Parliamentary Question: Presidency: Progress made with the integration efforts in the Southern African Development Community

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QUESTION FOR WRITTEN REPLY
2883. Mr S J Njikelana (ANC) to ask the President of the Republic:

What progress has been made with the integration efforts in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) with particular reference to the (a) establishment of the SADC parliament and (b) regional economic integration programme?

1(a) In 2004, the Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government approved the establishment of a regional parliament. To date, progress in setting up the regional legislature has been slow as efforts have been focused on the establishment of the Pan African Parliament and its constituent structures.

The envisaged SADC Parliament would be hosted by Namibia, the current headquarters of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, which seeks inter alia, to provide a platform for strengthening and facilitating effective implementation of SADC policies and programmes, support the domestication and implementation of SADC protocols, foster inter-parliamentary cooperation, and promote the enactment of regional legislation.

Despite efforts by the SADC Parliamentary Forum for SADC Heads of State and Government to consider and approve the establishment of a SADC Regional Parliament at the 30th Summit held in Windhoek, Namibia in August 2010, the issue was not included on the Agenda.

The SADC Parliamentary Forum, established in 1997 in accordance with Article 9 (2) of the SADC Treaty is as an autonomous institution of SADC composed of thirteen (13) parliaments representing over 3500 parliamentarians in the SADC region. The Forum seeks to bring regional experiences to bear at the national level as well as to promote best practices by parliaments in support of regional cooperation and integration processes as outlined in the SADC Treaty.

Its main aim is to provide a platform for parliaments and parliamentarians to promote and improve regional integration in the SADC region, through parliamentary involvement.

Against the background of the global financial crisis and the resultant austerity measures applicable through the rationalisation and harmonisation of SADC structures and processes agreed to by member states, the establishment of a SADC Parliament is not foreseen as short to medium-term priority.

Rather, the immediate priority for SADC and other regional formations at the continental level is to focus resources and support towards strengthening the structures, programmes and activities of the Pan African Parliament in support of the objectives of peace, security, stability; economic growth and development; poverty alleviation; job creation and others, as we strive for the attainment of better lives, in a better Africa for all the peoples of the African continent.
1(b) In line with the objectives of the Abuja Treaty, towards greater political and economic integration at the continental level, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) established the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP), which provides a strategic framework for the achievement of this goal within the SADC region.

The Roadmap approved by Summit to steer the process of deepening and indeed, accelerating regional integration, identified the establishment of specific milestones in support of this key objective, entailing the achievement of a Free Trade Area by 2008; a Customs Union by 2010; and a Monetary Union by 2016. In this regard, the launch of the SADC Free Trade Area (FTA) in 2008 signalled an important milestone in providing an enabling platform for positively advancing higher levels of regional economic integration and infrastructure development to the benefit of all SADC member states.

The achievement of a Customs Union and a Monetary Union in the indicated time-frames originally agreed to have, however, shown these to be unrealistic in the face of serious systemic challenges such as unequal development among and between member states, and the extensive work that still needs to be done by member states in bringing about a greater harmonisation of policy and regulatory frameworks and standards.

Despite these challenges, SADC has made significant progress in the area of trade integration. While in 2008, 85% of goods traded were duty free, it is anticipated that by 2012, 99% of goods traded will be duty free. Following the official launch of the SADC FTA in August 2008 in South Africa, all member states with the exception of the DRC and the Seychelles had acceded to the Trade Protocol. However, Angola still needs to submit a tariff liberalisation offer, while Malawi is facing difficulties in keeping to the implementation schedule of the FTA.

The 30th SADC Heads of State and Government Summit held in Windhoek, Namibia in August 2010 served to highlight the urgent need to accelerate the pace of SADC regional integration.

In its report to Summit, the Ministerial Task Force on Regional Economic Integration detailed the adoption of a comprehensive work programme with concrete actions and timelines aimed at consolidating the SADC FTA as an immediate priority focus area.

