Harnessing the concept for regional development in Southern Africa
Based on the framework of developmental regionalism described in the previous section, we explore how such an approach can work in Southern Africa given the unique aspects of the region. Southern Africa is a heterogeneous region economically, politically, socially and culturally. However, there is a long history of regional cooperation and integration, albeit not always in a devel- opmentalist sense. Based on each of the key features of the developmental regionalist approach discussed earlier, potential approaches and challenges are outlined in the following sections
Strong institutional architecture and capacity
Successful regional integration, as the SADC Declaration and Treaty (1992: 9)noted, “will depend on the extent to which there exists national and regionalinstitutions with adequate competence and capacity to stimulate and manage efficiently and effectively, the complex process of integration”. As such,crafting a strong institutional architecture with requisite capacity is central toaligning and facilitating regional priorities towards a developmentalist agenda.This includes the political organs and the technical bureaucracy at the heart offormulating and implementing regional policies and projects. The key policyand political organs and institutions of SADC include the Summit of Heads ofState and Government, the Council of Ministers, Commissions, the Organ for}}
Politics, Defence, and Security Cooperation, the Troika, Sectoral and Cluster Ministerial Committees, SADC National Committees, the SADC Secretariat and its other related technical institutions, such as the administrative and implementing bureaucracy.
The SADC has seen a transition in terms of the nature of its bureaucracy established to facilitate regional development. From the former practice of apportioning sectoral projects to member states to coordinate and drive, which was the initial approach of the SADCC, this has shifted to a more professional bureaucracy in the SADC Secretariat with the hitherto 21 sectors coordinated by the member states now clustered into four Directorates manned by professional technical cadres. The internal restructuring of the SADC bureaucracy is a “work in progress” meant to realign it with the new priority focus of the institution and make it more effective, responsive and results oriented.2 This is also true for some of the specialised bodies like the SADC Tribunal. Some scholars have argued that institutional weakness constitutes a major constraint inhibiting the SADC from realizing its development capacity (Tjonneland, 2005). As Tjonneland (2005: 181) puts it, the SADC
has progressed rapidly at the formal level of policies and agreements. However, its institutions are still weak and the organisation has not come far in the implementation of protocols and regional decisions. There is a major gap between what SADC wants to do, and actual developments and implementation on the ground.
The reluctance of countries to cede some level of sovereignty in creating a supranational organisation with adequate powers, capacity and authority on regional affairs in a relatively autonomous way without overt or substantial control from member states has implications for the nature of the institution and its capacity'. The debate is on the nature of the institutional architecture to consummate regional integration—through either more interstate cooperation mechanisms or the creation of a supranational body with adequate powers and capacity. Evidently, issues around relative autonomy for the SADC Secretariat, building a stable professional core, adequate human capacity and financial resources are germane to its transformative potentials.
Institutional reforms are needed not only at the regional level, but also at the national level. Regional development can only be meaningful with adequate institutional capacity both at the national and regional levels, with clear understanding and support from the national stakeholders for the regional agenda.
Institutional mechanisms should incorporate needs-based flexibility that allows them to fulfil crucial functions in alignment with regional priorities. Organisational structures and protocols that follow an idealised notion of regional development objectives but do not work in reality only decrease the legitimacy of regional organisations when there are no consequences for non- compliance. As a result, institutional capacity building efforts should therefore focus on aligning incentives around specific achievable areas (ECDPM, 2016).
At the grassroots level, the transnational business, informal trading, and civil society networks that pervade Southern Africa need to participate and be incorporated into regional planning processes. Their perspectives and interests must be reflected in the developmental regionalist project for it to ultimately succeed. The objective of regional public goods and policies is to create the environment in which these different sectors can thrive. Without their input and articulation of their needs, regional public goods may not be used optimally and policies may remain unimplemented. While they have their own drawbacks in terms of both design and implementation, development corridor initiatives provide one example of flexible institutional design that leverages networks of business and civil society actors based on cross-border ties that complement formal state-driven structures.
Finally, recognition that countries use different regional fora for addressing different issues is crucial in terms of strengthening institutions. Rather than designing institutions that will attempt to address all types of regional issues, capacity-building efforts should focus on strengthening the ability of institutions to deal with their areas of strength so that different organisations and networks can complement each other to tackle the plethora of issues that affect Southern Africa.