Home » Governance » Mzembi Spot-On On Uni-Visa Pilot Project

THE 34th Summit of Sadc heads of state and government to be held in Victoria Falls next month comes at a time when countries in the region have gone a long way in getting rid of individualism to working together in tackling various issues affecting the people.

The region has been able to rally the Member States to come together to deal with issues of sustainable economic development and those that threaten peace.

Sadc’s main objective is seeking to achieve regional integration and poverty eradication and as such the bloc has come up with a number of protocols aimed at achieving the above aims.

While the region has been quick to deal with issues that threaten peace and security among its member states, the same zeal is missing when it comes to socio-economic development initiatives.

This has manifested in areas where some countries are withholding their signatures in ratifying and domesticating important protocols.

Because of the history of colonialism, Sadc countries can only increase their bargaining power at the international stage when they come together with a unified voice.

The major reasons behind regional integration is to reduce or eliminate barriers to free-trade, free movement of people, labour, goods and services.

But this is the area where the region is found wanting, despite having so many protocols which some Member States are reluctant to ratify.

It is good news that the 34th Sadc Summit is to consider the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan whose objective is to strengthen integration in the region to eradicate poverty and achieve socio-economic development.

It is true that Sadc countries are at different levels of development, but there is need for collective linking up of various sectors among Member States.

For instance, there is need for Sadc countries to consider linking sectors like manufacturing, trade, agriculture and labour if the region is to achieve sustainable development.

It is clear that in some sectors, deeper integration has accelerated growth, but there are still serious issues with movement of labour and the tariff regime among Member States.

There is need for the regional bloc to harmonise integration laws so that even if citizens from any of the Member States prefer to work in any of the Sadc countries they must be able to do so without barriers.

At the moment, thousands of Zimbabweans’ lives are on the balance in South Africa where the southern neighbour is set to make a decision on their fate after they were given special dispensation work permits in 2010 that are set to expire at the end of this year.

South Africa is afraid that renewing the permits would result in immigrants automatically becoming residents.

There is need for the region to consolidate gains achieved when South Africa scrapped visa requirements for visitors from the region.

This has contributed a lot to South Africa’s economy and the region at large as it saw cross- border trading flourish, in the process sustaining many families in other Member States.

The uni-visa pilot project between Zimbabwe and Zambia should be the way to go for the whole region given the opportunities that lie in the system, where a number of countries in the region stand to benefit.

As such, remarks by Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi in Parliament on Wednesday about the uni-visa pilot project must be a welcome development for the whole region.

He said he hoped the forthcoming Sadc Summit would result in the operationalisation of the project.

“However, going beyond, we are going to extend it to the Kavango, Zambezi Trans-Frontier Conservation Area, which we commonly refer to as the Kaza, so that the following countries will enjoy this uni-visa system,” he said.

“These include Namibia, Angola, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, but we are also cautious of the fact that African countries between themselves, through bilateral understandings, have opened up to each other, as is the case with Zimbabwe and South Africa.”

The arrangement will go a long way in ensuring that international tourists to Zambia are able to also visit Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia or Angola without having to apply for another visa.

Economists cite border controls as one of the major hindrances to trade and regional integration and say now is the time that Member States seriously consider to establish One-Stop Border Posts to allow travellers and commercial cargo carriers to go through the emigration and immigration procedures without delays.

This has worked at the Chirundu One-Stop Border Post after Zimbabwe and Zambia signed that agreement, as such it would be important that similar arrangements are signed for other ports of entry.

It is unfortunate that at the moment production is being hindered by delays at the borders where freight carriers wait for days before they are cleared.

There is also need to build road or rail infrastructure in the region to make sure countries are linked, rather than having a situation where cargo from South Africa to Zambia goes through Botswana, which is a longer route compared to going through Zimbabwe via Victoria Falls.

While the Free Trade Area could be attractive for other countries within the region, some countries fear it could affect them, especially those that rely heavily on customs duty.

It is important for Sadc to do research and find alternatives that would ensure that the receiving country does not lose out, but at the same time must allow movement of goods among countries.

The bone of contention is on determining the source of origin, considering that most raw materials come from countries outside the region. As such, it is important that the Victoria Falls summit puts mechanisms in place to ensure that Member States do not abuse the free trade area arrangement by importing raw materials from outside the continent and then assemble the products and claim that they have originated from the region.

Member States must be protected against such unscrupulous activities by other countries.

Observers note that socio-economic development must be at the core of regional integration if Sadc is to succeed.

It is also important to note that peace and security guarantees economic development, as such it is gratifying to note that the region has come together to arrest the destabilisation that threatened the Democratic Republic of Congo where the Sadc Intervention Brigade joined hands with that country’s armed forces to subdue the M23 rebels.

Surely, no country in the region can be guaranteed of economic development when there is armed conflict next door.

Source : The Herald