaziland on 18 March. sardc.net