Southern Africa has taken a significant step forward in its quest for deeper regional integration following the approval of a long-awaited blueprint that outlines the region's vision for infrastructure development.
The Summit of Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government held in Maputo, Mozambique, in August endorsed a number of measures on the way forward for the region with regards to economic integration and political cooperation.
The major highlight of the Summit was the adoption of the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan Vision 2027, a 15-year blueprint that will guide the implementation of cross-border infrastructure projects between 2013 and 2027.
"The plan will serve as a key strategic framework to guide the implementation of efficient, seamless and cost-effective trans-boundary infrastructure networks in an integrated and coordinated manner in all the six sectors, namely Energy, Transport, Tourism, ICT and Postal, Meteorology and Water," SADC said in a communiqué issued after the Summit.
The master plan will be implemented over three five-year intervals - short term (2012-2017), medium term (2017-2022) and long term (2022-2027).
In the energy sector, for example, the plan addresses four key areas of energy security, improving access to modern energy services, tapping the abundant energy resources and up-scaling financial investment whilst enhancing environmental sustainability.
Regarding the sub-sectors of road, rail, ports, inland waterways and air transport networks, the Transport Sector Plan addresses four critical areas, namely improving access to the seamless transport corridors value chain; reducing the cost of transportation; enhancing competitiveness and providing safe and secure transport services.
Other key areas to be targeted include the water, tourism, meteorology and information communication technology sectors to ensure socio-economic development in the region.
The master plan is in line with the African Union's Programme for Infrastructure Development of Africa (PIDA) and will constitute a key input into the proposed Infrastructure Master Plan for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)-East African Community (EAC)-SADC tripartite.
Summit noted progress towards the operationalization of the SADC Regional Development Fund, a financial mechanism for mobilising resources from Member States, the private sector and development partners.
The Fund, which was approved by the Council of Ministers that preceded Summit, will be used to finance SADC programmes and projects.
Agreement was reached by the ministers on various aspects of the Fund, including windows for financing the priority areas of infrastructure and industrial development.
The Fund will have a subscribed capital of US$1.2 billion to be raised as seed capital.
Summit directed ministers responsible for finance and investment in the region to urgently address modalities for operationalizing the Fund. These include the size of the Fund as well as voting rights and management structure.
Identified priority infrastructure projects will require about US$500 billion to be implemented, with transport, energy and water taking up the major share of the funding requirements.
An investment conference is scheduled for between January and March 2013 to lure potential investors for the identified regional infrastructure projects while road shows are also planned in Asia, Europe and the United States for the same purpose.
Summit also received a report by the Ministerial Task Force on Regional Economic Integration on the framework for the proposed SADC Customs Union, whose launch was proposed in 2010. The report outlined a roadmap for the Customs Union, including parameters, benchmarks and a draft model Customs Union for the region.
The Task Force was mandated to work closely with the SADC Secretariat to ensure preparatory work for the Customs Union begins.
On the SADC Free Trade Area (FTA), the leaders noted that this was work in progress but acknowledged that one of the emerging issues was the need to prioritise industrialisation to address the problem of unequal levels of development among member states.
Different levels of development have been cited as an area of major concern among smaller member states that feel that larger economies stand to benefit more from the FTA.
The SADC Summit endorsed a series of recommendations on the way forward for Madagascar, following the submission of the report of the Troika on Politics, Peace, and Security.
"Since the two Malagasy leaders themselves have not come to an agreement, it has been up to the SADC Summit to map out the way forward, particularly taking into account the risk of the security situation in the country," said Seychelles President James Michel.
Seychelles played a key supporting role in the preparation of the recommendations by hosting the two meetings held between former President Marc Ravalomanana and President of the Transition Authority Andry Rajoelina, and also through its participation in the SADC consultation mission to Madagascar in August.
Following the meetings in Seychelles, where no agreement was reached between the leaders, Summit mapped out the steps to be taken to ensure that the preparation of elections goes smoothly.
The key recommendations of Summit were the full endorsement of the elections calendar proposed by the United Nations and the Commission Electoral National Independente de la Transition (CENIT). Presidential elections will thus take place on 8 May 2013.
While Summit could not pronounce itself on whether Rajoelina and Ravalomanana could present themselves for the forthcoming elections or not, it took note of the report of the consultation mission that the proposal for both leaders not to stand would offer the best route towards ensuring peaceful elections.
Summit also recognized the risk of violence and instability in relation to the eventual return of former President Ravalomanana, and asked the SADC Secretariat to dispatch a team of security experts to Madagascar to assess the security environment with a view to making recommendations on the return of the former president.
"We are pleased that the recommendations have stipulated that great care is taken with regards to the modalities for the return of the former president to safeguard a secure environment to prepare elections," said Michel.
The return of the former President will be done in consultation with the Transition Government security forces to ensure that the stability of the country is maintained.
"We also take note that the proposal for both leaders not to stand in the election offers perhaps the simplest solution. We urge both leaders to continue discussions with a view to finding a solution that prioritizes the Malagasy people."
The Summit also called for full implementation of the amnesty in favour of Ravalomanana.
On the suspended SADC Tribunal, Summit resolved that a new Protocol on the Tribunal should be negotiated and that the court's mandate be confined to the interpretation of the SADC Treaty and Protocols relating to disputes between member states.
Summit approved and signed the Agreement on Assistance in Tax Matters; Protocol on Trade in Services; and a Declaration on Tuberculosis in the Mining Sector. sardc.net
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