The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Ministerial Task Force on Regional Integration (MTF) and Committee of the Ministers of Trade (CMT) held virtual meetings on July 30, 2021 to deliberate on a number of issues pertaining to the regional integration which includes the implementation of SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap (2015-2063).
Regional integration helps SADC countries overcome divisions that impede the flow of goods, services, capital, people and ideas. These divisions are a constraint to economic growth, especially in developing countries. SADC’s main objectives is to achieve economic development, peace and security, growth, alleviate poverty, enhance the standard and quality of life of the peoples of Southern Africa, and support the socially disadvantaged. These objectives are to be achieved through increased regional integration built on democratic principles, and equitable and sustainable development.
On the other hand, the primary orientation of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy is the importance of technological and economic transformation of the SADC Region through industrialisation, modernisation, skills development, science and technology, financial strengthening and deeper regional integration.
The strategy is anchored on three pillars: 1. industrialisation as a champion of economic and technological transformation; 2. competitiveness as an active process to move from comparative advantage to competitive advantage; and 3. regional integration and geography as the context for industrial development and economic prosperity.
It is against this background that the MTF and CMT took time to review these key issues aimed at transforming the Region.
The meeting was presided over by Carlos Mesquita, Minister of Industry and Trade of the Republic of Mozambique, who is the Chairperson of the Ministerial Task Force on Regional Integration and the Committee of Ministers of Trade.
The MTF took note of the progress made in the implementation of the Industrialisation Strategy and urged member states to continue up-scaling implementation of activities including signing and ratifying the protocol on industry to enable realisation of the strategy and roadmap.
The SADC Protocol on Industry was approved by the 39th SADC Summit in August 2019 in Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania and seeks to strengthen the economies of member states to ensure that they are driven by industrial development. As of July 2021, the Protocol had been signed by 13 Heads of States and Government and ratified only by Seychelles. The Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa and Zambia are the three member states who are yet to sign the Protocol.
The MTF also noted that a number of intermediate outputs have been produced under the industrialisation pillar. However, despite these outputs and efforts, the SADC Region still lags behind in terms of achievements of long-term developmental outcomes. Current data still indicates that the share of the manufacturing sector to overall GDP is still low, at around 12 percent.
In order to realise the targeted long-term development objectives, SADC member states will have to address the slow progress in ratifying the Protocol on Industry; and delays in the operationalisation of the SADC Regional Development Fund (RDF) in order to facilitate mobilisation of meaningful resources to support regional value chains, mineral beneficiation and other industrial projects in the Region that require large-scale investments. The policy environment for industrial development and value addition needed to be improved in order to facilitate increased industrial investments at member state level.
In the same vein, the MTF and CMT observed that to date, 10 member states have ratified the Protocol on Trade in Services. The first round of negotiations was completed in six priority sectors identified in the Protocol; that is communication, finance, tourism and transport services, construction and energy-related services. They recommended the need to facilitate accession to the Protocol by the remaining SADC Member States. Ratification of the Protocol will facilitate implementation of the provisions of the Protocol by member states, prioritising services sectors and activities that support SADC’s industrialisation
The meeting also considered the report on the implementation of the SADC Regional Mining Vision (RMV) and Action Plan (AP) which were approved by the Council of Ministers in August 2019 to ensure increased production and use of SADC raw materials as feedstock for downstream processing. The meeting urged Member States to support the implementation of the RMV.
It was noted that emerging issues and key challenges that need attention under the integration pillar included improving logistics and transportation systems that remain a key hindrance to intra-regional trade; dealing with extra-SADC importation of agricultural commodities, and dealing with nationalistic local content requirement policies that pose risks to regional integration.
The meetings recommended improving cross-border rail networks and corridors to facilitate the flow of goods within the SADC region. This should include the involvement of the private sector through the establishment of export trading companies and export credit facilities.
On the harmonisation of the Tripartite Vehicle Load Management Agreement and Multilateral Cross Border Road Transport Agreement, the MTF noted that the draft legal instruments were developed to facilitate the harmonisation of road transport laws, regulations, standards and systems by the Member States.
The meeting also deliberated on improved energy sector integration in support of industrialisation, and noted that the Secretariat is overseeing preparation and implementation of transmission projects aimed to interconnect Angola, Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania to the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP). These are at different stages of development. Other interconnectors being worked on include Angola-Namibia; Malawi-Mozambique; and Zambia-Tanzania.
In terms of the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA), the meeting noted that six SADC Member States – Angola, Eswatini, Namibia, Mauritius, South Africa and Zimbabwe — ratified the AfCFTA Agreement. Trading under the AfCFTA started on 1 January 2021.
The ministers also noted the impact COVID-19 pandemic continued to impede to implementation of regional and national interventions across the Secretariat and the SADC member states at large during the 2020/21 financial year. The lingering impact of the pandemic impacted the political, economic, financial, social and environmental dimensions with devastating effects on the lives and wellbeing of the people in the region, as evident from the significant loss of lives; loss of jobs and unemployment; political instability; and escalated income inequality.
Notwithstanding the challenges, the region remained vigilant and committed towards attainment of the objectives as enshrined in the priority areas of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) and indeed the SADC Vision.
The meeting also noted that in order to ensure continuity of SADC business, member states will need to adhere to their National COVID-19 Response Plans as well as the Hybrid Plan for Regional meetings that was approved by Ministers of Health in their meeting on June 17, 2021 and endorsed by Council on June 22, 2021. The Secretariat has continued to work closely with the World Health Organisation and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDC) to gather information on the evolution of the pandemic and to provide updates to member states in real time.
Ministers noted that the availability of adequate supplies of vaccines remains a great concern for the sustaining of the current vaccination momentum that is being observed throughout the region. Countries in the region have largely received their vaccine supplies through the COVAX facility, but many have also been engaged in bilateral negotiations with vaccine manufacturers and friendly governments to acquire vaccines. – SADC