Regional integration to top SADC talks
By Nchidzi Smarts
11 August 2010
Regional integration will be the major topic when the Southern African Development Community (SADC) heads of state summit that will coincide with the SADC 30th anniversary celebrations gets underway in Namibia on August 16-17.
The Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo is expected to be in Windhoek, the Namibian capital, along with Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Phandu Skelemani and Minister of Trade and Industry Dorcus Makgato-Malesu, for the SADC Ministerial Task Force on Regional Integration, Council of Ministers as well as the SADC Summit.
Although SADC governments in 2005, during the “silver jubilee” summit in Botswana - signed an element deemed key to propel regional integration at desired levels, progress has reportedly been slow. Only a few countries ratified the protocol since its adoption, which makes implementation ineffective. The silver jubilee summit did agree that “deeper integration requires integrated and efficient infrastructure,” and to enhance these, the summit identified key interventions in the form of transport, information and communication technology, energy, and water. While there is no doubt that there has been progress on infrastructure development, the region is yet to achieve free movement of goods due to lack of infrastructure and coherent policies and regulations.
The Ministerial Task Force on Regional Integration meeting will take place on August 13, while the Council of Ministers will be from 14th to 15th August. The heads of state and government leaders’ summit will follow on August16-17.
The Ministerial Task Force on Regional Integration as well as the Council of Ministers will consider, amongst others: Status of member states contributions to SADC Secretariat; Protocol on Trade Implementation Audit and Action Plan; Proposals on Consolidating the FTA; Preparations Towards the SADC Customs Union; Proposed COMESA, EAC, SADC Tripartite FTA; and SADC Regional Development Fund/Bank.
Botswana is a member of the 14-nation SADC, which started implementing a free trade agreement on 1 September 2000. The accord will cut tariffs on 12,000 defined product areas in the SADC region. By 2008, implementation of the liberalisation of products considered less sensitive will lead to the freeing of 85 percent of intra-SADC trade from tariffs. From 2008 to 2012, the sensitive products will be liberalised, creating a free trade area (FTA) by 2012.
In terms of time frame, pace of tariff reduction and the coverage of the SADC
FTA, the agreement is structured in such a way that the SACU member states will front-load (open their markets faster), Mauritius and Zimbabwe (the non-SACU SADC countries) will mid-load and the least developed member states (Angola, Malawi, Mozambique,
Tanzania and Zambia) will backload.
SADC member states have begun to enjoy the benefits of regional trade cooperation with more than 85 percent of the Harmonised System (HS) tariff lines now at zero, and waiting times for commercial traffic at several major border crossings cut through a reduction in the number of documents required for imports and exports.
At the end of the summit, Namibia will take over as the chairmanship of SADC, with Minister of Trade and Industry Hage Geingob as the chairperson of the SADC Council of Ministers, and President Hifikepunye Pohamba as the SADC chairperson.
President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the current chairperson who had replaced South Africa’s Jacob Zuma during the summit held in Kinshasa two years ago.