Harare, 23 Oct 2017 (ACBF) - Africa’s eight Regional Economic Communities (RECs) which are supposed to be the building blocks of the African Union are yet to fully assume their their responsibility to give the continental body the required strength to function effectively. They would better assume this role by streamlining their packed agendas and looking for ways to better excite African leaders to advance regional integration, says Ms Grace Kaimila-Kanjo, Director of Finance and Administration of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF).
She was speaking at a research exchange seminar on Enabling Effective Policy Implementation in the Regional Economic Communities: The case of SADC at ACBF headquarters in Harare, at which Mr. Munetsi Madakufamba, Executive Director of the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC) was the main presenter.
“One of the major problems we are dealing with is an ever expanding agenda of the RECs and how to excite our leaders to advance the regional integration.” Ms Kaimila-Kanjo observed.
There was consensus in the seminar that the lack of political solidarity was partly to blame for the RECs’ current state of affairs. For example, while regional integration was possible during the 1980-1992 period because the SADC agenda mainly focused on the need for independence, today, with independence won, the over-packed agendas of SADC and the other RECs mean that there is no clear delineation of responsibility and enforcement agents.
The RECs also lack financial resources because most member States are not funding them adequately. This, in the case of SADC, is a huge hindrance to its effectiveness. Worryingly, there is poor interface between the RECs and member states, causing the RECs to rely too much on external sources of funding for their activities, a situation that raises serious questions of ownership and independence of action.
To solve the funding problem, the seminar recommended one of the key findings of an ACBF study launched in April this year titled “Surveyof the Capacity Needs of Africa’s Regional Economic Communities and Strategies for addressing them”. This is on the point made in the “survey” that the RECs should establish a trust fund with contributions by member states and development partners - a model which is already working well for ECOWAS where a community levy of 1.5 percent of customs duty raises more than $630 million a year to finance integration programs.
The seminar’s presenter, Mr Madakufamba said the deficiencies of the RECs in trying to leverage Africa’s integration agenda were affecting the effectiveness of the African Union. “Top on the list of such deficiencies,” he said, “is the chronic failure to see through AU decisions which has resulted in a crisis of implementation”.
Crucially, the RECs’ institutional shortcomings and the multiple membership of states in different regional organizations are threatening to worsen the problem, unless, according to Mr Madakufamba, “remedial action is taken as a matter of urgency and with the requisite boldness.”
Turning specifically to SADC, Mr Madakufamba said “this point in SADC’s history offers the ACBF opportunities to offer technical support and effective practices for strengthening the sub-regional body’s institutional capacity.”
Incidentally, when it comes to vision and policies there is clarity in terms of where SADC wants to be. However, progress has been slow. “What is hindering regional integration,” according to him, “is the lack of willingness of member states to fully implement agreed agendas.”
Remedial actions recommended for the attention of SADC by particiapants at the seminar include the following points: (a) The organization should be reformed and its agendas and policies based on realistic things, not idealism; (b) It should focus on key priority areas in order not to over pack its agendas; (c) Stakeholders should be involved in the implementation and devisingof the SADC agendas so that the burden of funding is not on member States only; and (d) Champions of regional integration should be created along the lines of the EU example of using Germany to lead European integration (in the case of SADC, regional economic giants like South Africa, Angola, and Tanzania can be made to play the role that Germany played for European integration).
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Having spearheaded and robustly coordinated capacity development programs worth over 700 million US dollars across 45 countries and 8 regional economic communities (RECs) in Africa since 1991, ACBF has gathered the requisite experience that makes it the go-to institution for expert knowledge and human resources to advise and support African countries, regional economic communities and institutions on decisive steps to take to develop the practical skills urgently required for the continent’s economic transformation.
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