SOUTHERN Africa has taken a significant step forward in its quest for a 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 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.
The 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 and that preceded the Summit, will be used to finance SADC programmes and projects.
An agreement was reached by the ministers on various aspects of the Fund, including windows for financing 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.