By Andreas Thomas
Gaborone – The Executive Secretary of SADC, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, has appealed to member states to sign and ratify the Regional Development Fund Agreement, to kick-start its operations.
Since 2013, SADC has been discussing the establishment of the Regional Development Fund (RDF).
The idea is to create a financial mechanism to mobilise resources from member states, and receipts from development partners and private sector to support regional development and the deepening of regional integration, as espoused in Article 26A of the SADC Treaty.
Article 26A made provision for “a special fund of SADC to be known as the Regional Development Fund in which shall be accounted receipts and expenditure of SADC relating to the development of SADC”.
The fund will have a seed capital of US$1.2 billion. But for the RDF to take off, a Regional Development Fund Agreement needed to be ratified by all member states, with a two-thirds majority required to give it the nod for the fund to enter into force.
But it seems member states are too slow to ratify the RDF agreement. As a result, Tax pleaded with the SADC Chairperson and Namibian President Hage Geingob, to help rescue the situation.
Tax has stressed that sustainable financing is one of the major bottlenecks to the region’s drive to industrialise.
To ensure sustainable financing of the SADC regional programmes, she emphasised that the development of a SADC Regional Resources Mobilisation Framework is at an advanced stage, and innovative instruments for mobilising resources have been identified. As part of ensuring sustainable financing of SADC programmes, the region agreed to develop the SADC Regional Development Fund, where notable progress has been made, including the signing of the agreement to operationalise the fund by nine member states, Dr Tax said.
“These processes need to be finalised expeditiously, so as to enable the region to move at an accelerated pace and realise the much-desired economic transformation.
Dr Tax pleaded with President Geingob to take charge during his tenure as SADC chairperson and ensure all member states ratified the RDF agreement.
She made the call when the Namibian Head of State visited the SADC Secretariat headquarters in Gaborone last Friday.
“May I request Your Excellency to encourage all member states to make a frank determination on the proposed innovative instruments for mobilising resources, and sign and ratify the Regional Development Fund Agreement so that both the Resource Mobilisation Framework and the Regional Development Fund can be operationalised,” she said.
In addition, the RDF is expected to support and facilitate member states in their efforts to implement the SADC economic integration agenda (free trade area, customs union, common market, economic and monetary unions) as well as support the industrialisation process.
The multi-billion-dollar regional fund further seeks to provide financial support for the implementation of regional infrastructure projects mainly emanating from the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP).
Geingob visited the SADC headquarters to appreciate the work done by the Secretariat in facilitating the SADC regional agenda.
His tenure that runs from August 2018 to August 2019 is guided by the theme “Promoting Infrastructure Development and Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development”.
In his address, President Geingob expressed displeasure over SADC’s failure to turn regional aspirations such as the RDF into tangible results.
He singled out continue failure by the region to successfully implement the regional integration agenda, which he said was strangling economic growth in southern Africa.
The Namibian leader stressed that SADC has the tendency of crafting and agreeing important economic and developmental agendas, which are never successfully implemented.
To drive his point home, Geingob pointed failure to realize the aspirations of the SADC Free Trade Area (FTA) that was first launched in 2008 with the aim of removing tariffs amongst member states and thereby supporting the growth of intra-SADC trade.
This was followed by the signing of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa - East African Community - Southern African Development community Free Trade Area in June 2011.
Although the tripartite objective is to improve the economic and social welfare in the three regional economic communities, nothing much has been achieved.
In 2018, SADC member states signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a flagship project of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, which seeks to enable seamless movement of goods and services across the continent.
The AfCFTA promises to bring together a market of 1.2 billion people with a combined GDP of over US$2.5 trillion.
“No one can question the fact that all of these trade agreements were signed in good faith and with the best of intentions. However, the question we need to ask ourselves is whether we have done or are doing enough in terms of implementation.
“Case in point is the SADC Free Trade Area, which was envisioned as a tool to augment the private sector in the region by increasing domestic production and business opportunities, as well as supporting higher regional imports and exports.
“Have we achieved this? Alas, sometimes we take decisions and after failing to implement them, we simply move on to another decision. I
t is imperative that as Africans, we should manage our RECs (regional economic communities) as corporations.
“Therefore, the core principles of corporate governance should be inculcated at all levels within the SADC Secretariat.
“Fairness, accountability, responsibility and transparency should constitute the DNA of our organisation.
This is the only guarantor of future growth and the successful implementation of our developmental aspirations,” Geingob said while addressing the SADC Secretariat staff.
Geingob reminded the staff that the establishment of SADC, as “a brainchild of our visionary founding fathers, marked a turning point for our region ‑ a point where the pursuit of regional integration was warranted”.