SADC Readies for Customs Union

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK SADC last week received financial support to assist the regional grouping in its transition to the SADC Custom’s Union, which is set for the year 2010. The European Commission and SADC last week finalised a financing agreement worth N$144 million (18 million Euros) for the modernisation of SADC’s customs and also for the region to facilitate trade. The United States Aid for International Development (USAID) has also funded the region to the tune of N$39 million (US$6.5) for the improvement of the shared river basins until 2008. The two grant agreements were finalized last week at the end of the SADC consultative conference, whose aim was to seek partnership for its two blueprints, the Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ on Defence and Security Organisation (SIPO) and the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISPD). In a joint media release of the SADC/EU agreement, the two parties said the customs project would ensure closer regional integration and harmonisation of customs legislation and procedures, which includes future improved transit flows and to prepare for the smooth transition to the SADC customs union by 2010. The 2010 target will necessitate substantial transformation and modernization in national customs administration. The support will also contribute towards increased competitiveness and to the integration of SADC member states into the world economy, the statement said. “The customs programme will support SADC in putting in place a legal and institutional framework for the future SADC Customs Union. Based on a needs and gaps analysis of national customs administration and regional strategies for customs modernization, it will be developed and implemented,” the joint media release said. The programme will also assist Southern African countries to automate their customs and create a regional customs training network and a more efficient regional customs management system. The four-and-a-half year support from the European Development Fund will provide long and short-term technical assistance, capacity building, seminars, training, equipment and software. Paul Malin, Head of the European Commission Delegation to Botswana, who signed the financial agreement on behalf of the European Commission said the Customs Modernisation Programme is a concrete demonstration of the joint EU/SADC efforts to closely link trade and development as it would also assist SADC to facilitate trade within the region as well as trade with the EU. “Fore SADC to grow and to become competitive it will need to create larger markets with harmonised sets of rules. This will strengthen investor confidence and enhance opportunities to diversify SADC economies and to create much needed jobs,” Malin said, adding, “Freer and faster movement of goods across borders is an essential element in this strategy.” The USAID grant agreement, which will run until 2008 aims at promoting integrated management of shared water resources in a manner that contributes to poverty alleviation, equity, and protection of biodi-versity. The agreement provides for a framework for coordination and collaboration in the water sector, including the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission to improve the management of the Okavango River Basin and the new activities which will be identified within SADC that support the implementation of the Revised Protocol on Shared Watercourses. At the end of the two-day conference, which saw SADC and its international cooperating partners come up with the New Partnership Framework, the United Nations in Namibia said it would engage with SADC in a more coherent and unified fashion to ensure effective utilisation of resources. Simon Nhongo, UN resident coordinator, said as way forward, UN agencies would engage with SADC to establish partnership arrangements that seek to maximize the collective interventions towards areas that require collaborative efforts and optimal use of resources. Among those who attended the conference were 40 regional and international cooperating organisations, the 14 SADC member states and 23 cooperating governments.

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