The SADC Council of Ministers set for Windhoek, Namibia, will deliberate on a wide range of issues, including progress towards implementation of priority regional initiatives, as well as the approval of the budget to coordinate the implementation of identified action plans.
Allocation of adequate financial resources to coordinate the implementation of agreed regional activities, programmes and projects is critical in ensuring that the integration agenda of southern Africa is a success.
This is in light of the fact that more than 70 percent of the SADC budget comes from International Cooperating Partners -- a situation which compromises the ownership and sustainability of the regional agenda.
In this regard, the 2019/2020 SADC budget to be discussed by the Council of Ministers is expected to consider alternative financing modalities that will allow the region to take full control of its development plan.
These modalities include the operationalisation of the proposed SADC Regional Development Fund, as well as the finalisation of the development of the SADC Resource Mobilisation Framework (Alternative Sources of Funding SADC Regional Programmes).
The alternative sources of funding framework identifies a number of options such as the introduction of an export and import tax; a tourism levy; a financial transaction tax; a lottery system; philanthropy; and regional events.
It is estimated that SADC can earn in excess of US$1.2 billion annually from these alternative sources, a development expected to remove the current dependency on external funding, and thus improve the implementation of regional priority initiatives and strategies.
According to a statement released by the SADC Secretariat ahead of the Council of Ministers meeting scheduled for 15-16 March, another key issue for discussion is progress made towards implementing decisions of the 38th SADC Summit.
Running under the theme “Promoting Infrastructure Development and Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development,” the 38th SADC Summit urged member states to involve the youth in the integration agenda as well as to promote infrastructure development.
The focus on youth empowerment is aimed at ensuring that the region harnesses its human capital dividend through the youth, who make up the majority of the population in SADC.
Furthermore, the youth are expected to reap the benefits of decisions made today, hence involving them in the regional integration agenda makes sense.
Closely linked to youth empowerment, the council is expected to deliberate on the operationalisation of the SADC University of Transformation that was approved by the 38th SADC Summit held in August 2018.
A brainchild of King Mswati III of the Kingdom of Eswatini, the university will be “in the form of a virtual university, and will focus on entrepreneurship, innovation, commercialisation, technology transfer, enterprise development, digital and knowledge economy, to support the industrialization agenda.”
On the legislative front, the council is expected to focus on how to effectively establish a regional parliament after the political leadership offered high-level support for such an institution during the 38th SADC Summit.
The establishment of a SADC regional parliament is an integral representative institution for the SADC citizenry.
Currently, the executive is the man driver of regional integration through intergovernmental institutions at senior officials, ministerial or heads of state and government levels.
The judiciary was represented through the now suspended but soon to be reconstituted SADC Tribunal, hence the establishment of a regional parliament will be a historic development for SADC.
The SADC Council of Ministers will also “receive reports on the implementation of the priority areas of the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan 2015-2020 (RISDP).”
The RISDP is the blueprint for regional integration and development.
First approved in 2003, with strategic revision in 2015, the RISDP identifies four main priorities to be pursued by the region from 2015-2020.
Priority A seeks to promote industrial development and market integration through, among other things, strengthening the productive competitiveness and supply side capacity of member states as well as improving movement of goods and facilitating financial market integration and monetary cooperation.
Priority B is on provision and improvement of infrastructure support for regional integration.
Priority D is on promotion of special programmes of regional dimension under clusters such as education and human resource development; health, HIV and Aids and other communicable diseases; food security and trans-boundary natural resources; environment; statistics; gender equality; and science, technology and innovation and research and development.
The above three priorities will be underpinned by Priority C on the promotion of peace and security.
With one year left before the Revised RISDP comes to an end, the SADC Council of Ministers will thus review progress made in implementing the plan.
The council is expected to discuss peace and security in the region as well as preparation for elections in some SADC countries.
At least seven SADC Member States are set to hold elections this year. These are Botswana, the Union of Comoros, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa.
Agriculture and food security remains a top priority for the council following low rainfall and drought conditions that affected most parts of the region during the 2018/19 farming season.
The focus for the council will be on continued implementation of the Regional Agricultural Policy in order to improve production, productivity, competitiveness and trade in the agricultural sector, natural resources and environment.
With regard to trade, the council is expected to discuss how the region could work with other regional economic communities to conclude efforts to operationalise the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) as well as establish the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).
The TFTA and the CFTA aim to facilitate the smooth movement of goods and services across borders, as well as allowing member countries to harmonize regional trade policies to promote equal competition.
The SADC Council of Ministers, which traditionally meets annually to review implementation of regional decisions and approve the SADC budget will be preceded by various technical and senior officials meetings from 11-16 March.
The council consists of ministers from each member state, usually from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Economic Planning, or Finance. It meets twice a year in February/March and immediately prior to the summit in August or September.
The Council of Ministers oversees the functioning and development of SADC, and ensures that policies and decisions are implemented. - sardc.net.