SADC Summit paves the way forward for regional development in infrastructure

The major highlight of the Summit was the adoption of the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan Vision 2027, a 15-year blueprint that will guide the implementation of cross-border infrastructure projects between 2013 and 2027.

“The plan will serve as a key strategic framework to guide the implementation of efficient, seamless and cost-effective trans-boundary infrastructure networks in an integrated and coordinated manner in all the six sectors, namely energy, transport, tourism, ICT and postal, meteorology and water,” SADC said in a communiqué issued after the Summit.

The master plan will be implemented over three five-year intervals – short term (2012-2017), medium term (2017-2022) and long term (2022-2027).

In the energy sector, for example, the plan addresses four key areas of energy security, improving access to modern energy services, tapping the abundant energy resources and up-scaling financial investment whilst enhancing environmental sustainability.

Regarding the sub-sectors of road, rail, ports, inland waterways and air transport networks, the Transport Sector Plan addresses four critical areas, namely improving access to the seamless transport corridors value chain; reducing the cost of transportation; enhancing competitiveness and providing safe and secure transport services.

Other key areas to be targeted include the water, tourism, meteorology and information communication technology sectors to ensure socio-economic development in the region.

The master plan is in line with the African Union’s Programme for Infrastructure Development of Africa (PIDA) and will constitute a key input into the proposed Infrastructure Master Plan for the COMESA-the East African Community-SADC tripartite. READ MORE…

However, SACSIS reports that the summit for the Community resulted in not much more than a limited, ill-informed agenda. Government representatives seemed ignorant of causal realities that played out in the socio-economic issues they addressed. Furthermore, the economic solutions that the actors identified was said to rely heavily on capitalist fundamentalist ideals, serving only to expand corporate interests.

Michelle Pressend reports: President Zuma was hob knobbing at the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Heads of State Summit in Maputo while our country went up in flames a fortnight ago. Sadly, the 32nd Session of the SADC Summit turned out to be just another uninventive event where governments discussed more of the same – economic growth driven by the extraction of natural resources and infrastructure development to facilitate the expansion of corporate interests.

Top of the agenda was the SADC regional infrastructural plan called the “Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan Vision 2027” and the SADC Regional Development Fund, as the finance mechanism to provide seed funding for implementing the infrastructure plan.

An SADC Communiqué states that the plan will “serve as a key Strategic Framework to guide the implementation of an efficient, seamless and cost-effective trans-boundary infrastructure network in an integrated and coordinated manner in all the six sectors namely, energy, transport, tourism, ICT and postal, meteorology and water.”

To finance this, ministers of finance are responsible for raising capital for the SADC Regional Development Fund from member states, the privates sector and development partners. Seed capital of US1.2 billion is to be raised as soon as possible.

Some of the of the projects in the pipeline include: 1) the Kazungula Bridge linking Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, 2) power transmission (ZiZaBoNa) Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, 3) the Benguela railway line through Angola and Zambia – as well as more big dam projects.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, in her newly elected position as Chairperson of the African Union Commission, said in her address to the SADC Summit, “Only through the building of sustainable infrastructure in the form of integrated rail, air, roads, telecommunications and electricity between and among the regions can we succeed in ensuring inter and intra-African trade between all our peoples.”

The SADC Summit also approved and signed a protocol on ‘Trade in Services’. This agreement will be to the advantage of the South African financial services sector as well as international banks that own a large share of South African Banks. For example, Barclays UK has a majority stake in ABSA. In addition, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited has acquired a 20% stake in Standard Bank. Banks from the region look set to be disadvantaged.

Many would hail these priorities as positive developments and say that they will create jobs, attract foreign direct investment, and improve intra-regional trade and export-led growth as well as address underdevelopment in the region.

However, government representatives came across as extremely uninformed at the summit. This unfortunately had a bearing on the kinds of projects they identified. For example, leaders blamed food insecurity and the overall cereal deficit on poor rains, low growth in the region and the Eurozone crisis. No mention was made of speculation in the food market, land grabbing and the diversion of food crops into bio-fuels production.

There was little by way of identifiable projects to address the deep socio-economic deficit that affects the ordinary citizens of the region directly. Ours is a region that suffers from food insecurity. Eighty percent of the region’s people are dependent on biomass (wood, spent coal and cow dung), land grabs have escalated, unemployment levels are high, unskilled workers earn poverty wages, rural woman and those living in urban slums have to walk kilometres to fetch water, and education levels are low.

Against this backdrop, the SADC has prioritised economic growth based on market fundamentalism. Our leaders are obsessed with global integration on the basis of neo-liberal capitalism. In this they have become agents of privatization, labour exploitation, trade liberalization and financial deregulation. READ MORE…

image credit: MIKKEL GRABOWSKI


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