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close this bookThe Courier N 121 March-april 1990- Dossier Refugees - Country Reports: Botswana - Zambia (EC Courier, 1990, 104 p.)
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View the documentSADCC at a turning point
View the documentSADCC - its organisation and its work

SADCC at a turning point

SADCC the Southern Africa Development Coordination Conference- is to celebrate its tenth anniversary this year, when it will acquire its tenth Member State (Namibia), and the celebrations coincide with what is surely a turning point in the history of the region. Founded in 1980- in the very hall, the Mulungushi Hall in Lusaka, where in February this year’s Consultative Conference took place- the first decade of the organisation’s existence was dominated by the struggle by its Member States to achieve economic liberation. Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s President, recalled in his opening address to the 1990 conference all the objectives that the organization had then set itself. In addition to the lessening of economic dependence (particularly, of course, on South Africa), the nine Member States set out to forge links to create regional integration, to mobilise funds for inter-state and regional policies, and to act together to secure assistance from cooperating partners in carrying out the strategy to be developed for economic liberation. That strategy, in the early 1980s, had centred on the rehabilitation and creation of infrastructure with an emphasis on transport, communications, civil aviation and energy. Over the last three years, priority has been given also to issues relating to the promotion of trade, investment and production in the region. The strategy for the second decade - and the chosen theme of the 1990 Conference- will give priority to creating an enabling environment for the development of enterprise, skills and productivity.

“A nightmare decade for Southern Africa” was how Peter Mmusi, Botswana’s Vice-President and Chairman of the SADCC Council of Ministers, described SADCC’s first ten years, when developments in Southern Africa were dominated by issues of political liberation and race. Nevertheless, Mr Mmusi said, the initial scepticism with which the establishment of SADCC had been met had proved unjustified and the predictions of its early collapse had not been fulfilled. SADCC had spent ten years foundation-building, and had emerged from the decade “ dented but undaunted “.

Though the purpose of the Conference was rather to look at the challenges and responses in the SADCC region in the 1990s and beyond, there was, inevitably, a measure of retrospection. Politically, the 1980s had opened with a major independence- that of Zimbabwe- and so, too, would the 1990s, with the successful implementation of the UN Security Council’s Resolution 435 on Namibia. That left South Africa as the only country in the region not yet enjoying majority rule, and even there was movement: in dramatic fashion, on the second day of the Lusaka gathering, came news from Pretoria of the partial lifting of the state of emergency, including the unbanning of liberation movements such as the African National Congress (ANC). On the negative side was the fact that for two Member States- Angola and Mozambique the 1980s had been dominated by conflicts which had not only created immense human suffering but which had, also, of course, vastly undermined efforts at development. Destabilisation, in one form or another, was claimed to have cost 1.5 million lives in the region as a whole, and to have destroyed property and infrastructure worth an estimated US$ 60 billion. But SADCC, it was acknowledged, had greatly contributed to creating and consolidating a sense of community and common interest in the region, and the political will amongst Member States to pursue in this direction was evident.

A fragile success emerging

Economically, achievements had been mixed. The region as a whole, with a population of 75 million, has a GDP of about $ 25 bn- the equivalent of half that of Portugal. Only two Member States had recorded positive per capita income growth during the 1980s, though the picture since 1988 had been more encouraging. Then, for the first time in the decade, income had risen in the region as a whole, and the signs were that this trend would continue in 1989, with an average regional GDP growth of some 4.5 %. “ SADCC has made a good beginning”, Edward Jaycox, the World Bank Africa Region’s Vice-President affirmed, adding however a note of caution: “ We must not exaggerate these positive signs. More needs to be done, and the emerging success is fragile”.

That success had been achieved in what President Kaunda described as a “hostile international economic environment... characterised by a deterioration in the terms of trade... declining foreign exchange inflows... and a worsening debt situation”. Investment had declined since the early 1980s, with the 1987 rate merely half what it had been in 1970. Unemployment also, was becoming an ever more serious problem in the region, President Kaundasaid, particularly amongst its youth. There was a need to create jobs for more than I 000 school-leavers every day- an impossible task.

