Joseph Ngwawi Correspondent
SOUTHERN African leaders have agreed to review progress towards the implementation of the regional development blueprint that is expected to end in two-year’s time.
The Council of Ministers of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) has tasked the Sadc Secretariat to review progress in the implementation of the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2015-2020.
Council of Ministers chairperson Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah said 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.
“Council directed the Secretariat to submit the comprehensive review report on the implementation of the Revised RISDP 2015-2020 during its meeting to be held in August 2019,” said Nandi-Ndaitwah, who is Namibian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Co-operation.
She called on Sadc member states to focus on implementing activities that are within the approved implementation frameworks of the Revised RISDP and the Revised Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ (Sipo).
The RISDP, which was approved in 2015, is expected to end in 2020 and 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 at least two consultative meetings.
The first was a Consultative Conference on the Post-2020 Sadc Development Co-operation 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 SIPO, the blueprint governing Sadc co-operation in the political sector.
Another consultative meeting was the Sadc Strategic Ministerial Retreat on the “Sadc We Want” held in Ezulwini, Eswatini in March 2017.
The retreat agreed on measures aimed at strengthening 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.
According to Sadc legal statutes, at least two-thirds of the member states are required to ratify a protocol for it to enter into force.
The approval of a regional legal instrument requires, first, signing, and then ratification — a process that differs from country to country, with some requiring approval of parliament.
The slow implementation of policy documents by Sadc countries has affected the pace of regional integration, resulting in most people in the region failing to fully realise maximum benefits of belonging to a shared community in southern Africa.
The Ezwilini 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.
The ministerial retreat called on the Secretariat to undertake a comprehensive review of Sadc organs, including the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, in order to rationalise and streamline decision-making and enhance effectiveness and efficiency.
It was noted that the review should propose delegation of decision-making to lower levels.
For example, only key decisions should be taken to the Council of Ministers and the Summit of Heads of State and Government while other decision-making should be delegated to lower organs when it is cost-effective.
The retreat further recommended that the Sadc Secretariat develops an effective engagement mechanism to strengthen participation of the private sector at all levels.
It was noted that the lack of direct involvement by the private sector is a barrier to economic development.
The directive by the ongoing Summit in Namibia for a consultative process 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 also 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.