THE Economic Association of Namibia's third annual conference, will start tomorrow at the Safari Court Hotel in Windhoek from 08h00.
The association's executive director, Klaus Schade, said the theme of the meeting “Regional Integration – Opportunities for Namibia”, was chosen because the topic has always been high on the political agenda. The Economic Association of Namibia (EAN) said the theme is relevant as southern African has the oldest existing customs union, the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu).
“The region has also a long tradition of security and economic cooperation dating back to the struggle against apartheid, colonialism and minority rule. The Frontline States consisted of three independent southern African countries – Botswana, Zambia and Tanzania – who were joined by Angola and Mozambique and a few years later by Zimbabwe when these states achieved independence.
“Realising the need for closer economic cooperation, they formed the Southern African Development Coordination Conference in April 1980. Two years after Namibia's independence in 1990, Windhoek saw the signing of the treaty and declaration that established the Southern African Development Community to replace SADCC. Its membership has grown from initially 11 member states to currently 15 member states with the application from Burundi and Comoros pending,” said EAN.
Furthermore, EAN said there are more regional economic groupings in part overlapping with memberships of SADC and Sacu, most importantly the East African Community (EAC) (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) of which a number of SADC member states are also members.
“The overlapping membership has often been blamed for the slow progress in deepening regional integration within SADC and hence resulted in negotiations towards the establishment of the Tripartite – Free Trade Area (T-FTA) comprising Comesa, EAC and SADC.
“This initiative has, however, in the meantime been overtaken by negotiations towards the establishment of a continent-wide FTA including all African countries. It is envisaged that the agreement for the establishment of the C-FTA will be signed in December 2017,” the association said.
EAN said these initiatives as well as applications of African countries for membership in existing regional economic groups not only in southern Africa, but also in west Africa where Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia are seeking membership of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), are clear indications that regional integration remains attractive for African countries and remains on their political agenda, despite the U-turn in large economies such as the USA and UK towards more inward-looking, nationalistic policies.
“For a small country like Namibia, not only in terms of population, but more so in terms of purchasing power because of a highly skewed distribution of wealth and income, regional integration can offer easier access to larger markets and hence offer economies of scale in the production of goods and services,” EAN said.
Schade said in Namibia, they have often focused too much on the South African economy and neglected other neighbouring economies.
This, EAN said, became evident when the drop of oil prices resulted in a substantial slow-down of the Angolan economy, which spilled over into the Namibian economy when the demand for Namibian goods and services declined.
“We have therefore invited Mr Francisco Paulo from the Catholic University of Angola to shed more light on the current state and the possible path over the next couple of years for the Angolan economy.
Trudi Hartzenberg of the Trade Law Centre in South Africa will also provide an overview of the current state of regional and continental economic integration.
Finance minister Calle Schlettwein, will deliver the keynote address.
Furthermore, Ndiita Nghipondoka-Robiati from the Namibia Trade Forum will speak about the opportunities that regional integration offers for Namibia.
Those interested in attending should visit EAN's website for further information, and register at www.ean.org.na.