The strengthening of efforts to implement activities set out in an industrial development strategy and the review of a regional development blueprint are some of the top priorities for Southern Africa during 2019.
This emerged from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministers meeting underway in Windhoek, Namibia.
Chairperson of the SADC Council, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, said industrialisation would remain a key priority and the region will aim “to establish mechanisms through which industrial development is realised”.
The region has over the past four years pursued activities aimed at rolling out the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063, which provide a framework for major economic and technological transformations at the national and regional levels within the context of deepening regional integration.
The activities include the development of value chains linked to the three priority sectors of agro-processing, mineral beneficiation and pharmaceuticals.
The region is also in the process of developing a Protocol on Industry, which is expected to be ready by the end of 2020.
Once completed, the protocol will provide the legal mandate for the SADC Secretariat to coordinate the implementation of regional industrial activities, programmes and projects, including the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap and its related Costed Action Plan.
In addition to pursuing the objective of rapid industrial growth, the region will be seized with the process of reviewing the Revised Regional Indicative Development Strategic Plan (RISDP) 2015-2020.
“The review of our flagship strategy, the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP), is one of the ways through which the region would promote new and better ways of accomplishing our goals and objectives,” said Nandi-Ndaitwah, who is also the Namibian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation.
This followed the decision by the council at its meeting held in August 2018 to task the SADC Secretariat to review progress in the implementation of the revised RISDP.
The review is meant to inform the process of recalibrating cooperation and the regional integration strategy for SADC when the current development blueprint ends in 2020.
Consultations have already started to craft a new development blueprint to shape Southern Africa’s regional integration agenda post-2020.
As part of that process, SADC has so far convened a number of consultative meetings.
One of these was a Consultative Conference on the Post-2020 SADC Development Cooperation and Integration Strategy that was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in early 2017.
The purpose of the conference was to obtain expert assessments and analysis of the implementation of the revised RISDP as well as the revised Strategic Indicative Plan of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation (SIPO), the blueprint governing SADC cooperation in the political sector.
Another consultative meeting was the SADC Strategic Ministerial Retreat on the “SADC We Want” held in Ezulwini, the Kingdom of Eswatini, in March 2017.
The retreat agreed on measures to strengthen implementation of the integration agenda and promoting inclusive participation by citizens in regional programmes.
The ministerial retreat directed the SADC Secretariat to develop effective compliance, monitoring and assurance mechanisms to track progress in implementation of SADC programmes as well as compliance to protocols and legal instruments.
Since the transformation of SADC in 1992 from the Southern Africa Development Coordination Conference, a total of 33 protocols have been signed by member states to push forward the regional integration agenda.
However, only 26 protocols have been ratified and entered into force to date.
The Ezulwini retreat further called on the SADC Secretariat to prioritise programmes by focusing on infrastructure development, industrialisation and market integration, with peace and security as a prerequisite for economic development.
In addition, the SADC Secretariat was tasked to develop an effective engagement mechanism to strengthen participation of the private sector at all levels. It was noted that the lack of direct involvement of the private sector is a barrier to economic development.
The ongoing review is expected to lead to the development of a framework for a post-2020 regional strategy that takes into account SADC values and principles such as the need for sovereign equality and mutual benefit as well as continental and global processes such as the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals respectively.
In addition, the review process is informed by the fact that there is need to maximise synergies in the implementation of the two pillars of SADC activities — political and security cooperation as identified under SIPO, and developmental integration as covered by the RISDP.
SIPO is a five-year strategic document that establishes SADC’s institutional framework for policy coordination and implementation in politics, defence and security cooperation, and was first developed in 2003.
The core objective of SIPO is to create a peaceful and stable political and security environment through which the region will realise its objectives of socio-economic development, poverty eradication and regional integration.
The RISDP was first approved by SADC leaders in 2003 as a blueprint for regional socio-economic integration and development.
It was revised in 2015 as part of efforts to realign the region’s development agenda in line with new realities and emerging global dynamics, and identified four main priorities to be pursued by the region from 2015-2020.
Priority A seeks to promote industrial development and market integration through, among other things, strengthening the productive competitiveness and supply side capacity of member states as well as improving movement of goods and facilitating financial market integration and monetary cooperation.
Priority B is on provision and improvement of infrastructure support for regional integration.
Priority D is on promotion of special programmes of regional dimension under clusters such as education and human resource development; health, HIV and AIDS and other communicable diseases; food security and trans-boundary natural resources; environment; statistics; gender equality; and science, technology and innovation and research and development.
Priorities A, B and D are underpinned by Priority C on the promotion of peace and security.
It is envisaged that the post-2020 SADC development cooperation should provide a framework for a long-term vision for SADC as the region seeks to position itself in a context of emerging global and continental issues such as climate change, democratisation of the United Nations and increasing financial instability.