Summit also reaffirmed its commitment to establishing a SADC Customs Union and endorsed the decision of the Ministerial Task Force to appoint a high-level experts group. The main mandate of this group will be to consolidate and reach agreement and a common understanding on the parameters, benchmarks, timelines, a model customs union and its implementation modalities. A report will be submitted to the Ministerial Task Force before December 2011.

Against this background, SADC has committed itself to an ambitious work programme in support of the Summit decision that renewed impetus be given to accelerating the regional economic integration agenda.

During the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) centenary celebrations in Windhoek in April 2010, attended at the level of SACU Heads of State and Government, the decision was taken that Heads of State and Government meetings be institutionalised as a formal structure of SACU. At this important gathering, Heads of State and Government also adopted a new vision for SACU providing for “an economic community with equitable and sustainable development, dedicated to the welfare of its people and a common future”. It was also agreed that the inaugural SACU Heads Summit would be held in Pretoria in July 2010.

At the July 2010 Summit, Heads of State and Government considered SACU’s achievements, as well as reflected on the immediate internal and external challenges facing the organisation. As a consequence of these deliberations, SACU Ministers were directed to undertake further work towards developing strategies that would promote win-win solutions in a range of areas posing particular challenges for SACU. The most urgent challenges identified entailed the need to develop a SACU trade and tariff policy and trade strategy that supports industrialisation in SACU; the development of deliberate initiatives to promote intra-SACU trade; the pursuit of the principle of united engagement amongst SACU member states in trade negotiations with third parties; and an analysis of the current arrangement on the sharing of SACU Revenue.

The decision to establish the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite FTA was endorsed at the inaugural Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the member states of each of the three regional economic community configurations in Kampala, Uganda in 2008.

Apart from providing a platform for enhanced market access, harmonisation of policies in areas of common interest and addressing the specific challenge of multiple membership, the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite FTA posits a potential expanded market of 26 countries with an estimated population of 568 million people, a combined GDP of US$875 billion and a per capita GDP of US$1,540.

These stastics point to the value of such an FTA to member states from a perspective of higher levels of inter-Africa as well as intra-regional trade, also in support of advancing the continental integration agenda as envisaged by the Abuja Treaty.

Industrial and infrastructure development lie at the heart of regional and indeed continental economic integration agenda’s.

These challenges provide an opportunity for member states within the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite FTA to develop a vibrant engagement and practical programme of work, designed to focus attention on such critical areas as building supply chain capacity, manufacturing output, beneficiation and the like, complementary to the imperative of building infrastructure projects in such priority areas as agriculture, ICT, energy, water and sanitation and transport (roads, rail and ports).

As such, the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite FTA process is likely to become an increasingly important centrepiece of South Africa’s regional economic integration agenda. Consequently, it has become an immediate priority for South Africa in support of broadening and deepening regional integration.

The SADC region will host the next Tripartite Council of Ministers and Summit in 2011. Against this background, the SADC Executive Secretary was mandated by Summit in August 2010 to consult with member states on the date and venue of the second COMESA-EAC-SADC Council and Summit meetings.

National consultations are currently underway in the three Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in support of the broader regional consultative processes by the three Regional Economic Communities, in advance of the second Heads of State and Government Summit that will take place in early 2011.

South African national consultations will be held on 16 November 2010 in Johannesburg.

SOUTH AFRICAN POSITION

South Africa is advancing a developmental integration agenda in Southern Africa that combines trade integration, infrastructure development and sector policy coordination, in support of building greater productive capacity across the region. This includes strengthening a “real economy” cooperation agenda, of which industrial development is a critical component.

South Africa is of the view that insufficient emphasis has been placed on the critical element of infrastructure development at the level of Summit, particularly in the context of the priority accorded to the SADC regional economic integration agenda.

The establishment of infrastructure is seen as an enabler for industrial growth and development, without which the SADC region will be restrained from advancing intra-Africa trade.



South Africa recognises the intrinsic importance of regional and continental infrastructure development to the realisation of Africa’s economic growth and development imperatives.