Kizito Sikuka Correspondent
The curtain comes down on an eventful year for southern Africa, dominated by the historic approval of an industrialisation strategy and a recalibrated regional development blueprint as well as the launch of an enlarged market extending from Cape to Cairo.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) launched the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063 at an Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government in Harare, Zimbabwe in April.
The strategy and roadmap is meant to ensure that member states harness the full potential of their vast and diverse natural resources.
This is in light of the fact that most SADC member states are getting very little in return from their resources since these are usually exported in raw form, with most of the value-addition and beneficiation taking place outside the region, thus benefiting other countries.
The strategy and roadmap is anchored on three pillars, namely “Industrialisation, Competitiveness and Regional Integration.”
During the period 2015-2020, SADC will strive to progress from being factor-driven to being investment-driven while between 2021 and 2050 the region will aim to advance to being an innovation-driven economy.
The target between 2051 and 2063 is for SADC to achieve high levels of economic growth, competitiveness, incomes and employment.
The development of the strategy and roadmap was instructive in finalizing the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP), which was also approved by the Extraordinary Summit.
The RISDP is a 15-year strategic plan approved by SADC leaders in 2003 as a blueprint for regional integration and development.
The plan has been under review as part of efforts to realign the region’s development agenda in line with new realities and emerging global dynamics, and has now taken into account issues of industrialisation.
The Revised RISDP identifies four main priorities to be pursued by the region from 2015-2020.
Priority A seeks to promote industrial development and market integration through, among other things, strengthening the productive competitiveness and supply side capacity of member states as well as improving movement of goods and facilitating financial market integration and monetary cooperation.
Priority B is on provision and improvement of infrastructure support for regional integration.
Priority D is on promotion of special programmes of regional dimension under clusters such as education and human resource development; health, HIV and AIDS and other communicable diseases; food security and trans-boundary natural resources; environment; statistics; gender equality; and science, technology and innovation and research and development.
The above three priorities will be underpinned by Priority C on the promotion of peace and security.
While implementation of the two regional programmes has begun, the region is finalising a detailed costing plan to ensure that the action plans are effectively implemented.
In fact, the process of aligning all regional programmes, activities and projects to the two new key strategic documents is now at an advanced stage.
In addition to the approval of the Revised RISDP, and strategy and roadmap, 2015 saw the creation of an integrated market covering 26 countries in eastern and southern Africa, which represents a bold move by Africa to promote internal trade.
Commonly known as the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA), the integrated market, comprising the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and SADC, was launched in June in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt.
The creation of the enlarged market is expected to boost intra-regional trade in Africa and deepen regional integration through improved infrastructure development, investment flows and enhanced competition.
The TFTA creates a combined population of some 600 million people, covering half of the member states of the African Union (AU) and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of about US$1 trillion.
Most importantly, the TFTA is a decisive step towards achievement of the AU vision of establishing an African Economic Community as envisioned in the Lagos Plan of Action, the Final Act of Lagos of 1980, the Abuja Treaty of 1991 as well as the Resolution of the 2006 AU Summit held in Banjul, the Gambia.
Africa aims to launch a Continental FTA by 2017 to promote the smooth movement of goods, services and people across the continent.
On energy development, southern Africa witnessed the historic approval of the SADC Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE).
Approved by the 34th SADC Energy Ministers held in July in South Africa, the centre is expected to change the “landscape of energy development in SADC,” by allowing the region to fully harness its vast renewable energy potential.
To be hosted by Namibia, the centre would, among other things, spearhead the promotion of renewable energy development in the region.
With respects to peace, the year saw SADC once again consolidating its credentials as a stable region through various ways.
These include peace mediation in countries where there were conflicts such as Lesotho and Madagascar as well as sending observer missions to four countries that held elections during the past 12 months.
Lesotho, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Seychelles held elections, which were endorsed by SADC and other observers as generally credible and peaceful.
In addition to this, there was smooth transition of power in the three countries, as well as in Namibia and Mozambique.
The Seychelles elections held in early December were inconclusive after none of the presidential candidates managed to garner the required 50 percent-plus-one votes to be declared an outright winner.
As a result, the island nation is headed for a run-off on 16-18 December involving the top two contestants. The winner of the second round will be declared elected.
The SADC region also successful hosted AMANI Africa II in South Africa. The exercise, which brought together thousands of armed forces from Africa is a major step in shaping the continental standby force.
The purpose of the continental exercise is to test the deployment readiness of the African Standby Force, with particular reference to the ability of the Rapid Deployment Capability to deploy within 14 days of the decision by the relevant authorities.
On gender development, SADC ministers responsible for Gender and Women Affairs agreed to review targets of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development in the context of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals approved in 2015.
The SADC Protocol on Gender and Development was adopted in 2008 to promote the empowerment of women, eliminate discrimination, and achieve gender quality and equity through gender-responsive legislation, policies, programmes and projects.
However, the protocol only entered into force in 2013 following ratification of the instrument by the requisite two-thirds of Member States.
The ministers reflected on progress made in the implementation of the protocol targets for 2015, some of which were aligned to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals that expire this year.
Related to water development, SADC Water Ministers agreed to support gender focal persons in order to sustain the gender mainstreaming activities within the water sector.
This is in line with regional policy instruments which required all SADC water institutions to integrate the principles, goals and objectives of gender mainstreaming in their administration and implementation programmes.
The year also witnessed the adoption of a new climate agreement, which laid a foundation for the global community to combat the impacts of climate change. However, there was little joy for Africa as some of its key expectations still remain unresolved.
Ahead of the climate change talks held in France, SADC, together with other African regional blocs, adopted a common position that included greater attention to agriculture, improved finance, technology transfer and adoption and capacity building.
The Paris Agreement, however, not does explicitly make the accord compulsory but rather provides for voluntary commitments.
Past experience has, however, shown that developed countries have failed to live up to their commitments.
Another milestone for the year was the launch of a publication that documents some of the major successes achieved by the SADC region over the past 35 years.
The SADC Success Stories publication, first of its kind in southern Africa, was launched by the SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax at the 35th Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government in Gaborone, Botswana. The publication presents some of the notable achievements of regional integration in various sectors.
Other notable publications launched in 2015 included the Zambezi Environment Outlook and the ORANGE-SENQU River Commission (Orasecom) 15 Years 2000 – 2015 report.
The Zambezi Environment Outlook highlights the state, trends and outlook of the environment as it relates to the socio-economic issues of the basin since the year 2000.
On the other hand the Orasecom report provides a reflective and analytical overview of transboundary water cooperation within the Basin.
The 35th SADC Summit held in August also ushered in new leadership led by President Seretse Khama Ian Khama of Botswana, who took over the SADC chair from his Zimbabwe counterpart President Robert Mugabe.
One of the main resolutions of the summit was a historic decision to develop a plan to honour the founding fathers, and a new book on Julius Nyerere, titled Asante Sana, Thank You, Mwalimu, was launched at Summit.
The year 2015 also saw SADC successfully host the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation in South Africa.
The summit took bold steps to cement mutual benefit between the two sides while taking the ties to even higher levels, including a new US$60 billion Chinese fund to support development on the African continent.
The FOCAC summit followed a historic by the Chinese President Xi Jinping to Zimbabwe in early December.
China and Africa share a long-standing relations that backs back many years.
Latest figures indicate that trade between the two sides reached US$220 billion in 2014 while China’s direct investment in Africa topped US$30 billion in the same year. — sardc.net.