Grant aid to the region, however, had doubled over the decade, reaching close to $ 3.4 billion in 1988 (see Fig. 1)- a testimony to the growing confidence on the part of the donor community that funds allocated to the SADCC region were being put to constructive use. This, then, was the political and economic backcloth against which the 1990 Consultative Conference took place, with the SADCC Member States acutely aware that the challenges facing the region in the 1990s would be radically different from those of the 1980s. In terms of the global economy, new configurations were emerging- the European Single Market of 1992, the US-Canada Free Trade Agreement and the Pacific Rim trading bloc. Then there was the whole question of the break-up of communist rule in Eastern Europe, opening up as it would yet further North-North trading opportunities, Many donors felt constrained to reassure the SADCC countries that their assistance to Eastern Europe would not prejudice aid flows to the developing workd. The West German representative made no secret of the heavy pressure on his Government, indeed its moral obligation, to assist East Germany, in particular, but repeated Chancellor Kohl’s confirmation that that assistance would be “ in addition to “ and not “in place of” aid to the Third World. The events gave cause for great optimism in the SADCC region. After all, said the United States representative, “ If the Berlin Wall can come down, who is to say that the walls of apartheid cannot also be brought down?”

A major challenge - the prospect of a democratic South Africa

This, of course, is the factor which, above all, will determine the future of the SADCC region’s economy. If its Member States are to prosper, the motor for growth must come from within the region itself. (Full and lasting peace in Angola and Mozambique would also give a major boost to the regional economy). Democracy in South Africa in the 1990s was a distinct possibility, and Manuel Marin, the EEC’s Commissioner for Development, was amongst those to suggest that SADCC should be thinking about how a democratic, multiracial South Africa could contribute to the region and how SADCC could benefit from this.

He was also of the view that the time was ripe for SADCC to take on a greater leadership role, “bringing together, coordinating and dynamising the factors that make for development in the region”. It was, he believed, time to begin coordinating certain macro-economic aspects of national policy-making within a regional framework. “If these issues of enterprise and productivity are to be seen in a regional context, then there is need for harmonisation, or at least coordination of national policies “.

Strengthening the institutional framework

This would, inevitably, have a bearing on the institutional framework which, it was recognised, would need to be reassessed in view of the new challenges facing the region. As the Conference policy paper pointed out; “ Whatever institutions were adequate for dealing essentially with loose coordination of efforts may not be adequate for handling the more intricate problems of the 1990s”.

The annual Consultative Conferences (which are not, strictly speaking, pledging conferences though they have tended to play this role) precisely fulfil the catalytic function for which they were designed. They do “ bring together, coordinate and dynamise the factors that make for development in the region” and they do so in a pretty impressive fashion. No less than 33 cooperating governments were represented in Lusaka- and at high level- as were some 29 international development agencies. Before, during and after the plenary sessions (essentially a succession of speeches by the cooperating partners- national and international expressing their priorities or concerns for the SADCC countries’ development) small groups gather both formally and informally to discuss possible project funding or to sort out problems of implementation. This getting-together of SADCC secretariat officials, Member States’ government representatives and SADCC cooperation partners from, literally, all over the world facilitates encounters that would be time-consuming and expensive to organise otherwise, but which undoubtedly smooth and speed up the actual accomplishment of SADCC programmes. (The Programme of Action currently comprises programmes in the field of energy, food, agriculture and natural resources, industry and trade, manpower development and transport and communications. In all some 490 projects are involved, costed at US$ 6.3 bn though funds have not been identified for all programmer).

But the big speeches are. of course, vitally important, because they enable the SADCC countries to gauge the feelings of the donor community as to how the organization is performing (the Executive-Secretary, Simba Makoni, and the secretariat came in for much praise), where improvements could be made and what its future strategy should be.

Enterprise, skills and productivity

There was unanimous support for the priority given to investment in human resources, particularly in the development of skills as a prerequisite for greater entrepreneurial activity and higher productivity. The SADCC region was not without natural resources- indeed it has very considerable agricultural and mineral potential- but the potential of its greatest natural resource, its people, remained largely unfulfilled. In its second decade, the Member States realise, new challenges (not least, the increasingly competitive world market) would make it more vital than ever for the region to create its own wealth, attracting investment in productive activity and ensuring that the necessary skills were available, at all levels, to make growth sustainable.

