The Southern African Development Community (SADC) grew to include 16 Member States in 2017, and the steps towards integration and development advanced significantly as the region recorded achievements and began to develop strategies for the post-2020 agenda.
The 37th SADC Summit held on 19-20 August in Pretoria, South Africa, formally admitted the Union of Comoros as the 16th Member State of SADC.
Summit adopted the theme of “Partnering with the private sector in developing industry and regional value chains” and urged Member States to operationalize the theme through implementation of projects in the focus areas of agro-processing, mineral beneficiation, energy, and pharmaceuticals.
Summit directed that a regional Natural Gas Committee be constituted to promote the inclusion of gas in the energy mix for industrial development, and urged Member States to “speed the process of operationalizing the SADC Regional Development Fund” to support the industrialization agenda.
This followed preparatory meetings held earlier in the year to commence a process to review and develop long-term strategies.
A SADC Strategic Ministerial Retreat was held in March to determine what needs to be done to create the “SADC We Want” and to develop scenarios on a trajectory for the region.
Among the measures agreed was a mechanism for tracking progress on the implementation of the regional integration agenda and compliance with protocols and other legal instruments.
The ministerial retreat agreed that Member States should strengthen National Committees so they can be more effective in coordinating the implementation of regional policies at national level.
Another important decision was to pursue alternative options for funding the SADC regional integration programme to avoid over-reliance on international partners.
It was noted that the region has potential to raise more than US$1.2 billion annually from alternative funding options such as an export and import tax; a tourism levy; a financial transaction tax; a lottery system; philanthropy; and income from the hosting of regional events.
SADC has commenced a process of formulating a new cooperation and integration strategy to succeed the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) that was approved in 2015 and runs to 2020.
A consultative conference on a post-2020 strategy was held in mid-year to seek expert analysis on the implementation of the Revised RISDP and the plan guiding SADC cooperation in the political sector, the Revised Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation (SIPO).
The experts noted the need to maximise synergies in the implementation of the two pillars of SADC activities – the developmental integration as covered by the RISDP, and political and security cooperation as defined under SIPO.
The consultative process is expected to lead to the development of a framework for a post-2020 regional strategy based on SADC common values and principles, in the context of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, and incorporating the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
With regard to economic development, SADC adopted a costed action plan for its Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap during an extraordinary summit held in March in the Kingdom of Swaziland.
The action plan 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 SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap was developed as an inclusive long-term modernisation and economic transformation scheme that should enable substantial and sustained economic development to raise living standards and achieve SADC’s vision for a united, prosperous and integrated region.
Energy access is an essential ingredient to implementation of the industrialisation strategy and in 2017, the SADC region, for the first time in a decade, experienced surplus capacity in electricity generation as a result of regional cooperation in energy planning.
According to the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), the surplus generation capacity was about 2,616 megawatts (MW) as of September. The acting manager of the SAPP Coordination Centre, Alison Chikova, said the trend is likely to continue as “SAPP will commission an average of 5,000MW per year in the next six years.”
In July, SADC hosted s High-Level Ministerial Workshop and an Investors’ Conference on Regional Energy Projects. The meeting reviewed a list of priority energy projects, assessed the preparation of these projects, and discussed measures for capacity building to strengthen skills within the region to package bankable projects.
During this year, Southern Africa also witnessed the launch of the regional development bank by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) to service the African continent. The Africa Regional Centre of the New Development Bank based in Johannesburg is expected to unlock the socio-economic potential of the region and continent.
With regard to strengthening the role of women in economic development in the region, Botswana became the 14th Member State to sign the Revised SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, which provides for the empowerment of women, elimination of discrimination, and the promotion of equality and equity through gender-responsive legislation, policies, programmes and projects.
The Protocol was revised in 2016 to align its objectives to various global targets and emerging issues, such as AU Agenda 2063 and UN Sustainable Development Goals. The protocol was already aligned to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
Political stability is an essential factor in SADC’s plans for regional integration and development; and a significant achievement in 2017 was the smooth transfer of power in three SADC Member States (Angola, Kingdom of Lesotho and Zimbabwe), thus illustrating the ability and effectiveness of the region to address its own challenges without outside interference.
SADC intervention to the political situation in Lesotho resulted in national elections that were successfully held on 3 June, bringing hope for a country that has faced challenges since its birth in 1966, and most recently since 2012.
Following the inauguration of the new Prime Minister, Dr Thomas Thabane, in June, the 37th SADC Summit in August approved the extension of the Oversight Committee to “continue acting as an early warning mechanism, and to monitor and assist the Kingdom of Lesotho to implement SADC decisions.”
In Zimbabwe, SADC supported the country in finding an amicable solution to a political impasse that followed weeks of tension in which the founding President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, came under pressure from his political party, parliament, the defence forces and the population to resign.
Mugabe, 93, who had ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years since independence in 1980, resigned on 21 November, as provided in the Constitution, and was replaced by his former deputy and now President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose inauguration was attended by several presidents and former presidents from SADC Member States.
In Angola, the second executive president, José Eduardo dos Santos, who had served the country since 1979, handed over the party leadership and later the instruments of government to President João Lourenço after their party, the MPLA, won 61 percent of the votes and 150 seats in parliament.
On food security, SADC noted an improvement for the overall 2017/2018 season and urged Member States to improve storage facilities to minimise post-harvest losses. The 37th SADC Summit also approved the Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plans in the SADC Region.
In terms of disaster risk reduction and management, SADC has agreed to explore risk insurance options, including the facilities available through the African Development Bank for disasters such as drought and floods caused by climate change.
The SADC Disaster Preparedness and Response Strategy 2016-2030 requires that SADC Member States put in place a simple and accessible early warning system in the three official languages by the end of 2017.
Another milestone for 2017 was the restructuring of the SADC Secretariat to align with current operational priorities. SADC Today