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Opinion - Why SADC is not development-oriented

2021-09-27  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Why SADC is not development-oriented
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We need to question ourselves on the incompetency of our continental governing bodies and institutions. Bodies such as the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are supposed to ensure that member countries adhere to multilateral continental and/or regional agreements, the promotion of development and the preservation of peace and security. However, these bodies sit and watch leaders on the continent dishonour governing and administrative agreements. In the same vein, it is of significance to highlight how bodies such as SADC and many others have been looting both African countries and its people of humanitarian and developmental benefits which these bodies were supposed to offer.

The regional economic community (SADC) is made up of 16 member states, and was founded in 1992. The incompetency of SADC towards addressing problems and achieving its goals is directly linked with the involvement of Presidents and politicians of member countries in its affairs. Why do I say so? Generally, Presidents are very powerful people, and chances of an executive administrator holding a head of state accountable for bad governance within the institution or the country he or she presides over are unlikely when that same individual (President) is part of the leadership structure of SADC. What can be done? The institution has to find a way to amend its policies in order to make room for Presidents to offer their leadership skills in an advisory role. Instead of having Presidents of member states collectively making decisions, they will only be advising the institution on matters that affect a particular country and/or the entire SADC region. Thus, this stands a chance to offer the executive administrators of SADC complete administrative powers to ensure ultimate competency of the institution.

What is worrisome is that if you take a look at all trade agreements in which SADC is the key negotiator between the member states and the rest of the world, you will notice that they are mostly involved in the selling of natural resources of member countries, of which the return is money. There is no strategic policy that states that the returns on the selling of resources should be redirected to specific development. What is the plan of SADC towards the sustainability of natural resources within the region? There is no legitimate plan because the institution is not focused on the protection of natural resources.

What does SADC have to do to drive the development agenda? The free trade agreement between member countries has to be adopted. All member states have suffered economic losses that negatively affected economic growth and national development due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Free trade within the SADC region will help boost both the private and public sectors within the region. The present customs levies imposed on various trades within the region is against the need to deal with the current economic challenges. When it comes to the goal that has to do with industrialisation and infrastructure development within the region, SADC failed to implement the Regional Development Fund (RDF), which was initiated about 10 years ago. The RDF was also a way to ensure that the institution is self-financing, while using those funds to cater for economic development and sustainable growth. 

On the political front, besides the observing of political elections within member states, the institution does not invest in the intervention of civil conflicts post-elections. The institution has to find a way to deal with the rigging of elections and the failure to comply with election results. After all, what is heavily affected is peace and national development because civil political conflicts lead to the loss of life of innocent civilians and the hooliganism of infrastructure destruction. As it stands, it looks like SADC is sort of supporting oppressive administrators within the region because of its failure to find a problem-solving way to deal with bad political administrations and acts of corruption among its member states.

Public administration as a field is very broad, but it is very specific on what it entails. Significantly, because of public administration, we ought to have a functional public sector, and the adoption of bodies such as SADC in order to be competent and to deliver on various objectives depend on the employment of qualities of public administration. Why is it important to talk about public administration as a field? The New Public Administration, which is incorporated with the adoption of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), stands a chance to benefit institutions such as SADC. The creation of a PPP under the umbrella of SADC can easily narrow the institution’s effort towards the achievement of its developmental goals. Think about it, does it not sound like a good deed?

Even though SADC is established as a result of a collective decision taken in the political sector, its day-to-day operations do not have to be influenced by the same sector. The fact is that all 16 member states have different political interests, irrespective of their economic systems. SADC has to disregard all sorts of influence from member states because they can hinder its operations towards the developmental agenda. If the institution does not do so, the existence of SADC is consequently meaningless and needs to be questioned.

The biggest problem on the African continent is that its institutions and its leaders tend to consult and write a lot but fail to read, comprehend and implement. SADC has many policies that are well-drafted, but there is no urgency in implementing them. That is why we have policies that have been approved over a decade ago but are still awaiting implementation. One could even start concluding that maybe those policies are waiting for the next generation to come implement them, who knows.

Theoretically, has SADC been of significance to the region in terms of development? SADC as an institution is a smooth talker that lacks urgency in acting. When there is a lack in acting, it calls for an introspection. Conclusively, SADC is in desperate need of decisive institutional reform, and that is the only way the institution can best benefit the region. 

2021-09-27  Staff Reporter

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