THE year 2016 will be eventful for Southern Africa as the region intensifies the implementation of key milestones on industrialisation, trade and infrastructure development, as well as the migration to digital broadcasting. On the economic front, the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) Member States are expected to start the process of ratifying the agreement on the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) signed in June 2015 to create an enlarged market extending from Cape to Cairo.
So far, 16 countries have signed the Tripartite FTA that covers 27 countries in three regional communities — the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), East African Community (EAC), and SADC.
Half of these 16 countries are from Sadc. These are Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Namibia, Seychelles, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
The remaining Sadc countries of Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zambia are expected to sign the agreement by June 2016.
Following the signing, governments will initiate a ratification process through their national procedures. The agreement will enter into force after approval is attained by two-thirds of members of the Comesa-EAC-Sadc tripartite, advancing the regional law from a stated intention to actual application.
Creation of an enlarged market with a combined population of some 600 million people and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of about US$1 trillion is expected to boost intra-regional trade in Africa and deepen integration through improved infrastructure development, investment flows and enhanced competition.
In addition to the TFTA, the year will witness intensified negotiations for the establishment of the proposed Continental FTA (CFTA) aimed at promoting the smooth movement of goods, services and people across the continent.
Negotiations for the CFTA began in June 2015 and the enlarged continental market is expected to evolve from the existing FTAs in sub-regional economic blocs, eventually creating a continental bloc with more than one billion people and a combined GDP of more than US$3.4 trillion.
The ratification and implementation of the TFTA is therefore critical for the success of the CFTA, targeted for 2017.
Both FTAs depend heavily on the industrialisation agenda. Thus, the year 2016 will see Sadc implement two historic regional programmes approved last year — the Sadc Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063 and the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2015-2020.
A detailed costing plan for the strategy and the alignment of all other regional activities to the two new strategic documents is expected to be finalised this year.
The industrialisation strategy and roadmap aim to ensure that member states harness the full potential of their vast and diverse natural resources, as most Sadc Member States are getting very little in return for their resources since these are usually exported in raw form, with most of the value addition and beneficiation taking place outside the region, thus benefiting other countries.
The RISDP is a blueprint for regional integration and development, and the revised document realigns the region’s development agenda with new realities and emerging global dynamics, and takes into account the issues of industrialisation.
With regard to international trade, Sadc will be looking at ways to benefit from the new US$60 billion fund pledged by China to support development on the African continent.
China made the commitment at the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in December 2015. The support covers a wide range of sectors including agriculture, energy and information technology.
China is rapidly expanding its portfolio from bilateral support to individual countries to regional economic communities including Sadc.
The year is also expected to see a group of Sadc Member States begin the implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU) signed in July 2014.
The agreement is undergoing legal vetting, leading to eventual signature, ratification and implementation in 2016.
The group of Sadc countries that signed the agreement comprises Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland. In future, Angola may join this Sadc group.
The other mainland Sadc countries are negotiating an EPA with the EU under the Eastern and Southern Africa banner, while the island nations are negotiating under the Pacific group.
EPAs are trade and development agreements that the EU is negotiating to open up its markets with the Caribbean region; Central Africa; Eastern and Southern Africa; Pacific, Southern Africa (the Sadc group) and West Africa. On energy development, the recently approved Sadc Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE) is set to start operations, which are expected to change the “landscape of energy development in Sadc,” by allowing the region to fully harness its vast renewable energy potential.
To be hosted by Namibia, SACREEE should, among other things, spearhead the promotion of renewable energy development in the region. Sadc has an abundance of renewables ranging from wind, solar and hydro, yet only a small fraction is being exploited.
The commissioning of new power will be accelerated to allow the region to fully recover from the energy crisis. This year alone, Sadc plans to add a total of 3,680 megawatts (MW) of new electricity to the regional grid. By 2019, the region aims to have commissioned a massive 23,580 MW.
On infrastructure development, the region will continue the implementation of projects contained in the Sadc Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan.
The 15-year Master Plan is intended to guide the implementation of cross-border infrastructure projects between 2013 and 2027 over three five-year intervals, with the first phase covering the period 2012-2017 and costing around US$64 billion in investment.
Agriculture and food security remains a top priority for Sadc in 2016 following low rainfall and drought conditions. Countries in the region have already started importing food.
With regard to the management of the environment and natural resources, Sadc will host the 17th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in October in Johannesburg, South Africa.
One of the topical issues Sadc countries want addressed is the need to lift an international ban on trade in ivory. The international community imposed a ban on ivory trading a few years ago to protect elephants and rhinoceros, which were facing extinction.
However, the ban has seriously eroded the revenue for animal conservation, and some countries have accumulated a lot of elephant tusks which they cannot dispose of, while the ban has led to an increase in poaching as communities are no longer benefiting from proceeds from the ivory trade.
Gender will occupy its rightful place this year as the region and the African continent take stock of progress towards gender equality and equity.
The African Union (AU) has set the theme for 2016 as the “African Year of Human Rights with a particular focus on the Rights of Women”.
Sadc has generally done well in promoting gender development with an increasing number of women occupying decision-making positions.
Last year, Sadc ministers responsible for Gender and Women Affairs agreed to review targets of the Sadc Protocol on Gender and Development in the context of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals approved in 2015.
In respect to information technology, Sadc has pledged to complete the migration from analogue to digital broadcasting in 2016. This is after some countries failed to meet the global deadline set by the International Telecommunications Union on June 17, 2015.
Two Sadc Member States were the first African countries to migrate to Digital Terrestrial Television. Mauritius was the first African nation to fully digitise television broadcasting for all regions and islands in 2007, followed by Tanzania in 2012.
Others that have switched on from analogue to digital broadcasting are Namibia, Malawi and South Africa.
Digital broadcasting involves the use of digital signals rather than analogue wave forms to transmit television broadcast channels on assigned radio frequency bands.
Due to the use of data compression, digital links generally have more efficient bandwidth usage than analogue, which makes possible more services and channels than previously possible, and improved picture quality.
Another important milestone for the region will be the holding of elections in at least two Sadc countries, the DRC and Zambia.
According to the new Zambian Constitution, the country has fixed August 11 as Election Day. Previously, the president set the date for an election.
Other constitutional amendments include the need for the winning candidate to secure at least 50 percent plus one vote, unlike the former first-past-the-post electoral system. Thus if there is no majority winner then coalitions, mergers and reruns may take place.
Presidential candidates will have to run on a joint ticket with their vice-presidential candidate. In the past, a Vice President was appointed by the president.
Incumbent President Edgar Lungu has been nominated by the ruling Patriotic Front to contest the elections, and will run against other candidates including Hichilema Hakainde of the main opposition United Party for National Development.
Lungu was elected president in 2015 following the death of President Michael Sata in October 2014 to become the sixth president of Zambia since the country got its independence from Britain on 24 October 1964.
DRC is expected to hold presidential and legislative elections later this year but a date is yet to be set. It is not also clear if incumbent President Joseph Kabila will stand for re-election as he is serving his second and last term in office under the current constitution.
Kabila came to power in 2001 following the assassination of his father, Laurent Kabila. Under his leadership, DRC has emerged from the dark years of war, and he has led a transitional government that in 2006 brought about the country’s first democratic elections in more than 40 years, which he won.
The year will also see Swaziland host the 36th Sadc Heads of State and Government Summit in August. At the summit, King Mswati III will assume the Sadc chair from President Seretse Khama Ian Khama of Botswana. — sardc.net