Saturday, September 03, 2016

SADC Regional Fund Vital for Development
September 2, 2016
Opinion & Analysis
Roselyne Sachiti, Features Editor
Zimbabwe Herald

In her book “Dead Aid”, Zambian-born economist Dambisa Moyo spells out how Africa and other third world countries continue to be underdeveloped because of an over-reliance on aid from the West. Moyo illuminates the way in which this has trapped developing nations in a vicious cycle of aid dependency, corruption, market distortion, and further poverty, leaving them with nothing but the “need” for more aid.She even argues that aid is a form of neo-colonialism.

News that SADC could soon establish a fund to drive its major development programmes and open a technical vocational education university to bolster industrialisation trajectory is most welcome given the challenges that countries in the bloc face.

Countries in the SADC region face severe challenges in the provision of basic needs such as health and education, to their population and most funding to cover these areas comes from international donors.

In most instances, there are strings attached to these donor funds.

With foreign aid accounting for at least 5 percent of national education and health budgets, on average in most African countries, such an initiative if implemented well, would be in the right path for SADC to free itself from the shackles of donor aid.

Newly appointed SADC Chair King Mswati III of Swaziland’s pledge to put all his energies in raising funds to drive the major development programmes that are stalling due to a lack of funding can be interpreted in many ways, one being that Africa is ready to break the shackles of donor aid.

But for this to happen, every SADC member state should show commitment by contributing to the fund that will serve as start-up capital for programmes and projects.

SADC countries have a rich natural resource base and can easily commit a certain percentage of mineral earnings to the fund.

The region also boasts a huge wildlife population which attracts tourists. It has rich soils and vast arable land and farming projects whose proceeds can be channelled towards the development fund.

This can only be attained if commitment starts from the heads of state.

An example is President Mugabe who in February this year donated 300 head of cattle to the African Union Foundation to demonstrate his desire for self-reliance.

This fund is meant to benefit all of the AU.

SADC states face almost similar challenges that are social, developmental, economic, trade, educational and health among others. Some of these cannot be tackled effectively by individual members.

Droughts, poor education and health facilities, unemployment know no boundaries. For example, lack of proper health facilities in one country can suck in its neighbours and damage their economies.

Thus the industrialisation agenda set by President Mugabe during his tenure as SADC Chair (August 2014-August 2015), shows that industrialisation is not a luxury but a necessity.

Industrialisation will result in employment creation in Africa and less brain drain. Industrialisation may also result in less exploitation of third world countries by rich nations which extract raw minerals from the poor countries and add value in their countries thereby creating employment there.

The rich nations also drain skilled workers from third world nations.

Why the need to self fund?

Past experiences have shown that aid comes at a high price for developing countries.

If funded by international organizations, donors exert outside control in policy making as a consequence. In addition to that, outside control often comes in forms which detract from the capacity of governments to manage their own service sectors effectively, make it hard for them to budget realistically, and weaken their accountability to their own citizens for the performance of those sectors.

Conventional donor-driven projects are usually targeted at specific areas, which are not always of priority to the regional bloc.

Outside funding has proved not to be reliable as in the past project specific funding has had its objectives and planning in conflict with SADC’s vision.

As a consequence, there usually is minimal regional bloc ownership.

Such projects usually cease after the end of donor funding since SADC won’t have the capacity or intention to inherit them.

This can be to the detriment of citizens in the case of health projects.

Because of lack of funding, western powers end up dictating the pace and direction of events.

When NEPAD was mooted by African leaders, the G8 immediately came in offering money. When the AU decided to establish a stand-by force, France quickly moved in with an offer to train and equip the force. All these offers were meant to weaken the initial objectives.


One significant challenge that has resulted in SADC nations failing to own up to their commitments is that member states also participate in other regional economic cooperation schemes and political and security blocs that may compete with or undermine each other.

For example, South Africa and Botswana belong to the Southern Africa Customs Union, Zambia is a part of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, and Tanzania is a member of the East African Community.

Another challenge is a lack of political will from member states. Some SADC countries such as the DRC and Madagascar, have signed less than half of the 43 SADC protocols and declarations.

One of the key protocols on the Facilitation of Movement of Persons, which is instrumental to the Free Trade Area and attainment of a common passport, had only been ratified by Mozambique and signed by less than half the SADC membership.

It is clear that without political will all planned projects may just remain talk show.

The time is now for SADC to take the first baby steps to self funding its development projects and move away from too much reliance on donors.

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