As long as the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) continues to rely on donors for its operations and financing for its ambitious programmes then it compromises its ownership and control, outgoing Council of Ministers Chairperson Simbarashe Mumbengegwi has warned.
“SADC has come a long way and we are extremely proud of its achievements during its history. But we remain deeply conscious of the fact that for as long as we are unable to fund our own organisation, the future of our programmes and activities will remain uncertain and SADC willnot be wholly our,” he said.
For instance, SADC is facing uncertainty in terms of funding and commitment to roll out the first phase of the ambitious Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP) estimated at US$500 billion. The phase has a projected cost of US$64 billion.
But trying to water down the funding issue SADC executive director Dr. Stegomena Lawrence Tax thanked member states for the timely disbursement of their annual membership dues saying this enabled SADC to implement its programmes.
“I would also like to thank our international cooperating partners for their continued support,” Dr Tax said.
Mumbengegwi, who is also Zimbabwe’s Minister of Foreign Affairs said for the past 35 years, SADC is confronted every year with the twin realities of an ever expanding list of responsibilities against a background of dwindling resources.
He made the clarion call on Friday at the Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC), Gaborone, Botswana during the official opening of the meeting of the SADC Council of Ministers.
At the meeting, Malawi is represented by Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Dr George Chaponda, Minister of Agriculture, irrigation and Water Development Dr Allan Chiyembekeza, Minister of Industry and Trade Joseph Mwanamvekha and Minister of Transport and Public works Francis Kasaila.
Mumbengegwi said SADC’s continued reliance on benevolence and donor support is testament of its profound weaknesses.
“Recent events have shown that cooperating partners are beset with their own challenges, their ability to fund programmes elsewhere is decreasing. We therefore cannot continue to postpone indefinitely the debate on alternative sources of funding for the organisation, neither can we afford to continue procrastinating…”he challenged.
Mumbengegwi singled out the stalled attempt by SADC at self-financing through the creation of a mechanism trumpeted as the SADC Regional Development Fund.
Western governments and multilateral lenders cold-shouldered mechanism forcing SADC to revisit its 1992 founding treaty for inspiration hence the creation of a regional fund.
The Fund to be modelled on the European Investment Bank and other regional funding ventures, will require SADC countries to initially pump US$1.2 billion while the private sector is expected to shore up 37 and 12 percent is expected to come from international partners.
SADC incoming Chairperson Council of Ministers Kenneth Matambo dubbed the 35th Summit ‘a critical time for region’.
“There is an urgent need for SADC economies to broaden their industrial and economic bases, in order to create employment and intensify the fight against poverty,” said Matambo, who is also Botswana’s Minister of Finance and development planning.
He then invoked the spirit of the Front-line States to invigorate the region into action by making SADC emerge as the most purposeful, powerful and successful Africa regional economic community.
“Let us move with speed to effectively implement all the policy issues that are critical for the region’s growth and development,”Matambo said.
- Collins Mtika is reporting for Nyasa Times at the SADC summit in Gaberone, Botswana.