(By Christopher Miti in Dar es Salaam)
FORMER Tanzania president Benjamin Mkapa says there’s too much dependence on development partners.
Mkapa says within the Southern African Development Community there was strong political common sense for social and economic integration because integration was no longer a matter of choice.
“Many have rightly noted that SADC’s integration, as well as that of the continent, is no longer a matter of choice. Against a backdrop of changing global production structures and distribution systems, in the face of developed states economic nationalism, the compulsion for adaptation and evolution is obviously long past due,” Mkapa said. “Two major obstacles stand on the way to integration. The first is availability of resources for investment and project implementation. Development partners have been helpful but we tend to depend too much on them. We must proactively drop the bucket where we are. Governments can raise more revenue for development by strict collection of taxes and
pursuing tax evaders, and corrupt people engaging in illicit money transfers across borders and continents. Additionally, national financial institutions such as pension funds should be encouraged to partner across borders. But not enough attention is given to this prospectus.”
However, Mkapa has noted that SADC had done very well in terms of peace and stability.
During a public lecture on the theme ‘Deepening Integration in SADC: Achievements, challenges and opportunities’ at Dar es Salaam University on Thursday, Mkapa said SADC leaders provide both counsel and restoration of political stability whenever there was a crisis.
“I have been in retirement for 14 years, but I can state proudly and very boldly that in terms of peace and stability, the region has done very well. Where a national crisis has emerged, SADC leaders together explicitly have hastened to come up with or offer counsel and urged restoration of constitutional and political reconciliation,” he said. “I think of the Kingdom of Lesotho in the 1990s, Madagascar, and the Comoros in the new century. We can state unequivocally that of the regional groupings in Africa, the SADC is the most stable and peaceful regionally and also nationally. On the economic front SADC has agreed on projects and programmes for transformation. This has led to the adoption of regional strategic developments, a regional infrastructure master plan for all infrastructure projects, a renewable energy, and efficiency strategy and action plan and an industrialisation roadmap.”
Mkapa said the plans were just blueprints.
“There is the English adage ‘if wishes where horses everyone would ride’. We have heard a lot of wishes and lots of programmes but very few can really say they are running those programmes but the more knowledgeable…will be able to illustrate what is going on. I will not be the first person to admit that the challenges facing our countries and region are many and daunting,” he said.
Mkapa cited widespread poverty, low levels of productivity, outdated or inefficient technologies and insufficient infrastructure development as some of the challenges that SADC faced.
“It is also true that our set of development characterised by small and medium size enterprises weakly linked to intra and extra regional markets do not make for better opportunities for growth, employment and poverty reduction,” he said. “These constraints confront governments and support institutions to make fundamental changes in policies, strategies, workforce skills and organisational linkages to respond to rapidly changing global dynamics.”
Mkapa said support institutions such as SADC, universities, learning and training centres, and civil societies were also challenged to redesign the in-house competencies if they were to remain relevant and incredible to their development mission and objectives.
“In addition, against this backdrop, the regional landscape makes for a very fluid operating environment. Efforts towards deeper integration
notably towards forming a customs union and emerging international trade and development relations are increasingly introducing intricate
dynamics that continuously challenge intra-regional relationships,” he said. “We must therefore continue working harder and remain ever watchful.”
Mkapa said there was a lot of hope for SADC adding that the mutual experience should provide vital lessons for SADC itself, for the region, and for Africa.
“Our solidarity during the political liberation can serve as a strong anchor of economic transformation. Let me reiterate that as a region SADC has a lot of successes to be proud about. We must not shy away from celebrating our collective achievements inspired by our common history,” he said. “The remarkable foundation of our identity is in itself a testament to the common struggles of our past. It also speaks to the relentless commitment of our leaders towards the shared future of peace, unity and prosperity for our region and the people.”
Meanwhile, Gilead Teri who represented the private sector at the event stressed the need for infrastructure development in the region.
“Infrastructure, I will just give you one example, it cost around US$4,000 to transport one container of tobacco from Malawi to the port of Nacala [in Mozambique] by road but if you have a very functioning railway within the same distance you transport the same container for around
$1,000 and $2,000 dollars which is 50 per cent sort of cheaper compared to the current level of infrastructure,” Teri said.
The public lecture, organised by GIZ through its mission of strengthening national-regional linkages in SADC, was one of the activities that preceded the SADC Heads of State summit to be held at Julius Nyerere International Conference Centre today.