Windhoek - The Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s Council of Ministers faces a daunting mission of completing various significant tasks before the 39thheads of state and government summit to be held in Tanzania later this year.
The Council of Ministers oversees the functioning and development of SADC and ensures that policies and decisions are implemented.
The Council consists of ministers from each of the 16 member states; usually from the ministries responsible for foreign affairs and international relations, economic planning or finance, and meets twice a year in March and August.
The first meeting this year took place in Windhoek, Namibia, last week. During the two days, the ministers discussed issues of regional importance; considered a number of strategic documents and received reports on the implementation of the priority areas of the revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan 2015-2020.
The Council also reviewed the implementation of the 38th SADC Summit, whose focus is on “Promoting Infrastructure Development and Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development”. It also reviewed the decisions from the last council and approved the SADC Secretariat’s budget for 2019/2020.
In terms of progress, during the nine-month period from April to December 2018, the SADC Secretariat said performance stood at 77% with a budget utilisation of 76%.
The Southern Times is, however, informed that certain officials are disappointed at the slow pace at which things are being implemented.
Some of the things being implemented at a slow pace include the SADC regional development fund, Burundi’ SADC’s application process, while the Kingdom of Lesotho’s progress on the implementation of the reforms roadmap, and national dialogue also remain very slow.
The SADC University of Transformation, which was proposed almost two years ago also remains a pipe dream.
All these elements were discussed at last year’s SADC Summit and reiterated last week during the Council of Ministers’ meeting.
On the SADC development fund, it was agreed that the process is very slow as not all members are happy with the current proposed format.
The SADC regional development fund is a financial mechanism intended to mobilise resources from member states, the private sector and development partners to finance programmes and projects to deepen regional integration.
It is earmarked for operation in 2020.
As for Burundi, the Council of Ministers is running out of time as it has to brief and recommend to the heads of state and summit whether Burundi’s application to become a SADC member should be approved or not.
SADC has been assessing Burundi’s application since 2017. The Council of Ministers is responsible for assessing any country’s application to join SADC.
Meanwhile, Lesotho has been struggling to implement SADC elements that are necessary to restore peace and stability to the southern African kingdom, which has been battling political instability since 2014.
The Council of Ministers has a responsibility to make sure that the elements are achieved. The Council has to give an update during the heads of state and summit this year.
As for the SADC University of Transformation, the bosses (SADC heads of state) would be keen to know how far this idea is.
The SADC University of Transformation is in the form of a virtual university to focus on entrepreneurship, innovation, commercialisation, technology transfer, enterprise development, digital and building a knowledge economy to support the SADC industrialisation agenda.
The university is the brainchild of King Mswati III of Swaziland who at the time of his chairmanship in 2016 proposed that the establishment of the institution will assist industrial production.
Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of Namibia, said it is now incumbent upon them to ensure effective, timely and full implementation of these decisions.
Nandi-Ndaitwah, who is also the Chairperson of the SADC Council of Ministers, said both the SADC Secretariat and member states should promote a culture of implementing and carrying out SADC activities and Summit decisions timely and efficiently, thereby spurring economic development in the region.
She, however, said that the Council’s meeting in Windhoek was indeed a success based on the manner in which they addressed the issues under discussion, and more so on the appropriate decisions they took.
“The decisions we adopted are well-suited for the programmes and activities of the SADC we want in realising our goals and objectives,” she said.
SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Tax added that focus during 2018 remained on fostering industrialisation.
“A number of activities that are in line with the SADC industrialisation pillars, namely industrialisation, competitiveness, regional integration, and cross-cutting issues, as well as programmes in support of industrialisation, were implemented successfully,” she said.