Infrastructure high on summit agenda
Southern Africa’s vision as an emerging economy with sound infrastructure, as one of its pillars, is fast becoming a reality with the hosting of the regional summit by Zimbabwe next month. The momentum is building towards the 34th Southern African Development Community summit, when the leaders of 15 states will meet in Victoria Falls with President Mugabe chairing.
The summit is preceded by a meeting of the Council of Ministers and preparatory meetings of officials. A series of key sectoral meetings are already underway.
Tourism ministers from the region met recently in Livingstone, Zambia, during the airlines Routes conference held at Victoria Falls, and the infrastructure ministers met on June 20 in Harare.
While these meetings may seem routine, without resonance to a wider community, the summit in Victoria Falls promises to be a milestone for Sadc and a life-changing event for Southern Africa.
The meeting of infrastructure ministers held in Harare and chaired by Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Obert Mpofu was a game-changer for the region.
The meeting was opened by the Vice President Joice Mujuru, who told the ministers that adequate infrastructure is the “bedrock of economic development in any economy”.
What is in it for us who are not in these meetings and why should we be excited about infrastructure development?
The short answer is that infrastructure touches every aspect of our daily lives, including transport, energy, information technology, water, meteorology and tourism.
These sectors impact on our daily lives and how we go about our work and play, in families, in communities and in businesses.
The opportunities being unpacked in this sector across a region that stretches from Namibia to Mozambique, and from South Africa all the way to the United Republic of Tanzania are endless. Imagine what you could do if there was a train from Windhoek to Beira, or from Durban to Dar es Salaam, both through Harare, or if you could fly direct to Maputo.
Or if the roads were good on those routes, or if the electricity and water worked all the time in all of those places.
When the infrastructure works, it lays the basis for other opportunities, such as a uni-visa to ease the movement of visitors across borders, and one-stop border posts to ease the passage of goods, or a Grand Free Trade Area of 26 countries stretching along the whole of the eastern side of Africa from Egypt to South Africa.
Already, most Sadc member states have removed visa requirements for their own citizens to move more easily across borders, and more even, development would keep more people and skills at home, while generating a perspective that anywhere in the region is “home”.
What the infrastructure ministers were doing in Harare, and what the Heads of State and Government will be doing in August in Victoria Falls is to set clear plans towards implementation of regional policy with regard to infrastructure and related priorities.
The infrastructure ministers meeting approved the Sadc Declaration on Regional Infrastructure Development to present to the Sadc Council of Ministers and then to the summit.
This follows the Regional Infrastructure Master Plan approved previously.
The declaration urges Sadc countries to implement regional agreements and protocols to facilitate development of infrastructure, as well as create the necessary conditions to attract investment and promote industrialisation through strong regional infrastructure projects, while encouraging the participation of the private sector in construction of dams, roads and other facilities.
Other key issues include the need to collaborate with international co-operating partners, multilateral financial institutions such as the African Development Bank and the private sector and other stakeholders to secure funding for the Sadc infrastructure programme.
Particular attention will also be put on the transport needs of landlocked Sadc countries such as Zimbabwe who, because of “their geo-political circumstances, have special needs for transport and transit services and bear high costs for capacity and access to external markets.”
The new Sadc Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax from Tanzania, is pleased with progress during her first year in office, but always with her eye on the many targets still to be reached.
At least seven priority areas have been identified for implementation this year as Southern Africa intensifies efforts to deepen integration for socio-economic development.
The priority areas were adopted by the Sadc Council of Ministers, which met in March in Lilongwe, Malawi.
The ministers agreed to intensify efforts towards finalising the review of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan and consolidation of the Sadc Free Trade Area launched in 2008.
Other key priorities are conclusion of negotiations to establish a single market covering 26 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa; fast-tracking implementation of the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan; strengthening measures to improve food security; and implementation of the HIV and Aids cross-border initiatives.
The seventh priority is on peace building and consolidation of democratic practices in the region.
The Sadc Council of Ministers that oversees the functioning and development of Sadc is made up of ministers of Foreign Affairs, Economic Planning or Finance from the 15 member states.
Zimbabwe will also chair the Council of Ministers for the coming year.
The theme of the 2014 Summit on 17-18 August is: “Sadc Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region’s Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development through Beneficiation and Value Addition”. Zimbabwe is well prepared for the event and for chairing Sadc for the next year.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs started preparations last year, and the President’s Office has established a National Steering Committee chaired by the Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Ray Ndhlukula.
The regional economic communities such as Sadc are building blocks towards an African economic community, and by early next year when Zimbabwe also becomes the chair of the African Union. — Sardc.net