SADC’s grim reality
Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders will have to speedily bring into being the long-awaited regional development fund, or the body could flounder should anything negative happen to its funding from the European Union (EU) – its biggest sponsor.
The EU, Germany, Japan, the US, Nordic countries, Britain and other international donors cover at least 79 percent of the regional body’s annual budget, which last year totalled N$1,1 billion.
Each year the SADC Council draws up programmes around its two main intervention objectives of regional economic integration and peace and security in the region.
SADC heads of state have expressed dismay at the current state of affairs, saying that if they are to be taken seriously and move towards regional integration SADC cannot continue to rely on donor funding.
Speaking at a session on the 15-member organisation during the ongoing Namibia Foreign Policy Review Conference yesterday in Windhoek, Paul Kalenga highlighted the dire situation in which SADC finds itself, stressing that should the EU stop its funding, the body in its current state will cease to exist. Kalenga was speaking in his capacity as the technical adviser on trade related facilities of the SADC Secretariat.
“Presently we depend mainly on one donor, the EU. If the EU is no more tomorrow then there is no SADC and that is where the situation is,” Kalenga emphasised.
“We have bilateral donors like the British, Germany, Nordic countries, Japan – while others come in to fund specific programmes, such as the United States Agency for International Development,” he said.
According to him, the membership fees from member states, although important, are sadly not enough to free the body from the cycle of donor funding.
“That is a serious dependence and a serious obstacle to the implementation of what SADC wants to do.”
He however added that all is not gloom, as SADC’s ministers of finances have made tremendous success in finalising the much-anticipated SADC development fund.
“I really do not want to say what is on the table but there is a mechanism … to fund SADC. It is like a re-investment arrangement where SADC can reinvest and generate more funds for itself to fund its development programmes,” stated Kalenga.
When it was first mooted, it was announced by SADC that the fund would accelerate investment in infrastructure development as well as facilitate and forge deeper regional integration.
Also, SADC executive secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax had earlier urged SADC member states to reduce dependence on donor funding for regional integration and development programmes.
She said that donor contributions should only supplement SADC’s own efforts and should not be the mainstay of its agenda.
According to her, for as long as donor contributions are the major source of SADC funding it will be hard for the body to independently realise its objectives – without pandering to the whims of others.
At the time, Tax stressed the importance of SADC’s ever-lasting political will that propelled the region from being a colonial asset to freedom and independence.
At a continental level, the African Union leaders recently took a decision to cut the continental body’s dependence on foreign aid for the running of its programmes and peacekeeping missions.
It was decided at its recent 27th Summit that a funding model, whereby every member country will contribute “0.2 percent of its eligible imports to the AU” should be followed. This will, however, exclude imports such as medicines, fertilizers and baby food.
This funding model is expected to raise about N$17,4 billion, which is said to be three times more than the current AU operational budget. The contributions are expected to start next year. As it is, about 72 percent of the AU budget comes from the United Nations and foreign donors.
However, the AU was cautioned to look into the fact that most of its member states still depend heavily on donor funding to cover their budgetary deficits.