Promoting regional integration in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) - current approaches and future prospects

Promoting regional integration in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) - current approaches and future prospects

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Qualmann, Regine
Briefing Paper 6/2000

Bonn: German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)

For the countries of Southern Africa, regional cooperation and integration are preconditions for accelerated economic and social development. On their own, the Southern African economies, most of them small, agriculture based primary commodity exporters with only incipient industrial development, will not be able to attract the necessary financial and technology transfers to support a sustained industrialisation process.In the Southern African Development Community (SADC), some of the necessary conditions for enhanced economic and social development have been met. The SADC Trade Protocol has been in effect since September 2000, providing for the establishment of a free-trade area in the course of the coming decade. In other core areas, including development of cross-border infrastructures, food security, or protection of natural resources, major advances have been achieved through sectoral cooperation. However, the path towards achieving a unified economic space in the region will prove to be still a long one.SADC will have to develop into a regional organization with true supranational institutions endowed with far reaching decision-making competences. Strengthening the organisation hinges on the political will of its member countries - and this will is not always uniform and clear-cut. SADC member countries’ divergent economic and social development, widespread poverty, low productivity and persistent belligerent conflicts in the region represent serious impediments for deeper integration. The role of the region's "locomotive", South Africa, is ambiguous: fearing job losses and pursuing its own priorities, the country has thus far shown only limited inclination to come to terms with the rest of the region.Development cooperation can contribute to deep integration in the region only if member countries have the political resolve to transfer substantial sovereign powers to the regional institutions. Existing reform proposals must be implemented speedily; in that context, the role of the SADC Secretariat as the organisation’s principal policy formulation and coordination institution must be strengthened. German development cooperation should focus on support to SADC Trade Protocol implementation, private sector promotion, infrastructure development in selected areas, and protection of natural resources.Regional integration in Southern Africa will only be successful if other goals are achieved in tandem, including political and economic stabilisation of the region, mobilization of savings and investment, and a gradual integration of the region into the world markets. The establishment of regional funds could contribute to economic harmonisation and social cohesion and help to overcome supply-side bottlenecks in the SADC region. Here, harnessing its own experience, the EU could assume the role of "leading donor". Negotiations between EU and SADC on the future post-Lomé trade agreement could provide a chance for the EU to assume such a new role.

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