Knowledge is Power — Access to information critical to regional integration

SANF 19 no 32 – by Kizito Sikuka in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
“Knowledge is Power” may sound like a slogan but it is a fact in regional development in southern Africa, and a major factor in regional integration.

The vision of the founding President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere, and his conviction that Knowledge is Power was evoked several times during the launch of a number of new regional publications ahead of the 39th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which opens 17 August in Dar es Salaam.

The books present issues ranging from energy to infrastructure to gender, and monitor progress toward regional integration in southern Africa.

The Summit theme is “A Conducive Environment for Inclusive and Sustainable Development, Increased Intra-Regional Trade and Job Creation”.

The speakers, including the SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, said that access to reliable and accurate information guides informed decision-making and enables citizens to actively participate in the integration agenda by deepening appreciation of the benefits of belonging to a shared community of southern Africa.

“Information is power,” Dr Tax said in launching the books, adding that access to reliable information is a catalyst for sustainable development.

“I therefore encourage everyone to read the publications and implement the recommendations proposed for the continued development of our region.”

The five publications that were launched deal with energy, infrastructure, gender, as well as women in peace and security.

Dr Medard Kalemani, the Tanzanian Energy Minister, spoke about Tanzania’s plans for energy generation through renewable energy sources including water and wind, and how this will power Tanzania while feeding excess into the regional grid managed by the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).

SAPP is a regional body that coordinates the planning, generation, transmission and marketing of electricity in southern Africa on behalf of member state utilities.

He added a gender context, saying that regular access to cheap energy will relieve women from collecting and carrying firewood, and will reduce the serious environmental degradation caused by burning wood and charcoal, as well as damage to health from those sources.

The Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ummy Mwalimu concurred in presenting data on Tanzania’s progress towards the political and economic empowerment of women, adding that the story of regional integration is often only understood by those who deal with regional issues on a daily basis.

She said it is important for the region to educate and inform its citizens about what SADC Member States are doing at the regional level.

Madaraka Nyerere, a Board member of the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), delivering a message from the SARDC Chairperson, Hon. Prof. Peter Katjavivi, said a “knowledgeable region” is better placed to achieve its longstanding vision of a united, prosperous and integrated community.

“Without access to information, sustainable development is an impossible task,” he said.

Hon. Katjavivi is Speaker of the National Assembly of Namibia.

SARDC is a widely respected, regional knowledge centre and SADC partner that produced most of the new publications launched on 14 August.

SARDC Executive Director, Munetsi Madakufamba, profiled the vision of the institution and key points of the publications, saying that “as SARDC, we will always be available to support the SADC Secretariat and Member State Governments” in communicating and advancing regional integration.

The SADC Energy Monitor: Enabling Industrialisation and Regional Integration in SADC – now in its second edition — documents progress made by Member States towards implementation of SADC energy policies and initiatives.

The publication focuses on energy as an enabler for industrialisation and regional integration in SADC in line with the region’s developmental plans such as the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap and the Revised SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP).

The publication highlights that while there are efforts to ensure adequate energy to ensure supply meets demand, there is need for SADC Member States and cooperating partners to align their support to the two regional documents – the Revised RISDP and the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap.

Alignment of support to the two regional documents will ensure the smooth implementation of agreed activities and programmes, thereby promoting socio-economic development and deeper integration.

The inaugural SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Short Term Plan Assessment 2019 assesses the results achieved in implementation of the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP) Short Term Action Plan (2012-2017).

These results from the assessment will help to form an important part of the region’s strategy to improve the implementation of the infrastructure master plan.

Production of the report was done by SARDC with support from the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and the Development Bank of Southern Africa.

The 2018 SADC Gender and Development Monitor: Women Economic Empowerment and Gender Responsive Budgeting presents an account of progress made towards implementation of regional commitments to achieve gender equality and equity in line with the revised SADC Protocol on Gender and Development focusing on economic empowerment and gender responsive budgeting.

The publication, which is now in its seventh edition notes that SADC Member States have made considerable progress in enacting national laws and policies for economic advancement of women and men in the region.

However, there is a general discord that still exists between statutory and customary law, which is a drawback towards progress.

The two monitors were also produced for SADC by SARDC with support from ADA.

The SADC Regional Strategy on Women, Peace and Security (2018-2022) provides an overarching framework to guide implementation, monitoring, evaluation and reporting on mainstreaming gender into peace and security in the region.

By developing the strategy, SADC is demonstrating its commitment towards political stability, sustainable peace, security, and good governance.

In response to the threat of gender based violence, SADC also launched the SADC Regional Strategy and Framework of Action for Addressing Gender Based Violence (2018-2030).

The strategy provides guidance for a holistic and coordinated approach to addressing gender based violence at national and regional levels.

The two strategy documents were produced in collaboration with the UN Department of Political Affairs and Peacebuilding, and UN Women, respectively.

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. 

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