mayor mahlahla.jpgBy Justin Mahlahla

 

On April 1, 1980 African leaders who included Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Seretse Khama of Botswana, Samora Machel of Mozambique and Agostinho Neto of Angola met in Lusaka, Zambia and formed the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) transformed in 1992 into the Southern African Development Community.

 

The organisation was formed under the theme ‘Towards Economic Liberation.’

 

It has 15 member countries: Angola, Botswana, DR Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

 

The founding fathers, imbued with the principles of brotherhood and common destiny joined synergies, strategies and resources, under the umbrella of the movement of Frontline states to face the challenges that bedeviled the continent.

 

sadc_logo2.jpgSo much has been realized during the 30 years that SADC has been in existence.

 

On August 17 2010 SADC celebrated 30 years since its formation and the region has benefited from a number of socio-economic and political achievements in that period, including democracy in Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

 

On the economic front, the accomplishments include the SADC Free Trade Area launched in 2008, creating a regional market worth over US$430 billion with a combined population of more than 260 million. This market growth has put the region in a stronger position to respond effectively to global economic competition.

 

To ensure that this economic integration is maintained and deepened, SADC aims to transform the FTA into a Customs Union by 2011, a Common Market by 2015 and a Monetary Union in 2018.

 

By attaining the status of FTA in 2008, producers and consumers in the SADC region benefit from tariff-free trade for an estimated 85

percent of all goods originating within the region. The remaining 15 percent tariff line is expected to be phased out by 2012.

 

The scrapping of tariffs and some non-tariffs barriers should see a significant increase in domestic production as Member States seek to meet increased demand.

 

Consumers in the region should be the greatest beneficiaries of a free market as they can expect to get better products at lower prices due to increased production.

 

All SADC Member States are members of the FTA, with the exception of Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The two countries are expected to join the FTA soon, after requesting time to rebuild their economies following decades of armed conflict.

 

A recent report by the Ministerial Task Force on Regional Economic Integration says significant progress is being made by Member States in implementation of the FTA.

 

A further goal is the creation of a greater FTA encompassing members of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa), the East African Community (EAC) and SADC, numbering 26 countries, half of Africa.

 

The 2009 launch of the One Stop Border Post at Chirundu between Zambia and Zimbabwe is another milestone for the region in its quest to deepen integration and promote the movement of goods, services and people across the region.

 

Identified by SADC and Comesa as a pilot project of the one-stop border initiative, Chirundu provides a model to encourage continental integration as envisaged by the African Union.

 

The One Stop Border Post, a first on the African continent, allows travellers to be cleared just once for passage into another country in contrast with the prevailing situation in which travellers have to be sanctioned on both sides of the border, often generating

lengthy delays.

 

Another major investment achievement recorded by SADC is the transformation of transport corridors into broader Spatial Development Corridors, and establishment of the North-South Corridor stretching between Durban and Dar es Salaam, as a development priority.

 

Maputo and Walvis Bay are some examples as they respectively provide an alternative gateway to the Indian Ocean in the east and the Atlantic Ocean in the west.

 

On energy cooperation, the creation of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) by 12 national utilities stands out as a major achievement by SADC in its plans to coordinate efforts to exploit the numerous energy resources in the region.

 

Since the formation of SAPP in 1995, all power utilities in mainland SADC with the exception of Angola, Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania are interconnected, allowing them to sell electricity to one another through bilateral arrangements as well as a competitive market.

 

SAPP has identified a number of priority energy projects for commissioning over the next few years to address the energy situation in the region, although most of these are yet to be fully implemented.

 

Between 2009 and 2013, SAPP expects member utilities to commission projects that would add about 8,800 Megawatts (MW) of electricity to the regional grid, allowing the region to balance supply and demand.

 

With respect to tourism and investment, SADC can count as achievements the development of several Trans Frontier Conversation Areas (TFCA) such as, among others, the Greater Limpopo which straddles Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe, and several river basin commissions to guide the development of the 15 shared river basins in the region.

 

Despite these achievements, the tourism industry remains challenged by the slow pace of implementation of programmes such as the Univisa, now being piloted by five countries.

 

A Univisa will enable tourists to move between and across associated countries with ease without having to apply for travel documents each time they enter a different country.

 

SADC is one of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) envisaged by the African Union as the building blocks of an African Economic Community, approved in 1991.

 

SADC is working towards the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women in all sectors, and implementation of 50-50 representation by 2015 in line with the African Union.

 

SADC Heads of State and Governments signed the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development in 2008, which is now in the process of ratification and domestication.

 

The Protocol has so far been ratified by Namibia and Zimbabwe, and needs ratification by 10 Member States before it enters into force.

 

sadc_map1.jpgWith regard to political stability, SADC has succeeded in consolidating peace and security in the region albeit with a few challenges.

 

In 1998, SADC-led troops helped the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) defend its sovereignty when some neighbouring countries tried to invade it. The region continues to support DRC’s road to recovery following many decades of armed conflict.

 

SADC also brokered talks in Zimbabwe that resulted in the formation of an inclusive government led by President Robert Mugabe, after almost 10 years of political rivalry that has impacted on the country’s economy.

 

In Lesotho and Madagascar, the SADC Organ Troika is still searching for a solution working with all major stakeholders to ensure that constitutional normalcy is restored to the country.

 

SADC has established a Regional Peace Training Centre and a standby force – the SADC Brigade – to participate in peace missions at the request of Member States, to maintain stability and prevent conflicts from spreading into other neighbouring areas or countries.

 

To promote common political values and systems, the region adopted the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections in 2004. Member States have since successfully implemented the guidelines to consolidate political stability.

 

When SADC leaders meet at their annual Summit scheduled for 16-17 August in Windhoek, Namibia to celebrate and take stock of these achievements and challenges over the last 30 years, they will review progress on implementations of current regional projects and programmes.

 

However, the bloc still faces a myriad of challenges.

 

In his address during the opening ceremony of the 30th Summit of Heads of State and Government in Windhoek, Namibia, President Hifikepunye Pohamba, whose country takes over the rotating SADC presidency from DR Congo, noted that 30 years ago Zimbabwe had just won independence from Britain while South Africa and Namibia were still ruled by the apartheid regime.

 

Since then, he said, ‘Our region has established a strong democratic culture, in which a political transition is regularly achieved through the ballot box.’

 

“We have a historic opportunity to realize the dream of SADC citizens,” he said, listing poverty eradication, food security, job creation, gender issues and tackling the HIV/AIDS pandemic among the bloc’s chief priorities.

 

Heads of State and Government admit that there still are many challenges faced by SADC, namely the Hiv-Aids prevalence and the high poverty rates, food security and illegal immigration.

 

Conflicts arising from the transition and consolidation of the democratic processes have been cited as being the sources of some tensions.

 

While SADC still faces these seemingly insurmountable challenges, the efforts that the regional bloc has put in solving wars and bringing member-states together should propel it to face the future with vigour and enthusiasm. Nothing is impossible for as long as the region works together.