Joseph Ngwawi and Kizito Sikuka Correspondent
An eventful year awaits southern Africa in 2018 as the region intensifies efforts to deepen economic integration and achieve sustainable development and stability. The region is set to strengthen efforts to implement programmes and projects aimed at meeting various key milestones, including those on infrastructure development and industrialisation.
In line with the theme of the 37th SADC Summit held in South Africa in August 2017, member-states are expected to pursue programmes and projects aimed at promoting industrial development in the focus areas of agro-processing, mineral beneficiation and pharmaceuticals.
The 2017 summit of SADC heads of state and government was held under the theme “Partnering with the Private sector in developing industry and regional value-chains”.
As per tradition, the theme will be the rallying point for most activities undertaken by the region until the 38th summit scheduled for Namibia in August.
During the coming year, countries in the region are expected to create a mechanism for the involvement of the private sector in the roll-out of the economic integration agenda.
Public-private partnerships are regarded as a viable model for attracting investment for public projects by allowing governments to have more access to additional capital and off-balance sheet financing.
The year 2018 will mark the second year of the implementation of the Costed Action Plan of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap, 48-year blueprint that outlines proposals on transformation of the region from a resource-based economy to one that is driven by innovation and high industrial productivity.
The Costed Action Plan on Industrialisation, approved by the SADC Extraordinary Summit in Swaziland in March 2017, allocated about US$100 million for coordination of the industrialisation agenda at the level of SADC Secretariat and member states over the 15-year period extending from 2015-2030.
It seeks to establish a coherent and synergistic implementation scheme containing strategic options and general policies towards the progressive attainment of time-bound targets set out in the strategy and roadmap.
The action plan 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.
Strategic interventions proposed under the action plan include an improved policy environment for industrial development, increased volume and efficiency of public and private sector investments in the SADC economy, creation of regional value chains and participation in related global processes, as well as increased value addition for agricultural and non-agricultural products and services.
In order to improve the operating environment, there are plans to develop and operationalise a Protocol on Industry by 2020, which should lead to the development of industrialisation policies and strategies at national level.
Where member states already have such policies and strategies, these should be reviewed and aligned to the industrialisation strategy and roadmap.
To encourage the creation of regional value chains and participation in global processes, the region has identified five priority areas in which the value chains can be established and for which regional strategies should be developed by 2020.
These are in the areas of agro-processing, minerals beneficiation, consumer goods, capital goods, and services.
A detailed value chain study is proposed for specific products or services in the priority areas.
As part of the process of promoting value-chain participation, there are plans to develop model legislation and regulations for intra-SADC agro-processing, minerals beneficiation and other manufacturing activities and services.
A related and complementary activity expected to be undertaken during the coming year will be operationalisation of the proposed SADC University of Transformation, the brainchild of King Mswati III of the Kingdom of Swaziland.
The university will be a regional institution to train citizens in innovation and entrepreneurship as part of efforts to transform southern Africa into an industrialised region.
Swaziland has offered to host the training institution and pledged to offer scholarships to 300 students – 20 each per member state for the initial intake.
The SADC Council of Ministers resolved at its last meeting held in South Africa in August 2017 called on ministers responsible for education and training; and science, technology and innovation in member states to expedite the finalisation of the preparatory work for the operationalisation of the university.
The minister are expected to submit proposals to council at its next meeting in March 2018.
On energy development, SADC is set to establish a regional Inter-State Natural Gas Committee that will be charged with ensuring the inclusion and promotion of natural gas in the regional energy mix and with facilitating “an increase in universal access to energy as well as industrial development in SADC.”
According to the SADC Energy Monitor launched at the 36th SADC Summit in Swaziland in 2016, the contribution of gas to the regional energy mix is still very minimal, accounting for a mere 1.3 percent of the total power generation mix.
The low share of natural gas in the regional energy mix belies the fact the southern Africa has some of the largest deposits of gas in the world.
The east coast of the SADC region has emerged in the past few years as one of the brightest spots on the global energy landscape, with large natural gas finds in Mozambique and Tanzania.
Exploration has taken place in other SADC member states although the exact amounts of reserves are unknown for these countries.
New offshore natural gas finds along the Mozambique coast are expected to be a “game changer” for the country and the southern African region. The country has estimated recoverable natural gas reserves of between 15 trillion and 30 trillion cubic feet (tcf), enough to meet one year’s gas consumption by the United States.
Tanzania has also identified natural gas reserves of more than 10 tcf from its deep-water offshore region.
Efforts will be stepped up towards ensuring that the first-ever surplus electricity-generation capacity time experienced by SADC last year in over a decade is maintained through the commissioning of new power generation projects.
The Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) has already indicated that it will commission an average of 5,000 megawatts (MW) per year over the next six years.
Southern Africa has experienced surplus electricity generation capacity of around 900MW since the beginning of last year.
The surplus is partly due to a slowdown in the South African economy but also the result of the coordinated approach in implementation of the SADC energy programme, which has seen a number of new power plants commissioned over the past few years.
With regard to gender development, SADC will celebrate 10 years since the adoption of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. The protocol was revised in 2016.
The region is expected to take stock of achievements made and challenges encountered during past decade.
Agriculture and food security will remain a top priority for SADC following a slow start to the agricultural season.
At the continental level, the SADC region will work with other regional economic communities to conclude efforts to operationalise the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) as well as establish the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).
The TFTA is an enlarged market covering 27 countries in eastern and southern Africa involves the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and SADC.
At least 24 of the 27 countries have signed the agreement to establish the TFTA, which 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.
Negotiations for the CFTA were expected to conclude by the end of 2017. However, various challenges affected the discussions, and expectations is that concrete agreements will be made during the year.
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.
On environmental issues, the region will begin the process of reviewing achievements and challenges in the implementation of the Strategic Action Plan (RSAP IV) on Integrated Water Resources. Development and Management (2016-2020).
As SADC recognises the importance of sustainable use and management of the environment in the fight against poverty and food security, the region is set to assess the domestication of the SADC Protocol on Environmental Management for Sustainable Development of 2014.
Namibia will host the 38th SADC Heads of State and Government Summit in August. At the summit President Hage Geingob of Namibia will take over the SADC chair from his South African counterpart, Jacob Zuma.
The annual summit will also mark the first time that the newest member of SADC – the Union of Comoros – will participate at this high-level regional meeting.
Comoros was formally admitted into the SADC at the 37th SADC Summit held in August in Pretoria, South Africa, taking the membership of SADC to 16.
Buoyed by the relative peace and political stability that has been obtained in the region for the past few years as well as the smooth transition of power experienced in three member states last year – Angola, the Kingdom of Lesotho and Zimbabwe – the SADC region will seek to maintain the same peaceful and tolerance atmosphere in 2018 when at least four countries hold elections.
The Democratic of Congo, Madagascar, Mozambique, the Kingdom of Swaziland and Zimbabwe are scheduled to go to the polls this year.
Mozambique has set 10 October as Election Day for its sixth municipal polls, while the DRC has announced 23 December for its general elections.
Two countries – Madagascar and Swaziland – are yet to pronounce Election Day. sardc.net