SADC, World Bank reaffirm commitment to strengthen partnership for regional economic integration despite COVID-19 pandemic
Through a virtual consultative meeting held on 12 May, 2020, co-chaired by the SADC Executive Secretary, Her Excellency Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax, and Ms. Deborah Wetzel, the Director for Regional Integration for the World Bank Group, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the World Bank recommitted to enhance cooperation on regional economic integration in SADC, and strengthen response to COVID-19. This follows the Bank’s efforts to align its new three-year Regional Integration Strategy to SADC’s regional priorities for the period July 2020 to June 2023.
During the meeting, the two parties underscored the need to strengthen collaboration to mitigate the socio-economic impact of COVID-19, which poses a risk to reverse progress made in reducing poverty and inequality. According to the preliminary findings of Secretariat’s analysis of the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 in the SADC region, the pandemic will have short, medium and long-term negative impacts on all social and economic sectors, given its cross-cutting nature. In view of this, SADC informed the meeting that the Region has taken various measures aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19, mitigating socio-economic effects, and ensuring economic recovery and growth at both regional and national levels.
SADC expressed appreciation to the World Bank for its continued support to the SADC region, through various programmes in Member States and at SADC Secretariat and affiliated organizations, adding that the development of the Bank’s Regional Integration Strategy comes at a critical time when the SADC region is developing its Vision 2050 and the new Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) for the period from 2020 to 2030, and the region would require innovative and practical support/partnership to recover from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Responding to this, the World Bank indicated that the response of World Bank in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic is focusing on protecting lives, livelihoods and the future, which entail putting in place prevention, detection and treatment of the disease; supporting household incomes and supporting investment in recovery and growth, to create the foundations for the future. The Bank, further highlighted that the development of the Regional Integration Strategy demonstrates the willingness of the Bank to partner with Regional Economic Communities (RECs) such as, SADC in recognition of the need to create linkages between national and regional priorities to realise sustainable economic growth and, ultimately end poverty and inequality in the region.
The meeting noted that the Bank’s Thematic Areas of Connectivity; Trade and Market Integration; Human Capital; and Resilience to support regional integration, are in line with SADC’s priorities as outlined in the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP); the Regional Agricultural Investment Plan (RAIP) (2017-2022); the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap (2015-2063); the draft Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (2020-2030), and other strategic frameworks.
On industrialisation and market integration, SADC highlighted the need to support SADC regional industrialization and market integration through regional value chains, with increased support to sectors such as the pharmaceutical and agro-processing, which should be accompanied by, among others, improved capacity to produce and trade through infrastructure development, especially cross-border transportation and energy as enablers of industrialization and sustainable economic growth.
The meeting further underscored the need for joint actions that foster integration, and linkage between national and regional priorities, recognizing that Member States are the main implementers of programmes for Regional Integration. Support in preparing for pandemics and disease surveillance by putting in place risk reduction and early warning systems for early detection and early response to pandemics and disaster outbreaks, were presented as SADC priorities. The meeting also noted the important role of the private sector in fostering regional economic integration.
The SADC Executive Secretary was joined in the virtual meeting by the Deputy Executive Secretary for Regional Integration, Dr Thembinkosi Mhlongo; Deputy Executive Secretary for Corporate Affairs, Ambassador Joseph Nourrice; Directors and other officials. From the World Bank, Ms. Deborah Wetzel was joined by the Bank’s Country Directors responsible for SADC Member States, and other senior officials.