Geingob pushes for continental integration

By Hilary Mare

PRESIDENT Hage Geingob has called upon African Union (AU) member states to redouble their efforts in regional and continental commitments so that the continent can reap the fruits of integration.

Speaking on behalf of SADC at the first mid-year coordination meeting discussing the status of integration in the SADC region at the 12th Extraordinary Summit of the AU this week, Geingob noted that for Africa, a vast continent of over 1.2 billion people, integration has considerable potentials not only for promoting robust and equitable economic growth, but also for reducing conflicts, and promoting sustainable peace and stability.

In this view, Geingob also emphasised that the current situation of overlapping mandates and duplication of efforts among Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and between RECs and AU undermines progress, and needs to be resolved as a pre-condition to accelerating continental integration.

“There is need for absolute clarity of roles and responsibility between AU and RECs, and the principle of subsidiarity should provide the basis for effective division of labour, bearing in mind the financial challenges being faced by Member States. In this regard, Member States should direct and take ownership of the formulation of policies and programmes at the regional and continental levels with a view to ensuring value for money,” Geingob said.

SADC fully aligns itself with the continental integration agenda as espoused in the 1991 Abuja Treaty establishing the African Economic Community, whose objective, among others, is to promote economic, social and cultural development and the integration of African economies in order to realise the African Economic Community.

The Treaty further recognises that Regional Economic Communities (RECs) are the building blocks. By making RECs the building blocks of the continental community, the Union subscribes to the principle of subsidiarity that governs the division of powers and responsibilities between AU and RECs.
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Geingob also added that as a further barrier to integration is multiple and overlapping membership of Member States to various Regional Bodies, a challenge which SADC hopes will be addressed through the operationalisation of the COMESA-EACSADC Free Trade Area, and the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area whose operational phase was officially launched this week.

“We, therefore, need to expedite the operationalisation of these initiatives while recognising that the Tripartite COMESA-EAC-SADC Free Trade Area is inevitable, if we are to expedite the continental Free Trade Area,” he said.
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Furthermore, Geingob explained that some plans and commitments are either unrealistic or are not fully owned by Member States which negatively affects implementation of the plans and the ultimate realisation of the set milestones.

“We, therefore, need to ensure that the plans are realistic, and all Member States are fully consulted and subscribe to them,” said Geingob adding that another barrier is inadequate participation of the private sector in Regional Integration and that the continent needed to effectively bring on board the private sector as a critical partner to regional integration.