By Timo Shihepo
Windhoek – The Southern African Development Community (SADC) member countries are hoping for a better economic performance in the last quarter of the year after the region performed dismally in 2017.
In 2017, the region’s economic growth averaged at a mere 1.9% with several countries suffering setbacks in real per capita growth.
Information gathered by The Southern Times shows that several economies in the region struggled in 2017.
The largest economy in the region, South Africa, grew by 1.3% while neighbouring Namibia’s economy grew by a mere 0.7%. Zimbabwe’s economy grew from 0.7% in 2016 to 2.8% in 2017 thanks to a rebound in agriculture, but saw inflation quickening to 7% by December. Botswana (4.5%) and Zambia (4.1%) are the countries whose economies performed better by 2017 standards.
In 2018, despite the improvement in medium-term growth prospects, the economic performance in the region remained subdued with average growth at a measly 2.2%.
United Nations Economic Commission for Africa executive secretary, Vera Songwe said efforts being made in the SADC region could see the economic performance improve by the end of the year.
Songwe was referring to the fact that the region was embarking on huge policy changes aimed at raising the growth trajectory through domestic and foreign investments. She also said efforts at improving the political and corporate governance environments in the region are one that would lead to investors’ confidence.
Songwe was referring to the Lesotho situation, leadership transitions in South Africa and Botswana as well as the recent elections in Zimbabwe.
Speaking at the just-ended SADC 38th Summit, Songwe said there is a need for greater coordination through regional economic communities if Africa is to realise the full benefits of infrastructure development.
“The small size of many SADC economies makes cooperation in the development of regional infrastructure imperative. A thorough analysis of infrastructure projects would provide for informed decision-making while promoting awareness on prioritisation and financing requirements at the national level,” she said.
At the moment, various infrastructure programmes exist at national and various regional levels that could scale up Africa’s industrial development but the lack of implementation is hindering progress. For example, the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa provides a long-term vision for Africa’s infrastructure development and a platform for all the African countries. This is either through individually or collectively engaging with investors and development partners.
“SADC region takes the lead in the continent when it comes to infrastructure development. However, there is still an urgent need for more investment in infrastructure development and maintenance,” said Songwe.
Songwe added that the SADC region deserves credit for embarking on the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP), guiding the development and implementation of priority infrastructure projects for the region in the six sectors for development.
These are: energy, transport, tourism, information and communication technologies, meteorology, and trans-boundary water.
“When fully implemented, RIDMP would enable the coordination and harmonisation of all regional infrastructure development within the SADC region,” said Songwe.
According to Songwe, infrastructure development in SADC will help to facilitate intra-regional trade, export product diversification and competitiveness in the SADC economies, by creating large efficient markets and lowering production costs.
A 2011 report by the World Bank stated that if the region’s infrastructure could be upgraded to the level of the best-performing country in Africa, Mauritius, the impact on per capita economic growth would be in the order of 3%.