South Africa Welcomes SADC Infrastructure Plan

Maputo - South Africa has welcomed the adoption of a regional infrastructure master plan by Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders who met in Maputo at the weekend.

The SADC Heads of State approved the plan, which is expected to boost regional trade, following their two-day summit in the Mozambican capital. The plan, to be implemented over a 15 year period beginning from next year, will serve as a key strategy to guide setting up of efficient and cost-effective trans-boundary infrastructure connecting all SADC member states in areas of energy, water, ICT and transport.

The region's infrastructure in critical sectors is said to be so poor that a deficit was estimated to be to be about $100 billion.

Speaking to SAnews in Maputo, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies noted that the new plan will put emphasis on the cross border infrastructure that South Africa identifies in its own Strategic Infrastructure Plan adopted by government recently.

"Our own infrastructure programme particularly the 17 SIPs will be strongly supporting the SADC plan and we have already identified a few projects that we are highlighting and the SADC plan will help us to get a bigger broader picture," Davies said.

He welcomed the fact that a connected SADC infrastructure would strengthen regional integration and add meaning to the free-trade area agreement that many countries in the region are battling to implement.

"As South Africa we have always argued that the biggest barriers to promoting a more equitable pattern of interregional trade which is what along with everybody else want to see has always been a lack of a common plan that links all of us.

"We think that the way forward now is to address the supply capacity issues as well as infrastructure challenges that are blocking inter-regional trade. This means we have to find agreement on a whole host of things within the SADC region as part of SADC's supported infrastructure programme with the main focus on cross border projects."

It's still not clear how funding for the infrastructure plan will be structured considering that countries are still battling to put together even the Regional Development Fund (RDF) that was agreed to in previous summits. The RDF was intended as a financial mechanism to mobilise resources from member states and private sector to finance projects for regional development and integration.

Last week, the African Development Bank proposed that a funding mechanism in the form of an infrastructure bond be established to speed up the plan. The bank had asked SADC countries to put five percent of their foreign reserves estimated at $22 billion towards the establishment of initiative.

Chris Bathembu