WINDHOEK – As Namibia enters the evening of her Sadc chairpersonship, the country can look with a great measure of pride at the trail of progress the region has made during its time at the helm of the regional bloc.
In consolidating peace, stability and democratic governance, the region witnessed largely peaceful general elections in the Kingdom of eSwatini, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Madagascar, the Comoros, Malawi and South
While not all these elections were without challenges of their own, they were a stamp of approval on the notion that Southern Africa remains comparatively the smoothest region in Africa.
On two occasions during Namibia’s reign, Burundi sent envoys to chairperson Dr Hage Geingob to ask that they be allowed to become Sadc members, but the country was referred back on both occasions to first get its house in order – as it did not meet standards set for the bloc’s member states.
The DRC election in particular, which saw opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi becoming president, was a milestone in that it led to the first peaceful transfer of power in 60 years. It put to shame Afropessimists who bet serious money on blood being shed as a result of this election.
In keeping up with consolidation of peace and security, Mozambique this month saw a landmark peace pledge being inked between government and opposition party, Rename, to conduct peaceful elections in October 2019.
Also, there has been steady progress on the construction of the Sadc Standby Force Regional Logistics Depot in Rasesa village, on the outskirts of Gaborone. When completed, the depot would become a key catalyst in consolidating peace in the region.
On the economic front, it was also during Namibia’s tenure that the Gaborone-based Sadc Secretariat, in conjunction with the European Union, launched the Support to Improving the Investment and Business Environment programme in the region earlier this month.
Perhaps more exciting was the commitment by member states towards regional integration, highlighted by trade in the region increasing from 16 percent to 22 percent. President Geingob recently said Sadc had made significant strides in the development of roads and ports that further facilitate trade and promote economic growth in the region.
The launch, three weeks ago, of the N$50-million Zimbabwean dry port at Walvis Bay speaks to such aspirations.
The Sadc Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap (2015-2063), and its action Plan (2015-2030), which aims to facilitate technological and economical transformation of Sadc economies, was adopted and its implementation remained on course during Namibia’s time on the throne.
In terms of integration, a framework for centralisation of the bond markets in Sadc to remove existing barriers to capital market growth in the region and allow listing and trading of government stocks/bonds on stock exchanges was also adopted.
Sadc also came up with the Model Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement that assists member states in the negotiation of tax avoidance agreements – a bold move to boost investment and business in the region.
Also progressing well is the Sadc cross-border Real Time Gross Settlement System that has improved efficiency and reduced transaction costs.
The system, according to President Geingob, has performed impressively with 81 banks participating, and over 1.2 million transactions settled by end of 2018, representing N$5.21 trillion worth of Sadc’s intra-regional trade.
The establishment of the Sadc Climate Service Centre, which collects, analyses, and disseminates information on weather and climate patterns to member states, which facilitates preparedness and early response to climate-related disasters is also a great inroad towards regional integration.
The regional bloc also showed great empathy towards member states enduring inevitable difficulties during the year under review by, among others, launching a US$2.4 billion appeal to assist millions hit by El Niño-induced drought.
Namibia is among those hard hit by drought, and the situation is fast turning into a humanitarian crisis.
Another dark spot bedevilling Namibia’s tenure were the several inevitable serious climatic challenges, namely, Tropical Cyclone Desmond, Enawo, Idai and Kenneth that caused extensive flooding in the Comoros Mozambique, Tanzania and Madagascar, Malawi and Zimbabwe, causing many deaths, injuries and destruction of infrastructure and cropland.