Tough year for SADC countries

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Timo Shihepo

Windhoek ‑ Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries have endured a torrid year, which threatened the livelihoods of citizens both economically and politically.

SADC, which is regarded as Africa’s best region in terms of development and peace, suddenly struggled to maintain that tag in 2018 due to various events that happened this year.

Countries like Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Namibia, South Africa, Lesotho, Madagascar and Zimbabwe all experienced real challenges this year.

In terms of economic performance, many countries continue to record poor results. This is a continuation from 2017, when the fiscal deficit of the region was recoded at 4.8% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Public debt also continues to rise for SADC countries estimated to be at over 50%.

Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa have also battled prolonged recession in 2018.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) cautioned on the economic outlook for the southern Africa region. The bank says broad-based economic activity is expected to recover at a slow pace, but the outlook remains modest, given the diverging growth patterns for the region’s economies. Uncertain

“Upper middle-income countries turned in low and declining rates of growth. Meanwhile, lower income transitioning economies recorded moderate and improved growth, albeit at reduced rates. Despite the improvement, economic performance remains below the regional target of 7% annual economic growth for all member states. The region’s economic outlook continues to face major headwinds: high unemployment, increasing debt, and high inflation,” the bank says.

SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, says since the beginning of last year, the region has experienced dampened economic growth that has affected several sectors.

She says while inflation has slowed down, it remains high with some member states still in the double digit levels.

Furthermore, Dr Tax says depreciating currencies continued to influence price movements in some member states.

“In the fiscal sector, public revenues have remained low in the face of increasing public expenditures. It is, therefore, important for member states to remain vigilant in implementing policies aimed at diversifying their economies to ensure resilience.”

 

Political problems

SADC’s peaceful and non-violent tag was tested to the core this year, as several countries in the region battled violence and political instabilities.  

In South Africa, attacks by locals on foreign-owned shops became frequent, while carjacking in the country still persists.

In Zimbabwe, violence was experienced after the August national elections. It came as a surprise to see violence of that magnitude in the once peaceful Zimbabwe.   

Disturbed DRC is set to finally go to the polls – two years after the initial date to elect a new leader since 2001.This is because long-time leader Joseph Kabila, who has been accused of inciting violence in the country. But the stepping down of Kabila might not necessarily guarantee peace in the country. The Eastern DRC, troubled for decades by inter-ethnic bloodshed and militia violence, saw the escalation of the crisis this year.

The city of Beni, home to up to 300,000 people, is under threat from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group rooted in Uganda that has killed hundreds of people since 2014.

Also, last week, arsonists burned 7,000 voting machines ahead of the national elections next week.

In Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana contested a second round of vote on Wednesday to determine the next president and hopefully bring peace and stability to the country. Earlier this year, protesters clashed with the police resulting in loss of lives – after demonstrators gathered to demand the end of police violence on civilians.

On a positive note, troubled Lesotho seems to be finally heading in the right direction after the country held a multi-stakeholder national dialogue.

The national dialogue was part of Lesotho’s long-standing effort to commit itself to participate in an inclusive, participatory, democratic, transparent and comprehensive reform process.

Lesotho has been battling political instability since 2014, which left several people dead while others fled the violence and are still in exile.

Detailed questions on the situation in region sent to the SADC Secretariat were not answered by the time of going to print. 

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