Lynda Chalker, the UK Minister for Overseas Development, congratulated the SADCC Member States for “focussing on the right issue: development from within”. And Jan Pronk, her Dutch counterpart, also welcomed the fact that the strategy for the 1990s set out to “ construct the building beginning with the foundations, not with the roof”. The representative of Japan, too, had good reason to commend human resource building as the key to development and modernisation, and Edward Jaycox, of the World Bank, suggested that expenditure on human resource development should double from present levels to reach 8-10% of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP by the year 2000.

The role of the Community

The Community’s position was put both by the Irish Ambassador in Zambia (whose Minister, representing the Presidency of the Council, had been forced to leave for a vital vote in the Irish Parliament) and by Commissioner Marin. He stressed, in particular, the need to create a new climate., for industrial development and private investment to ensure the benefits 3 of a viable and dynamic private sector, and pointed to the ways in which the newly-signed LomV Convention- and the European Investment Bank could help the SADCC countries attain their objectives. He also noted that the European Community had offered “more than mere words in support of the victims of apartheid”, and that much of the considerable funding channelled to appropriate organizations in South Africa had gone to educational and training programmer. The Commission welcomed the stress on human resources and “ heartily agreed with the implied view that development means the valorisation of the human factor, both as a means and as an end”.

Vital concerns: population and the environment

Both the Swedish and Norwegian ministers, Lena Hjelm-Wallen and Tom Vraalsen (the Nordic countries are premier donors to the SADCC region) were anxious to know how women- who make up 52% of the workforce- were to be integrated in the efforts to modernise trade. The Canadian government representative, Walter McLean, also questioned how much closer the SADCC countries were to involving women in the development process. How much training was on offer, for example, and how many scholarships had been awarded to women for higher education?

Maintenance was another of Minister Vraalsen’s concerns, and he suggested that a survey of the maintenance of SADCC infrastructural projects might usefully be conducted, the findings of which would make a fit subject for debate at the 1991 Consultative Conference. He was among many, too, to place supreme importance on environmental considerations. “ No other issue “, he asserted, “can claim higher priority”.

A major environmental concern, raised by a number of cooperating partners, was that of population growth, currently averaging 3.3 % per annum and putting an added strain on the region’s already strained financial and ecological resources. Only in the last two years of the ‘80s had economic growth kept ahead of population growth.

The SADCC countries are, of course, acutely aware of the problem: “ It is impossible to improve standards of living, create jobs or ensure adequate socio-economic facilities such as schools or hospitals at current rates of population growth...”. “The danger of over-exploitation of the environment” they warn, “often as a result of population pressure, should also be a matter of great concern to the region”, and they call for policies and programmes that address this most sensitive of development issues.

With the anniversary conference drawing to a close, and donors reaffirming “continued strong and generous” support to SADCC, the Chairman pointed to the various celebrations that would take place in the region throughout the year - not least that to mark the independence of Namibia and its joining of the SADCC group. SADCC, its Member States and the cooperating partners all expressed their readiness to assist the new nation, and the announcement that (the then) President-elect Sam Nujoma had offered to host the 1991 Consultative Conference in Windhoek was enthusiastically received. Ten years on, with ten members, with much achieved and more remaining to be achieved, SADCC in 1990 is coming of age.


SADCC - its organisation and its work

SADCC, the Southern African Development Coordination Conference, is a regional organisation now comprising nine Member States- Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. A tenth country, Namibia, is expected to join after its independence in April 1990. The organisation was formed in April 1980 in Lusaka, Zambia.

Coordinating responsibilities for projects and programmes are assigned to individual Member States by sector, and are as follows.

Allocation of sector coordination to SADCC Member States

The SADCC Secretariat is based in Gaborone, Botswana, and its present Executive Secretary is the Zimbabwean, Dr Simba Makoni.

The present status of SADCC project financing by sector is as follows:

SADCC project financing status by sector - (Amounts in million $)