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SADC Churches discuss SACU

Times of Swaziland

SADC Churches discuss SACU

11 September 2010

By Lunga Masuku

MANZINI – A regional SACU civil society conference has recommended that there is a need for a broader regional agenda anchored on the strength of small economies in the region.

This resolution was made during the two-day conference held at the Happy Valley Resort at the end of August, which was organised by the Council of Swaziland Churches.

According to Lungile Magagula-Magongo, one of the coordinators, the theme of the conference was ‘The oldest customs union in the world: what is the future for SACU?’

SACU is short for Southern Africa Customs Union and its members are Namibia, South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland.

The conference urged authorities in these countries to create structures that support informal economic activities while promoting the participants to graduate to small and medium enterprises.

Magagula-Magongo said micro-finance was identified as an important tool in the fight against poverty, food insecurity and overall contribution to socio-economic development.

"Therefore it is important to facilitate informal business to graduate into SMEs, a development that would enable the government to expand its fiscus net with huge potential to generate revenue in support of social development. This way, governments would be able to promote SME growth and development through procurement processes, and in the process, create wealth that contributes to national economy," she said.

Moreover, she said it was felt that the relationship between governments and civic bodies in many areas of social and economic development, especially on mandate, accountability and legitimacy, is vital. She said the reaction confirmed that the co-existence of this sector in development policy–related issues.

"The general feeling was that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional integration agenda wants to ‘leapfrog to be where other regions are without necessarily focusing on the means to arrive at the desire outcomes’. In this regard, it was felt that the region intends to introduce things too far and too fast without adequate multi-stakeholder consultations," she added.

The political commitment was an issue for concern in that delegates decried the lack of commitment to implement agreed positions. Some participants pointed out real movement in the SADC regional agenda is likely to happen if member states embrace new leaders with different politico-economic orientation. There was also a recommendation to document trade and social development–related data so that it can be accessible to all.

"The conference was also informed of the possibilities to renegotiate SACU, a development that calls for their participation and influence the process in terms of working closely with the respective governments. Article seven of the SACU agreements especially the revenue sharing formula had to be renegotiated," she added.

The conference, which was convened by the Council of Swaziland Churches through its Economic Justice Desk (under the Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Department) and the Economic Justice Network (EJN), was aimed at bringing together civil societies, economists, Christian councils, academia, the business sector, the SACU Secretariat and government officials from all the SACU countries to discuss the current status of SACU and the ramifications of membership.