Finance Ministers in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are saddled with the onerous task of seeking alternative sources of funding for the regional bloc as it strives to reduce over dependency on international cooperating partners.
The SADC Council of Ministers will meet in Gaborone, Botswana in March 14th-15th to review implementation of its decisions and approve the organization’s budget. However, they have been tasked with the responsibility of investigating sustainable ways of funding SADC projects and to come up with proposals at the next summit, due in August. SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax told journalists last week that the Council meeting in Gaborone will primarily discuss and approve the budget for the 2016/17 activities. The SADC financial year runs from April to March. While reviewing progress made in implementation of its year plan, the Council of Ministers will also focus on prioritization of its plans for the year 2016/17, aimed at fostering its revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2015-2020.
“Focus continues to be on the RISDP, which prioritises industrialisation and market integration, infrastructure development, peace, security and political cooperation,” said Dr Tax.
In the face of the on-going drought situation, SADC will continue to maintain focus on implementation of the Regional Agricultural Policy in order to improve production, competitiveness and trade in the agriculture sector. Member states will also focus on implementation of economic reforms aimed at setting their economies of a sustainable growth path.
Over the years, calls have been made for the SADC to reduce dependency on donor funding and seek sustainable ways of financing its projects. The SADC needs an estimated $500 million over the next five years to finance the RISDP. When he took over as SADC Chairman in August 2015, Botswana’s President Ian Khama also reiterated the need to reduce financial dependency on donor funding and explore alternative sources of funding.
“While we recognize the support of our international partners, it is necessary for SADC to find other ways of financing our regional agendas,” he said.
The SADC has mooted a regional development fund to finance regional infrastructure development projects. Financing has always been a challenge for the SADC, as member states’ contribute only 29 percent to its coffers while international cooperating partners account for 79 percent. Member states contribute a total $37 million to the SADC budget and the level of contribution is dependent on the size of their economies. South Africa, as the largest economy in the region, accounts for about 20 percent ($7.4m) of the SADC budget, while the second-largest contribution of $4million comes from oil-rich Angola. Botswana contributes around $2.167 million, Malawi $2 million, Tanzania $2.4 million and Mozambique $2.1 million. The Seychelles pays the least contribution of $123 000. Dr Tax has previously opined that the SADC will always find it hard to realize its objectives without pandering to the whims of others, so long as it remains dependent on donor contributions.