Zimbabwean foreign minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi told a meeting of the SADC council of ministers over the weekend in Gaborone that “as long as we are unable to fund our own organisation, the future of our programs and activities will remain uncertain and SADC will not be wholly ours”.
More than half of SADC’s $79 million annual budget this year came from donors.
He said although SADC “deeply appreciates” the support from its international donors, “our continued dependency on their generosity and benevolence constitutes one of the most profound weaknesses of our organisation.
“This state of affairs compromises ownership and control as well as the sustainability of our programmes,” he said, singling out those which had to do with security and regional integration, such as the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan.
Mumbengegwi said although SADC’s responsibilities had expanded, resources were dwindling, and the organisation should re-think if it could afford programmes that member states could not fund.
“We should concentrate on those programmes that have a direct bearing on regional integration and peace and security. We should not heap on SADC those programmes that member states can implement on their own,” he said.
The council meeting, which ran several hours behind schedule and only ended late on Saturday night, resolved to look at sustainable ways of financing SADC programmes and to reduce financial dependency on donors.
They were tasked to come up with a suggested strategy to mobilise more resources by August next year.
This issue was raised at the SADC council of ministers meeting in April, where a proposal was first drawn up which was later presented to and discussed with the ministers of finance.
Botswana minister of finance and development planning, Kenneth Matambo, in a statement following the weekend meeting said a committee of ministers of finance would coordinate the work on alternative sources of funds, and it should also operationalise the Regional Development Fund.
Part of the mandate of the ministers would be to look at what the African Union and other regional economic communities were doing to improve self-funding.
The Africa Union has been grappling with the issue for several years now, and has come up with a formula according to which countries with a bigger GDP would contribute proportionally more money.
Mozambican foreign minister Oldemiro Baloi reportedly told journalists that SADC needed to raise $500 million for its regional integration and industrialisation plan for the next five years, called the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan.
Of this, $300 million should come from member states and the rest from donors.
SADC executive secretary Stergomena Tax said “this is an important assignment that require utmost attention”.
She added: “It is only with our own reliable sources of funds that we are able to finance and accelerate our regional integration agenda at the needed pace.”
Regional industrialisation is high on the summit agenda after a plan to create a single currency by 2018 was shelved indefinitely until at least 2020.
Heads of state arrived one-by-one in chauffeur-driven luxury cars at the Grand Palms Hotel in Botswana’s sunny capital on Sunday, where a red carpet lay ready amid tight security.
The summit is set to be held in the adjacent Gaborone International Convention Centre. It is the first time since 2005 that SADC’s ordinary summit is held in the city, home to the SADC secretariat.
South African President Jacob Zuma arrived late on Sunday afternoon, and together with his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa was due to attend a SADC Double Troika meeting where issues relating to the security situation in Lesotho as well as Madagascar were on the agenda.
International relations minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, and trade and industry minister Rob Davies formed part of the South African delegation at the summit.
Fourteen of the 15 heads of SADC member states were expected at the summit, where Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is set to hand over chairpersonship of the organisation to Botswana’s President Ian Khama on Monday.
Aides of Malawian President Peter Mutharika told journalists he would not be attending the summit as he had to tend to crises back home, including an economic crisis.
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