New Era, Namibia
SADC urges more intra-trade
By Magreth Nunuhe
04 March 2011
WINDHOEK — The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has appealed to its members to increase intra-trade in Africa.
SADC wants to see intra-trade within the bloc and between other African nations increase from 10 per cent to at least 45 per cent.
Speaking at a media briefing Wednesday on the eve of the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Council of Ministers meeting that is taking place at the Safari Hotel in Windhoek this week, SADC Executive Secretary Dr Tomaz Salomão said the biggest achievement by the European Union (EU) and Asian countries is their intra-trade – something he would like to see replicated between African states.
The Council of Ministers is discussing the 2011/2012 SADC Budget, other regional integration issues and reviews and coordination efforts in the region on trade, infrastructure and human development.
The SADC budget was N$62 million for 2010/11, but Salomão did not disclose the figure for the 2011/12 year.
“The purpose at the end is to facilitate trade, improve the way we do business and address concerns by the business community,” he added.
Salomão said one of the biggest challenges that SADC faces is infrastructure quality. However, he praised Namibia for its good roads as opposed to those of some other SADC states.
He added that a team of senior officials would meet this month to come up with recommendations on modalities, a framework and road map for a future SADC customs union.
He informed the media that the Council of Ministers would also deliberate on the tripartite memorandum agreement that was signed between the three Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in eastern and southern Africa, namely the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and SADC, which comprises 26 countries.
The RECs are implementing regional integration programmes in trade and economic development covering the establishment of free trade areas, customs unions, a monetary union and common markets, as well as regional infrastructure development programmes in transport, information communications technology, energy and civil aviation.
Salomão said the process for a tripartite agreement was started in 2008 when African heads of states met in Uganda to facilitate or boost trade between African countries.
He disclosed that the next step is for the RECs to negotiate a date for a summit that would be held in South Africa sometime this year.
Asked whether the SADC budget accelerates regional integration, Salomão said the majority member states launched the Free Trade Area (FTA) under the Protocol on Trade in 2008, while Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Malawi are also set to join the FTA.
The FTA is key to achieving the main goals of SADC, which are to support greater trade and investment flows between member states.
Salomão pointed out that the SADC budget, however does not implement the projects but serves as a facilitator, adding that in order to fully implement the programmes, they have to mobilize further resources.
He said they had a number of meetings with the Finance and Standing Committee to prepare a financial report as well as other items on the agenda.
The Finance Committee advises the Council of Ministers on matters relating to annual corporate plans and budgets, including performance, while a Standing Committee of Senior Officials serves as a technical advisory committee to the Council of Ministers.
Speaking at the media briefing, Dr Malan Lindeque, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, said regional integration is taking longer because the practical effect of trade arrangements between three separate economic communities is highly complex.
Lindeque said crucial issues at the moment are standards such as customs procedures and tariffs between countries that need to be simplified.
He went on to say that one of the biggest challenges is that there has not been an increase in actual trade between the countries.
Asked if the region is working towards a common currency, Lindeque said this is not important now, explaining that it is more critical to make exchange rates, inflation rates and fiscal policies more predictable between African states.
The SADC Council of Ministers was established under Article 11 of the SADC Treaty, as amended, and comprises of one minister from each SADC member state.
Dr Hage Geingob, Minister of Trade and Industry and the Chairperson of the SADC Council of Ministers, will hold a media briefing today at 18h30 on the outcome of the meeting.
The Council is responsible for the oversight of the proper functioning and development of SADC, implementation of its policies and the execution of its programmes.
The first Council meeting takes place around February/March annually to review performance of SADC institutions and to consider the corporate plan and budget for SADC institutions for the following fiscal year.