SADC Infrastructure Master Plan to Focus on Deepening Regional Integration

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) recently hosted a validation workshop for the ‘The SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan’ in Johannesburg, South Africa. The aim of this meeting was to discuss ways for SADC and other regions to implement trans-boundary infrastructure in order to facilitate trade and deepen the process of regional integration and co-operation.

The plan is a strategic framework, which articulates the SADC’s objectives, underpinned by a collection of projects in sectors including energy, infrastructure, trans-boundary water, transport, meteorology and ICT.

Engineer Joao Caholo, Deputy Executive Secretary, Regional Integration for the SADC Secretariat addressed attendees, comprising all fifteen SADC member states. “We need to focus on the priorities that make a difference to the bigger picture relating to the deepening of our regional integration,” he stressed. “One of the main priority areas discussed at the meeting was the telecommunications and ICT sector. As ICT expert Mike Jensen remarked at the meeting, a strong and viable ICT sector will lead to a well-informed, rapid decision making and knowledgeable public.

“This in turn will lead to job creation, which relates back directly to SADC’s mission to reduce poverty in the region” he added. “Our aim is to create a digital SADC by 2027. The first step to creating this digital SADC is to promote c policy and regulatory harmonisation across borders. “Once we have that, we hope to create knowledge and more local content, better e-Services, research and innovation, the development of industry and manufacturing as well as the completion of complementary infrastructure to support this sector.”

ICT infrastructure is a key tool for socio-economic development on the continent. However, whilst it is possible to reach required capacities in this sector, progress is impeded by the current lack of complementary infrastructure, especially in the energy sector. According to research, the backbone infrastructure for the ICT sector is plentiful and there is more than enough bandwidth serving the subcontinent to achieve the 2027 vision.

“For this to happen It is imperative that we connect the remaining three mainland Member States; Angola, Malawi and Tanzania to the Southern African Power Pool,” commented Caholo. “The recent Africa Infrastructure Diagnostic Study (AICD) has focused capital outlay of approximately USD 93 billion per annum to enhance infrastructure and services in the SADC Region.”

The region is facing basic infrastructure capacity constraints, which have not only retarded regional economic growth, but have failed to address supply side constraints and productive competitiveness, and the core issue of poverty. There is broad consensus that unless, and until, the region has fully addressed the issue of access to enabling infrastructure, no meaningful development will be realised no matter how much is invested into other areas of development.

The ‘SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan’ is specifically designed to address these issues and form a collaborative plan to facilitate growth and cross-border cooperation in order to achieve the goals of the region.

Caholo concluded the meeting by stating: “I have no doubt that under this roof we have the pedigree to interrogate the draft master plan, review it with value adding contributions that will transform this plan into a model for many other regions. However, we should not forget that having the plan is just part of the process, as the real work begins as we seek to implement it. I have no doubt that we shall execute it from a collective platform and look forward to the positive outcomes of this process.”

The reviewed master plan will be completed in June 2012 for approval by the SADC Cluster Ministers of Infrastructure and adoption by Council and Summit in August, 2012, in Maputo.

About SADC

The Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s vision is that of a common future within a regional community that will ensure economic well-being, improvement of the standards of living and quality of life, freedom and social justice and peace and security for the people of southern Africa. This shared vision is anchored on the common values and principles and the historical and cultural affinities that exist between the people of southern Africa.

The SADC mission is to promote sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development through efficient productive systems, deeper co-operation and integration, good governance, and durable peace and security, so that the region emerges as a competitive and effective player in international relations and the world economy.

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