SADC summit sets tone on integration

Although media houses were eager to cover the buzz surrounding the recent Zimbabwean election outcome, there were far more crucial issues of regional economic integration on the table at the recent Southern African Development Community Summit in Malawi, which concluded on August 18th.

In assuming the chairpersonship of the SADC, President Joyce Banda of Malawi highlighted that she shall focus on poverty reduction and sustainable food production, among other issues.

In reviewing the food security situation Summit delegates noted that the region would experience slight increases some products, in particular cereal, non-cereal, livestock, and fishery production.

Member States were also urged to scale up the implementation of measures to increase agricultural production, reduce post-harvest losses, and improve the overall food and nutrition security to coincide with the Dar-es-Salaam Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security.

The Summit also exposed concerns that the economic performance of the region has slightly deteriorated, largely due to the economic and financial slowdown in industrialised countries, especially in the Eurozone.

Zimbabwe was also not spared, as it was forced to revise its economic growth projections for 2013, from 5% to 3.4%.

On the important subject of regional integration, Summit delegates reiterated their commitment to the establishment of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA), which will combine the existing free trade areas, namely SADC, COMESA, and EAC.

The TFTA is hopefully to be established by 2015, combining markets of 26 countries with a population of 600 million people and combined GDP of $1 trillion.

It will also create a single market of $2.6 trillion.

The TFTA aims to achieve duty and quota free treatment on all products, without quantitative restrictions on goods based on their point of origin.

For Zimbabwe, this can be good or bad, depending on the country’s preparedness and level of competitiveness.

Indications state, however, that the country is not ready for this major step and may instead result in massive job losses and company closures, as competition would be too great.

The SADC Summit also noted the finalisation of the Industrial Development Policy Framework for the region.

The Framework was adopted in 2012 and provides for improving standards, technical regulations, and quality infrastructure and promotes innovation, technology transfer, research and development activities, and development mechanisms for appropriate industrial financing.

The Framework also provides for integrating infrastructure and services into the regional industrialisation strategy, supporting SMEs, attracting local and foreign direct investment, as well as co-operation of exports.

The implementation status of the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan was also reviewed as well as the progress made in its marketing of infrastructure projects.

The Master Plan was adopted last year and will guide the implementation of cross border infrastructure projects, from 2013 to 2027.

An earlier SADC Infrastructure Investment Conference held in Mozambique in June, highlighted that the region requires investment and finance of $64 billion for a programme to improve transport, energy, and other infrastructure over the next five years.

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