SADC leaders to adopt growth plan

Thursday, August 16, 2012
Chris Bathembu

Maputo - The SADC Summit in Maputo, Mozambique, is expected to approve the regional infrastructure development master plan which aims to deal with the region's underperformance in road, rail, ports, energy, communication and water infrastructure. The deficit is estimated to be about $100 billion.

South Africa's Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa confirmed to SAnews in Maputo on Thursday that the matter had dominated the council of ministers meeting which began earlier in the day.

This follows the finalisation of the master plan by ministers responsible for regional infrastructure who met in Luanda, Angola in June.

"We had very good discussions on the infrastructure matter and there are strong views that it is something that needs to be done. The regional plans for water and energy had been agreed to because we are of the view that this infrastructure is very central to our development," said Molewa.

President Jacob Zuma will arrive in Mozambique later today to join other Heads of State from the region ahead of the SADC Summit on Friday.

Molewa said South Africa would be entering into new agreements with Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia as part of ensuring that these countries shared their water resources as part of a wider infrastructure integration.

South Africa has an existing water treaty with Lesotho that comprises a system of several large dams and tunnels throughout the two countries.

The purpose of the project is to provide Lesotho with a source of income in exchange for the provision of water to central Gauteng, to support the industrial and mining activity there as well as to generate hydroelectric power for Lesotho. It is Africa's largest water transfer scheme.

"We want to expand this to other regions [it] really speaks to the infrastructure integration which is really what SADC is about. As we speak right now, we have a project that is going on that analyses how much water comes into South Africa from Lesotho and how much can be allowed to pass through Namibia and to Botswana using the same tunnel," Molewa said.

The ambitious regional infrastructure plan has been widely welcomed, with some saying it could ease trade among the SADC countries significantly. Strict customs regulations, coupled with inefficient bureaucracy and infrastructure were said to be major constraints for customs union states.

Unnecessary red tap has been identified as number one bottleneck in achieving an Africa that trades freely with itself.

"The issue of integration of infrastructure is a very important issue if we are to take this region and indeed the continent forward. We are hoping that the Heads of State in their meeting will be able to endorse the plan," said Molewa.

If endorsed by the leaders, the master plan, which Pretoria supports, would guide development in key infrastructure critical to the development of the SADC member states.

The SADC plan is closely linked to the African Union's decision in Addis Ababa in July to reaffirm the commitment to the acceleration and deepening of Africa's integration by approving a continental action plan and setting timelines.

SADC leaders' objectives are to promote sustainable economic growth and development through regional integration while ensuring enough support for the economically and socially disadvantaged members.

The master plan will be implemented over three five-year intervals, namely, 2012-2017, 2017-2022 and 2022-2027.

A draft treaty which emerged out of the ministers meeting on Tuesday also sets out a strategy to achieve complementarity between national and regional strategies and programmes. These, among others, include promoting and maximising the use of natural resources and the abundant raw material and minerals found in the region and creating appropriate institutions for the development of policies that would ensure free movement of capital and labour, goods and services among SADC member states.

Leaders also want to hammer out an idea to help each other increase exports to European and Asian markets. The plan is geared towards ensuring that they do not only exports raw material and minerals but establish factories and create beneficiation possibilities.

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