SADC member states must do more to fight poverty

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Mpho Tebele

 

Gaborone - Despite poverty eradication being at the top of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) agenda, its member states are yet to adopt SADC Regional Poverty Reduction Framework.

The Secretariat of SADC has since called for concerted efforts and inclusion of all actors to end poverty in the region.

 

Citing a report by the International Council on Social Welfare, the regional bloc states on its website that poverty remains one of the greatest challenges in the region, with approximately half of the population living on less than $1 a day.

 According to the SADC website hunger, malnutrition, gender inequalities, exploitation, marginalisation, high morbidity, and HIV and Aids are a few of the complex challenges that contribute to poverty in the region.

 While the regional bloc has stated on its website that poverty eradication is at the top of its SADC agenda, its member states are yet to formally adopt the SADC Regional Poverty Reduction Framework for implementation.

In fact, according to Botswana’s Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Nonofo Molefhi, the framework has never been formally adopted by member states for implementation.

He told parliament that the draft framework advocated for member states to develop their respective policies to address poverty and guided in the critical areas of focus.

Molefhi said the basis was that most of the member states did not have policies in place to guide the endeavour.

In 2017, in a statement to mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty which falls on 17 October every year, the SADC Secretariat said it was worrisome that half of the SADC population lived below the poverty line owing to, among other things, high levels of unemployment and underemployment in the region.

Molefhi said in 2011 the Botswana government made a deliberate decision to move from poverty reduction and alleviation policy direction to eradication of poverty.

“The poverty eradication programme was drawn from the framework and other international knowledge. But countries worldwide, including the United Nations, are still talking about alleviation and reduction,” said Molefhi.

He said it was until 2015 with the Sustainable Development Goals that poverty eradication was adopted as a policy direction internationally.

“Botswana had participated at the SADC Poverty Observatory and therefore contributed to the development of the framework,” he said.

The minister said the draft framework was also linked to other SADC tools such as the Regional Indicative Strategy Development Plan (RISDP) which Botswana was fully part of.

Molefhi explained that on its part, the SADC Secretariat did not mobilise specific financing arrangements, but rather provided technical assistance by way of identifying resources for sector-specific studies and analyses and development of frameworks that may be contextualised by member states for use.

He said the framework was premised on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the target was to halve the proportion of the population living on less-than US$1 per day between 1990 and 2015.

Molefhi explained that through her own efforts, Botswana had been able to reduce the proportion of people living below the national poverty datum line from about 30.6 to 16.3 percent between 2002/03 and 2015/16, and also from 23.4 percent to 5.8 percent for those living in absolute or extreme poverty below the poverty datum line of US$1.90 a day.

Molefhi was responding to a question from legislator, Abram Kesupile, who had asked the minister to state Botswana’s achievements on poverty eradication through SADC regional plan intended to eradicate poverty in member states, and specific activities Botswana had to undertake or is undertaking under the SADC regional plan.

According to the SADC website, the Regional Poverty Reduction Framework seeks to elaborate and translate SADC’s Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan priority intervention area on poverty eradication into an implementation framework.

“The framework selectively covers critical and high impact areas where a regional approach is expected to complement and bolster the national interventions in the fight against poverty across the region. The Regional Poverty Reduction Framework also pays more attention to cross-border issues in order to improve consistency between national strategies and programmes on one hand and the regional strategies and programmes on the other with a view to enhancing the visibility and relevance of regional interventions to country policy makers,” reads the SADC website.

The framework therefore focuses on the regional dimensions of national poverty reduction interventions including cross-border issues which need to be identified and addressed collectively. This must dovetail with the poverty dimensions of regional integration and cooperation policies and programmes (RISDP and SIPO) in order to maximise synergies between regional and national interventions.

 

 

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