The SADC chairperson, President Felipe Nyusi of Mozambique could not have found a better expression to describe the journey that the region has travelled since its establishment in 1980 when he said “to be where we are today is a miraculous development.”
This is because the regional integration journey of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has been long but worthwhile.
From a series of consultations held in the late 70s by representative of the Frontline States to forge closer alliance, southern Africa was finally able to form a vibrant regional organisation, the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) in 1980, which was later transformed to SADC in 1992.
Closer cooperation among the 16 SADC Member States has seen the region achieve a number of milestones aimed at advancing political freedom into broader socio-economic independence that ensures improved living standards for its people.
In his foreword to the 40 Years of SADC: Enhancing Regional Cooperation and Integration publication that was launched at the SADC Extraordinary Summit late June in Maputo, Mozambique, President Nyusi said without the determination shown by the Founding Fathers, the region would not have been as vibrant as it is today.
This generation of visionary leaders which included the founding presidents of Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, respectively Dr Agostinho Neto, Sir Seretse Khama, Samora Machel, Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda and Robert Mugabe sacrificed the economic freedom of their countries to ensure that the rest of the region achieved political independence.
Their commitment to establish SADC saw them chart a vision for southern Africa — a vision that has guided the development and progress of the region in the past 40 years, and is expected to continue shaping the destiny of current and future generations.
“Driven by the strong desire of the SADC Founding Fathers to see southern Africa achieving political emancipation and economic development, the region has made significant progress in advancing regional cooperation and integration,” President Nyusi said.
However, this achievement and development did not come on a silver platter.
“Throughout the 1980s we were at war with the then apartheid South Africa which used military strength and economic pressure to prevent and destroy the progress of neighbouring countries,” he said.
For example, President Nyusi said the leadership at that time could not easily communicate with each other or freely travel throughout the region to strategise, as well as trade among themselves as key infrastructure such as road and rail were destroyed or damaged.
“The economic cost and the loss of human lives were of an unimaginable magnitude,” President Nyusi said, and rightly added, “To be where we are today is a miraculous development.”
Indeed since its establishment, SADC has realised a number of milestones to promote deeper integration and sustainable development.
Initially made up of nine countries — Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe — SADC has since grown to 16 members which now include the Union of Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa and Seychelles.
The growth in membership is an indication of the confidence shown in the regional organization.
On the economic front, SADC has broken down colonial barriers by opening up its borders to encourage the smooth movement of goods, services and people within the region.
This development has improved intra-regional trade, and facilitated the movement of skilled personnel in the region, as well as deepened people-to-people exchanges.
Unlike in the past, it is now possible for SADC citizens to easily move within the region without first obtaining a visa, as most countries have signed bilateral agreements between themselves to remove any stringent measures.
One major achievement and step towards the free movement of goods and services was realised in November 2009 with the launch of the One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) at Chirundu between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
This has enabled travellers to be cleared just once for passage into another country, in contrast with the more cumbersome situation in which travellers have to be cleared on both sides of the border, thus reducing crossing time, saving most travellers money since they no longer spend long periods waiting to cross the border.
Another major economic milestone, the launch of the SADC Free Trade Area (FTA) in 2008, has allowed SADC citizens to get better products at lower prices due to increased production in the region.
By attaining FTA status, producers and consumers in the region benefit from a tariff-free trade for all goods originating within the region.
Furthermore, the FTA has increased intra-SADC trade.
For example, at its inception in 1980, intra-SADC trade was a mere five percent. However, the coming in of the FTA has seen an increase from 16.3 percent in 2008 to 21.6 percent in 2016 and 19.3 percent in 2018, according to the 40 Years of SADC: Enhancing Regional Cooperation and Integration publication.
With regard to energy development, more SADC citizens now have access to sustainable modern energy services.
This has been made possible through a number of initiatives including the establishment of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) – a regional body that coordinates the planning, generation, transmission and marketing of electricity on behalf of SADC Member State utilities.
According to the 40 Years of SADC: Enhancing Regional Cooperation and Integration publication, the region has between 2008 and 2018 alone, commissioned a total of 24,554 Megawatts of new energy.
On the political scene, SADC has succeeded in consolidating peace and security.
Except for one or two trouble spots such the political situation in eastern DRC and northern Mozambique, SADC is considered as one of the most stable regions in Africa.
In fact, involvement of SADC to restore peace and stability in some of its Member States has given credence to the ability and effectiveness of the region to solve its own challenges without unnecessary outside interference.
“Armed with our intimate knowledge of historical developments across the region, SADC has provided leadership whenever political challenges have arisen in Member States,” President Nyusi said.
“Such timely interventions have helped to quell tension in situations that otherwise could be worsened.”
The 40 Years of SADC: Enhancing Regional Cooperation and Integration publication, which presents some of the achievements and milestones achieved by SADC since its formation in 1980 and its transformation from the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) to SADC in 1992, was published by the SADC Secretariat in partnership with the Southern African Research and
Documentation Centre (SARDC).
The objective of the publication is to show how far SADC has progressed as a region, with a focus on how regional integration has benefitted citizens, thus promoting greater awareness and participation by the people of the region and their institutions in the process of regional integration. sardc.net