The 34th Ordinary Summit of the Southern African Development Community got underway in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe on 17 August, with incoming chair President Robert Mugabe urging a "reality check" as the region reviews its development blueprint.
Mugabe cautioned that as SADC reviews the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP), there is need to be realistic when setting targets and milestones.
"We also should not be tempted to introduce or embrace too many programmes, which, in the end, we fail to fund from our own resources," Mugabe said.
"We therefore feel that the current process underway to review the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan should not be a mere academic exercise but a reality check which should redirect us."
The RISDP is a 15-year strategic plan approved by SADC leaders in 2003 as the main blueprint for regional integration and development
The plan has over the past few years undergone a review process, starting with a desk review that was undertaken by the SADC Secretariat in 2011.
The desk assessment analysed SADC's performance and identified the challenges encountered as well as the lessons learnt during implementation of the RISDP from 2005 to2010. The assessment formed the basis for an independent mid-term review between 2012 and 2013.
In August 2013, the Council of Ministers directed the SADC Secretariat to work with Member States in setting up a multi-stakeholder task force with the responsibility to finalize the process of review of the RISDP.
The task force had a series of meetings in 2014 to propose new priorities; main focal areas; milestones; outputs; targets and timeframes for the remainder of the implementationperiod.
It also met to propose strategies for implementation of the RISDP; recommend any other strategiesand implementation frameworks that may enhance its implementation, including an appropriate institutional and legal framework; and a sustainable resource mechanism, as well as amonitoring and evaluation mechanism for the remaining periodof its implementation.
The result of this work is the Revised RISDP (2015-2020) that was presented for approval to the Council of Ministers during the ongoing 34th SADC Summit in Zimbabwe.
One of the findings of the review process has been that, notwithstanding the achievements made in the implementation of the regional integration agenda, the expectations of the regional blueprint exceeded the capacity of both the SADC Secretariat and member states to deliver on all the agreed targets within the specified period.
It is estimated that implementation rates between 2005 and 2010 in terms of reaching stipulated targets ranged from 65 percent for Trade/Economic Liberalisation and Development; 64 percent for Food Security and Environment; and 60 percent for Infrastructure Support for Regional Integration and Poverty Eradication.
Other sectors which operate in areas where results can only become clearly visible over longer periods of time, have greater percentages of partial achievements, such as Social and Human Development and Special Programmes with 38 percent achieved and 46 percent of partially achieved targets, or Crosscutting issues with 14 percent achieved and 68 percent partially achieved targets.
One of the main challenges faced in this particularly area, but also across the range of areas covered by the RISDP, often relates to the lack of capacity to effectively monitor the implementation of agreed protocols to ensure compliance to commitments.
Once adopted, the plan is set to provide the impetus for deeper integration among SADC Member States.
Mugabe called on the SADC region to leverage its abundant natural resources by actively pursuing programmes to promote industrialization through beneficiation and value addition.
"Our region has abundant resources, which resources, instead of being sold in raw form at very low prices, must instead be exploited and beneficiated in order to add value and cost to those products which we eventually export," he said.
This process should assist the region in its efforts to industrialise and, in turn, increase employment opportunities.
"SADC should also wean itself from exporting raw materials, but instead seek to create value chains that lead to the exportation of finished goods," Mugabe said.
The region has developed a SADC Industrial Development Policy Framework.Adopted in 2012, the policy framework identifies key intervention areas such as development of sector-specific strategies for regional value-chain development, as well as promotion of industrial upgrading through innovation, technology transfer and research and development.
Other interventions are measures to improve standards, technical regulations and industrial infrastructure; development and upgrading of skills to drive industrialization; and development of a mechanism for industrial financing, as well as provision of infrastructure for industrial development and promotion of cross-border and foreign direct investment.
The 34th SADC Summit is being held under the theme "SADC Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region's Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development through Beneficiation and Value Addition".
Mugabe accepted to chair SADC for the coming year, taking over at Summit from his Malawian counterpart, President Peter Mutharika.
The Summit is attended by 13 heads of state or government, with Angola and Zambia represented by vice presidents.