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Experts reveal setbacks to Sadc integration

Sadc project management officer Wazha Omphile

ECONOMIC integration is a prerequisite to the Southern African Development Community (Sadc)’s full scale incorporation, an official with the bloc said this week.

In an interview with businesdigest in Lusaka, Zambia this week, Sadc policy, planning and resource mobilisation directorate project management officer Wazha Omphile said officials were concerned about the slow pace of integration.

“Free trade is a prerequisite to regional integration,” Omphile said.

“What it means is that member states will be able to trade with each other by removing barriers, inconsistent tariffs across the board, simplify the movement of goods and people.”

Omphile noted that the African Continental Free Trade Area had created a basis for Sadc to discuss steps towards regional integration.

“We are talking about political integration. We are talking about a monetary union. These steps come after we have done the economic integration,” he said.

Zambia-based civic organisation, the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (Cuts) and Rwanda’s Sustainable Development Goals Centre for Africa (SDGCA) are implementing a 17-month project on Sadc regional integration.

The project paper titled Engagement for Results: Capacitating Regional Civil Society Organisations and their Networks to Effectively Participate in the Sadc regional Integration seeks to capacitate civic organisations and media to support regional integration.

Both Cuts and SDGCA are holding several workshops, conferences and meetings to achieve the project's objective.

“When you look at the process of regional integration there are certain steps that we need to take to allow us to get to the point where we say we are completely integrated,” Omphile said.

“And some of the steps that we need to take include a customs union which has already been established. I think we are proud to have achieved that.

“We need to achieve economic integration, which speaks to the free movement of people, goods and services across the region. That is still a step that we need to work on.

“Some of the things that are being done in that space include identifying regional value chains that we can muster and develop as Sadc to be able, as a region, to be economically integrated and support each other.

“There are several challenges. We still have power challenges, and we have a lot of good initiatives by the Southern African Power Pool to ensure linkages to transport power across the region,” he said.

Cuts International country director Angela Mulenga said the biggest challenge to regional integration was the absence of information.

“The declaration and treaty that established Sadc acknowledges this challenge by stating regional integration will continue to be a pipe dream unless the people of the region determine its content, form and direction, and are themselves its active agent,” she said.

Sadc’s gross domestic product is worth over US$700 billion, with South Africa controlling over half of it.

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