SADC Infrastructure Futures: Pathways to Complimentary Regional Interconnectivity
Effective regional connectivity calls for a vibrant relationship between economic and social infrastructure, on the one hand, and an underlying enabling policy framework for the financing and development of sustainable, appropriate infrastructure, on the other. In a rapidly changing, complex world where crises occur with regularity, there are weighty uncertainties that shape future markets, government and governance, and social and economic values. Anticipatory governance allows for the evaluation of potential activities that can help to shape the future in a complex environment, such as the SADC infrastructure landscape. The operationalisation of anticipatory governance can make a world of difference, allowing key stakeholders (including governments and their partners) to reflect on various early signals and barely recognisable inputs, thereby detecting and exploring unexpected complex emerging disruptors well before the pressing need to execute necessary changes. In SADC, transformative infrastructure can stimulate economic growth, delivering employment and an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Infrastructure investment has a high potential multiplier effect and a long-term impact on raising economic wellbeing. The Global Infrastructure Hub has found that the fiscal multiplier of public investment has generally been higher in the contractionary phase of the business cycle, particularly when interest rates are low. Through this current recessionary phase, the economic scene is set for greater government investment in infrastructure. The question is how to achieve transformative infrastructure outcomes in the region, now. There is a clear need to reverse the trend away from elites’ self-interest and national protectionism exacerbated by COVID-19. By focusing on greater regional interconnectedness and regional competitiveness, SADC should increase resilience and preparedness for future global shocks. Regional trading and value chains should be encouraged, and dialogue and trust – both between and among member state governments and regional business – are vital. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a unique opportunity for intra-regional and intra-African collaboration on non-tariff barrier elimination. The growth of Africa’s youthful population, the speed of urbanisation in SADC, and the resulting informal settlements in SADC centres place a crushing burden on governments if they are left to develop infrastructure on their own. SADC governments, partners and the private sector must develop joint solutions to current lacklustre economic performance. SADC governments can no longer be held solely responsible for infrastructure funding and development. This requires collaborative and innovative approaches to financing, with new models being adapted to regional conditions.