New SADC chairperson faces tough balancing act

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Tiri Masawi

Windhoek - Newly appointed Southern African Development Community Chairperson and Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli, who took over the rotating SADc chair from Namibian President Hage Geingob, faces a delicate balancing act in the next one year in pushing through various agendas for the region.

Being the first chairperson in a long time to take over the reins of the region when all the political hotspots seem to be cooling. The Democratic Republic of Congo, which has had its fair share of civil strife because of insurgency, appears on the mend with a peaceful transfer of power for the first time since its independence in 1960; Lesotho, has now seemingly stabilised from internal political challenges; and Madagascar has now settled into peace, having held elections and a peaceful transfer of power.

Magufuli’s attention will therefore be pinned on the reality of realising industrialisation, promoting integration and fostering free movement of goods and services across the region.

Bridging the industrialisation gap

Needless to say that the issues of industrialisation, regional integration, free movement of goods and people as well as fostering youth empowerment in the true aspect of it have not been easy issues

Magufuli also has to keep track with other challenging aspects including driving the gender equality issue across the spectrum, finding avenues for food security for a region reeling with natural calamities as well as strengthening peace.

According to the trade Law Research Centre (TRALAC), one of the major highlights for the incoming chair will be a progress report on the implementation of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063, which was adopted in 2015 to unlock the industrial potential of the region.

Industrialisation is a top priority for Southern Africa, and since 2014 all SADC summits have focused on how the region can attain industrial development. As per the theme of the 39th SADC Summit, member states will between August 2019 and August 2020 focus on creating a conducive environment to allow the private sector and other citizens of the region to actively participate in and fully benefit from measures aimed at advancing the industrialisation agenda.

“In a bid to enhance the level of industrial development, both nationally and regionally, and in pursuit of ensuring the attainment of unified goals and cohesion among member states’ industrialisation policies and strategies, SADC is developing a Protocol on Industry, which is set to be completed by August 2019,” TRALAC said.

Perhaps a major challenge to this is whether it is feasible for all nations in SADC to industrialise, bearing in mind the severe skills shortages in other member states while others have the skills but just do not have the funds or technical support to drive this agenda.

President Magufuli will also have to streamline the industrialisation agenda, from an agrarian economy to one that steers close to the fourth generation, albeit with some time to get there.

 

Infrastructure development

SADC currently has a heightened appetite for better infrastructure and the recent expansion of the Walvis Bay Port in Namibia and the pledge by Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Geingob that they would like to connect their countries through rail, are a real feeling on what is needed.

Tanzania is also pushing towards rail rehabilitation while South Africa is putting massive investments into housing. Most of the projects on infrastructure will need Magufuli to be well aware of the hindrances within the next year.

“Another key issue for discussion is progress towards implementation of the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP). Approved in 2012, the RIDMP is the strategy for the development of integrated regional infrastructure in Southern Africa at an estimated cost of more than US$500 billion to meet projected demand by 2027.

“Implementation of the RIDMP is being done in three phases, covering the Short Term Action Plan (STAP) 2012-2017, the Medium Term Action Plan that runs up to 2022, and the Long Term Action Plan to be implemented up to 2027. Preliminary findings of a study commissioned by the SADC Secretariat show that the implementation of most STAP projects is behind schedule,” TRALAC said.

 

Food security situation

Statistics on the ground show that the SADC region has a cereal deficit of more than 5.4 million tonnes this year following subdued rainfall during the just-ended season, according to a Synthesis Report on the State of Food and Nutrition Security and Vulnerability in Southern Africa.

 The report indicates that an estimated 41.2 million people are food-insecure in 13 SADC member states this year

The situation poses a great challenge to the incoming chair to find ways of creating a food self-sustainable SADC.

Strengthening peace and security

On the political front, Magufuli is expected to take heed of the peace and security situation in the region. The region has generally enjoyed stability despite some pockets of volatility in the eastern part of the DRC, Lesotho and Madagascar.

“To ensure there is a strong linkage between early warning and early action, SADC has established the Regional Early Warning Centre and the region successfully deployed many strategic teams which have had a positive impact. Most recent was the SADC Preventive Mission in Lesotho, which was deployed in November 2017 to stabilise the fragile and unpredictable political and security situation in the country, and successfully completed its mission in November 2018.

“This supported the deployment of the SADC Oversight Committee to the Kingdom of Lesotho and the team supporting the SADC Facilitator to assist in the national dialogue and the roadmap for reforms,” TRALAC said.

 

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