Mixed progress in RISDP implementation

Moses Magadza

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – THERE has been varying progress in implementing the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) during the 2020-2022 period with more scope to be done, according to a consultant.

Dr Manasa Dzirikure made this observation when he made an assessment at the start of a regional hybrid dialogue on the implementation of the SADC RISDP 2020-2030 which began here on 13 September, 2022.

His assessment focused on five result areas in terms of quantifiable execution of activities planned in the health and agricultural sectors, and the cross-cutting issues of climate change and actions supportive of women and youth.

He said progress was exemplified by an 85% implementation of planned regional activities by the SADC Secretariat during 2020/2021, against a low budget utilisation rate of 58%.

The consultant noted that unexpected savings had emanated from the adoption of a hybrid implementation of meetings and monitoring – an innovation that rose from adaptation to COVID-19-related work and travel restrictions.

Dzirikure noted that Non-State Actors (NSAs) have a role in informing, monitoring and facilitating the implementation of the RISDP 2020-2030, as part of their mandate enshrined under the SADC Treaty, and in accordance with the SADC Council of Ministers’ approval of the regional NSA engagement mechanism, in August 2022.

“Recognising this, the Partnership for Social Accountability (PSA) Alliance commissioned this rapid review and analysis on the implementation of the RISDP 2020-2030,” he said.

He said the review informs a regional dialogue co-ordinated by regional NSAs on the importance of socially accountable public resources management in SADC’s development with a special focus on health and agricultural sectors, as well as the cross-cutting issues of climate change and actions supportive of women and youth.

The review, covered the period April 2020-March 2022, and was done between 1-9 September 2022. It focused on regional indicators – as the national plans had only just been developed by countries and their costings approved by Council in August 2022.

Dzirikure said implementation in the agricultural sector covered much of 33 key performance indicators (KPIs) for 12 outputs under two outcomes namely enhanced agricultural productive sector and improved and widened market access for agricultural products.

He noted that the SADC Secretariat had implemented the Regional Agricultural Policy (RAP) for improved production, productivity and competitiveness; improved regional and international trade and access to markets of agricultural products; and improved private and public sector engagement and investment in the agricultural value-chains, among others.

The review shows that in health and nutrition, progress was also achieved for nine KPIs planned for 2020-2022 out of the 17 KPIs for 15 outputs for 2020-2030 under two key outcomes.

Contributions towards “improved accessible and responsive health system” were strengthening health systems in member states during and post COVID-19 periods, including strict controls on movement, as well as complete country or regional lockdowns, with profound effects on health systems across the region.

They included securing funding from the African Development Bank for equipment support, developing and implementing guidelines for movement of goods and services, strengthening surveillance and testing and clearance systems.

Dzirikure noted that climate change was highlighted across sectors, with four out of a total of 10 KPIs prioritised for 2020-2022 for four outputs under the two main outcomes.

“The major achievements towards the outcome ‘Enhanced sector-based approaches towards developing climate change resilience’ were realised through the Programme for Integrated Development and Adaptation to Climate Change in the Zambezi Watercourse covering Angola, Botswana, Malawi Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

“Five research studies were completed to generate knowledge on groundwater management challenges in member states,” said the consultant.

Looking at women, gender and development, Dzirikure said an ambitious 32 KPIs were planned and implemented during 2020-2022 out of 36 KPIs for 15 outputs under three outcomes. This achievement was made possible with the support of NSA partners and Member States to implement the SADC Gender programme.

“Efforts towards outcome ‘Enhancing women’s participation and representation in political, economic and public life for the attainment of gender parity’ included development of the SADC Guidelines on Developing and Implementing National Gender Action Plans to help implementation of the SADC Gender Protocol,” he explained.

He added: “Two million euros were secured from GIZ to support implementation of the SADC Regional Multi-Dimensional Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme (RMD-WEEP) which sought to increase women-owned businesses, and female entrepreneurs’ participation in value addition.”

Two Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) were planned for 2020-2022 out of seven KPIs for seven outputs for youth and empowerment under the outcome related to skilled youth participating in and driving socioeconomic development for 2020-2030.

The review also noted areas of progress and challenges in the implementation of priorities relating to the strategic management of the RISDP in the strategic areas of “Enhanced institutional effectiveness and efficiency”.

He stated: “Areas of progress included the (approval of the) transformation of SADC Parliamentary Forum towards a SADC Parliament; successful implementation of SADC Trust Funds such as on HIV; the Council approval of NSAs Engagement Mechanism; improved SADC Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting (SPMER); as well as increased use of virtual communication platforms.”

Dzirikure said although significant progress had been achieved, many challenges were hampering effective implementation of the RISDP. These include weak coordination and implementation of SADC programmes at national level; dependence on International Cooperating Partners (ICP) funding for programmes; rigid and prolonged procurement processes; poor communication and visibility of SADC programmes; and weak involvement of NSAs.

Drawing on lessons, recommendations were made including strengthening resource mobilization for sustainability; drawing from local best practices; aligning the SADC Disaster Risk Management Strategy and Action Plan to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030; and making the regular review and capacitation of SADC National Committees for effective coordination permanent items on the agendas of SADC Council and Summit.

The RISDP is a 10-year strategic plan that guides SADC’s regional integration agenda and encompasses national, regional and global arrangements that provide a mechanism for achieving the SADC Vision 2050, as adopted by Summit in August 2020.

The role of Non-State Actors (NSAs) and citizens of SADC in the planning, implementation, monitoring and reporting of SADC policies and programmes is enshrined in the Treaty of SADC.

The consultant highlighted the challenges, lessons learnt and opportunities realized.

He noted that COVID-19 had affected programme operations but ushered unanticipated positive benefits of pushing the boundaries of innovation in the delivery of the RISDP Implementation Plan 2020-2030.

“The continued existence of the COVID-19 pandemic together with Natural Disasters and Climate Change remain major risks to the attainment of regional integration. On the positive side, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed innovation in implementing programmes and delivering services amid disruptions such as simplifying protocols for managing children with acute malnutrition (wasting) during COVID-19 induced restrictions,” he observed.

Dzirikure noted that planning within the COVID-19 environment had demonstrated that flexibility was essential in preparing the SADC Annual Corporate Plan (ACP), virtual and physical modes of implementation, which do not only ensure business continuity but are also budget-saving.

“However, the participation of member states in regional programmes is dependent on internet connectivity,” he noted.

He bemoaned limited financial resources for programmes for the regional integration agenda and member states’ low capacity to implement priority regional interventions and to report on progress, with programming geared towards areas that receive donor/International Co-operating Partners (ICPs) funding.

“This situation results in member states and Secretariat directing efforts to areas of donors’ priorities, at the expense of other programmes of regional importance because of inadequate resource allocation by governments”.

“On the other hand, the migration to virtual operations necessitated by COVID-19 presented an opportunity to reduce programme budgets as well as reallocate savings to priority interventions where there is no funding,” he noted.

Among the various recommendations, SADC secretariat and member states were advised to document local financing and project sustainability best practices while reducing dependence on ICP funding.

By Observer