Lusaka ‑ Zambia, Namibia and Lesotho are among Southern African Development Community countries discontented with the manner in which donor assistance is being disbursed among member states to fund developmental projects.
Several donors, the World Bank included, have availed funding to help accelerate the growth of economies in the SADC bloc as the member states also seek to raise “home-grown resources” to develop infrastructure including roads, railways, bridges, harbours, among others, to ensure regional integration is achieved.
Zambia’s Deputy Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Miles Sampa, argues that the distribution of funds sourced from SADC’s co-operating partners is unequal and that most of the grants benefited a few countries at the expense of the majority of the 15-member states.
According to the Zambian media, Sampa ‑ who recently attended a SADC meeting of ministers of finance, trade and commerce in Gaborone, Botswana ‑ it was unfortunate that some countries were being “sidelined” when sharing grants from donors.
He cites the 4.8 million Euro grant from Germany, which was meant for all SADC member states but 70 percent of the money ended up being apportioned to South Africa’s power company, ESKOM.
“We put it on record that we were concerned and asked them to review their policies and ensure most countries benefit… Namibia, Lesotho and Zambia were very concerned about the unfair distribution of resources,” Sampa says.
He says that unless the grants and aid money were shared equally among all the 15-member states, some countries will remain impoverished and lag behind in terms of development.
Sampa says this would mean that populations in countries with smaller economies would continue struggling to make ends meet.
It could not be established how the decision to give a large chunk of the German grant to South Africa’s ESKOM was reached. However, SADC countries have an agreement to share power under the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), which co-ordinates the management of electricity in the region.
This means if ESKOM uses the money to improve, say, electricity generation, then the entire region will benefit because the South African power utility will export surplus energy to SADC countries facing power shortages.
All mainland SADC member states with the exception of Angola, Malawi and Tanzania, are interconnected through SAPP, allowing countries in the region to share surplus energy.
Infrastructure development both at national and regional level is pivotal to the socio-economic growth of the SADC region and the African continent at large.
During the Gaborone meeting, SADC trade, industry and finance ministers discussed the proposals of a report on the bloc’s Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP), the SADC investment agenda as well as the continental integration process, according to a report by Angolan national news agency, Angop.
The RISDP is the regional bloc’s development blueprint to facilitate intra-regional trade and economic growth.
Participants at the meeting, who included governors of central banks, assessed the implementation and consolidation of the SADC Free Trade Area, co-operation among customs departments, issues of trade facilitation and proposals to the amendment of the protocol on commerce.
Angola presented its roadmap for implementation of SADC FTA, which is phased starting from last year and is expected to be in full force by 2017.
The meeting agreed to submit proposals on macroeconomic convergence, integration of marketing of goods and services and strengthening of capital and financial markets as well as the revision of the RISDP for 2015-2020 to the forthcoming SADC Heads of State and Government summit in Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, Zambia has been resilient in developing its infrastructure as desired under regional integration being espoused in the SADC region and the Common Market for East and Southern Africa.
It is envisaged that overall regional integration where member states of regional economic groupings will operate with less or no trade barriers, free movement of people, harmonised border restrictions, among other hurdles, will be achieved by 2019.
Under President Michael Sata, Zambia has embraced among others, a multi-billion-dollar infrastructure development master plan in which it seeks to overhaul the railway, telecommunications, tourism sector, water, information communication technologies and roads to make the country a middle income state by 2030.
Projects underway include the construction or rehabilitation of roads, railways, bridges, improving ICT networks and water reticulation, and harmonising trade regulations so that they are in sync with those of trading partners and to ensure that they conform to all the dictates of SADC protocols on economic integration.
This is being done under the auspices of the US$600 billion SADC’s Regional Integration Master Plan that was mooted over a year ago.
Key projects include the private sector driven US$1 billion regional railway project to link Zambia, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo in two years’ time.
Lusaka is rehabilitating its Zambia Railway infrastructure as well as the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) ‑ joint venture project in which Zambia and Tanzania have agreed to raise over US$700 million to inject a new lease of life into the 38-year-old railway line to improve movement of goods and passengers.
A US$5.3b budget has been initiated by country’s quasi company, Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation, to prop up energy needs to meet domestic and export demands under the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).
Zambia has set aside over US$6.5b for the upgrading and building of new roads and bridges as well as ports to facilitate trade and reduce the cost of doing business within Zambia and with its neighbours, using “home-grown resources” under Link Zambia 8000/400 road rehabilitation programme in various parts of the country, including rural areas where farming is being promoted among small-scale farmers.
Zambia plans to undertake simultaneously, five railway projects to connect major transport corridors as part of its efforts to link with the region.
According to the blueprint, the corridors to be linked include, among others, the Chingola-Solwezi-Jimbe railway line, the Nseluka-Mpulungu line.
Others are the Chipata-Tazara-Mpika, the Kafue Lions’ Den and the Livingstone-Katima Mulilo railway project, all which will link Zambia to Malawi, Tanzania, Angola, DR Congo and Namibia and Botswana, respectively.
The 34th SADC Summit to be held in the resort town of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, is expected to set clear plans towards implementation of a regional policy regarding infrastructure and related priorities.