By Kester Kenn Klomegah*
MAPUTO | MOSCOW (IDN) — The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has recorded numerous achievements since its establishment, some of which during the term of office, from September 2013 to date, of Executive Secretary, Stergomena Lawrence Tax. She concludes her second term in August 2021. Her key responsibilities have been engaging all the members as an economic bloc, overseeing, and implementing various programmes and projects in the Southern African region.
Earlier, she held a top position as the Permanent Secretary at the Tanzanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation from 2008 to 2013 before being appointed as the SADC Executive Secretary at the 33rd Summit of the Heads of State and Government held in Lilongwe, Malawi.
Following are significant excerpts from an exclusive and wide-ranging interview by the IDN Correspondent:
Eight years is quite a long time, as such several achievements and milestones were recorded during the eight years of my tenure in office, allow me to highlight some of the key ones as follows:
The SADC region remains stable and peaceful, notwithstanding, isolated challenges. This is attributed to solid systems and measures in place, such as our regional early warning, preventive and mediation mechanisms, which facilitate timely detection and redress of threats and challenges, and effective deployments of SADC electoral observation missions.
Examples during my tenure of office, include SADC preventive mission to the Kingdom of Lesotho, SADC peace and political support to the DRC, SADC mediation in Madagascar, SADC facilitation in Lesotho, and effective deployment of electoral observation missions to SADC member states.
To mitigate and address threats posed by cybercrime and terrorism, a cybercrime and anti-terrorism strategy was adopted in 2016. The strategy is being implemented at regional and national levels.
In the historical-political space, the Southern African liberation struggles were documented through the Hashim Mbita project, a publication that comprehensively and authentically documents the struggles in the three SADC languages, English, French, and Portuguese. The publication enables all, especially the youth to understand and appreciate the history and the Southern African liberation.
Vision 2050 sets out the long-term aspirations of SADC over the next 30 years, while the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan outlines a development trajectory for the region for 10 years to 2030.
Vision 2050 is based on a firm foundation of peace, security and democratic governance, and premised on three inter-related pillars, namely industrial development and market integration; infrastructure development in support of regional integration; and social and human capital development.
This also goes hand-in-hand with frontloading of industrialisation that aims at transforming SADC economies technologically and economically. Industrialisation remains SADC main economic integration agenda since April 2015, when the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063 was approved.
By addressing the supply side constraints as part of implementation of the SADC industrialisation strategy, cross-border trade continues to grow, and business environment has been improving, where cost of doing business has been declining steadily and gradually.
In addition, values chains were profiled, specifically in three priority sectors, namely mineral beneficiation, pharmaceutical and agro-processing, and several value chains have been developed and are being implemented.
The Industrialisation Strategy has also recognised the private sector as a major player to SADC industrialisation and regional integration as a whole.
Adoption of the SADC Financial Inclusion and SMEs Strategy has enhanced financial inclusion in member states. Ten member states have so far developed financial inclusion strategies, and there has been an eight percent improvement in financial inclusion to a tune of 68 percent.
The SADC Real Time Gross Settlement System (RTGS), a multi-currency platform went live in October 2018. All member states, except the Comoros, are participating in the SADC-RTGS and a total of 85 banks are participating in the system.
The SADC-RTGS has enabled member states to settle payments among themselves in real time compared to previously when it used to take several days for banks to process cross border transactions.
The establishment of the SADC Regional Development Fund in 2015 aims at mobilising funds for key infrastructure and industrialisation projects.
There has been realisation of targets set in the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP) that was approved in 2012, including the establishment of One-Stop Border Posts, which entails joint control and management of border crossing activities by agents of the adjoining countries, using shared facilities, systems and streamlined procedure.
SADC installed and commissioned more than 18,300MW between 2014 and 2020 to meet the increasing power demand in the Region has been recorded. Connecting the remaining three mainland member states (Angola, Malawi and Tanzania) to the Southern African Power Pool remains a priority, and to this effect the Zambia-Tanzania Interconnector is at construction phase.
Adoption of the Regional Water Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and Flood Early Warning System in 2015 has contributed to improvements in climate and weather forecasting, whereby a Southern African Regional Climate Outlook Forum has been established.
The forum provides a platform for member states to review and discuss the socio-economic impacts and potential impacts of the climate outlook, including on food security, health, water and hydropower management, and disaster risk management.
The SADC Disaster Preparedness and Response Strategy and Fund (2016-2030) has contributed to the enhancement of regional disaster management and responses capacity.
Gender & Health
As the first female Executive Secretary, gender mainstreaming and women’s empowerment were among the areas that I paid dedicated attention to.
In this regard, all policies that were developed during my tenure mainstreamed gender and engendered women empowerment.
A SADC Framework for Achieving Gender Parity in Political and Decision-Making positions was developed, and provides strategies, and guidelines for strengthening the implementation of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development in order to ensure that at least 50 percent of all decision-making positions at all levels would be held by women by 2030, and progress is encouraging.
The region also continued to intensify the fight against HIV and AIDS, TB and malaria. To this effect, harmonized minimum standards for the prevention, treatment and management of the diseases were developed to promote health, through support for the control of communicable diseases, and preparedness, surveillance, and responses during emergencies.
The tail-end of my term of office encountered challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, which remains a major concern and a challenge globally, and in almost all SADC member states.
SADC has exhibited determination, solidarity and has undertaken several co-ordinated regional responses and put in place various harmonised measures to fight the pandemic and to mitigate its socio -economic impacts.
Whereas, the region has progressed in terms of its objectives, it is yet to achieve its ultimate goal of ensuring economic well-being, improvement of the standards of living and quality of life for the people of Southern Africa. Achieving this aspiration, remains a challenge to be progressively tackled to the end.
SADC believes in mutual respect and equality.
Although member states differ in size, wealth or development, they treat each other as equal sovereign states. Member states make decisions through consensus, without anyone imposing on the other.
SADC has a common agenda as spelt out in Article 5 of the SADC Treaty, which, among others, aims at “promoting sustainable and equitable economic growth and social economic development that will ensure poverty alleviation with the ultimate objective of its eradication, enhance the standard and quality of life of the people of Southern Africa and support the socially disadvantaged through regional integration”.
Therefore, notwithstanding some differences in political culture, national policies and approaches towards development issues, the history, shared principles and values, and our common agenda have always enabled the region to find common ground.
Southern African Development Community (SADC), an organisation made up of 16 member states, was established in 1980. Its mission is to promote sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development through efficient, productive systems, deeper cooperation and integration, good governance and durable peace and security, so that the region emerges as a competitive and an effective player in international relations and the world economy. [IDN-InDepthNews – 21 June 2021]
*Kester Kenn Klomegah is a frequent and passionate contributor to IDN. During his professional career as a researcher specialising in Russia-Africa policy, which spans nearly two decades, he has been detained and questioned several times by federal security services for reporting facts. Most of his well-resourced articles are reprinted in a number of reputable foreign media.
Photo: SADC Executive Secretary
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