Articulation of goals and objectives of regional integration for development

It is important that policymakers and political leaders at the national and regional levels clearly articulate the justification and end goals of undertaking regional initiatives that will transform the region’s economic and social structures. This requires articulating the objectives, goals, priorities and strategic direction of regional integration projects. This also requires clear communication regarding the policy instruments and investments to be made, the targets of the programme and what should be expected.

The objectives and goals that the SADC seeks to achieve are clearly articulated in its major policy documents, namely the SADC Treaty and the RISDP. The SADCs vision is to build “a common future, a future in a regional community that will ensure economic wellbeing, improvement of the standards of living and quality of life, freedom and social justice and peace and security for all the peoples of Southern Africa” (SADC, 2001). Its main objective is to promote economic and social transformation in Southern Africa through sustained and equitable economic growth and development via effective production systems, deeper cooperation and integration, the alleviation of poverty, ensuring competitive economies and region, and promoting peace and political and democratic stability.

The SADC adopts a development integration approach that focuses on a comprehensive strategy for regional development including in the economic, social and political spheres, and recognising the disparities amongst countries in the region. The SADC, as Jakaya Kikwete (2016: 3—5) noted, is guided by two strategic plans. First is in the economic plan, which is driven by the revised RISDP, and second is the Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ (SIPO). The objective of the latter (SIPO) is to create a peaceful, secure and stable political environment in the region promotive of economic development.

The SADC’s strategic goals and key targets are further elaborated in its key sectoral plans, which include the SADC Industrialisation Strategy' and Roadmap, the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP), and the Agriculture Development Policy. There appears to be clear objectives, goals and targets but a wide gap tends to exist between enunciated goals and implementation processes and capacity.

A major challenge is in the role of the private sector and civil society in formulating regional plans and strategies, which has been minimal in Southern Africa (Vanheukelom and Bertelsmann-Scott, 2016). The interests of the private sector and civil society are often diverse and sometimes in conflict. Finding areas of convergence, whether by sector or subregion, is a way to take advantage of areas where the interests of multiple actors—state, society and business—overlap. The East African Community (EAC) provides a useful example of how the convergence of interests of multiple actors across the region in specific sectors can contribute to regional integration. Rwanda and Uganda, which are landlocked, sought port access while the Kenyan private sector—the strongest in the region—desired new markets for its goods. As a result, the EAC Northern Corridor was fast-tracked as a regional priority (ECDPM, 2016).

There may not always be such a natural convergence of interests, in which case it is necessary to demonstrate the value of integration through evident progress in a relatively short time frame. Therefore, focusing on regional projects in areas that can demonstrate results and quick wins may be preferable than areas that are very contentious with serious divergences amongst the regional stakeholders. It is important to note that converging interests may be sector- specific and therefore it is important to focus on areas of cooperation where interests overlap rather than inflating the cooperation agenda to incorporate areas where stakeholders may be inclined to pursue different objectives. Finally, it is critical to consider national interests that feed into the regional project not simply in terms of the perceived interests of national governments, but also of the agendas of the private sector, civil society, trade unions and other segments of society.

Ensuring peace and security as a prerequisite and foundation of a regional integration agenda

Peace and security are prerequisites for any regional integration agenda. Without basic stability and mutual trust and confidence, it is impossible to establish a good environment for investment and trade facilitation necessary for regional economic integration. Some of the factors that can contribute to establishing a peaceful security environment in Southern Africa include ingraining a culture of democratic processes and practices and effective conflict resolution. The SADC has developed conflict management mechanisms and the promotion of democratic elections that are essential for ensuring peace and stability in the region. In spite of some conflict incidents, mostly of a political nature, the SADC region records appreciable levels of peace and stability, levels that are better than those of other regions of the continent.

In addition, addressing the problems of poverty, inequality and unemployment will help address grievances that have undergirded conflicts in the region. The Southern African regional development project should be based on the principle of equity, which will help ensure that the benefits of such an approach are shared widely.

Part of ensuring the equity of a regional approach to development involves visionary leadership that looks beyond the confines of the nation state and takes a regional perspective to policy-making. The issue of xenophobia which has reared its head in some countries recently in the region demands a pan- Southern Africa vision and leadership instrumental in promoting collective regional identity. Acknowledging that legitimate disputes will emerge between both state and non-state actors in Southern Africa, effective institutions and early warning systems should be developed at the local, national and regional levels (Kreiter, 2016).

Together, these measures can help ensure a basic level of peace and security that can provide a basis for greater regional integration.

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