These are the remarks by H.E. Mr Kgalema Motlanthe, former President of the Republic of South Africa, at the recent launch of Dr Tomaz Augusto Salomao’s book held at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

These are the remarks by H.E. Mr Kgalema Motlanthe, former President of the Republic of South Africa, at the recent launch of Dr Tomaz Augusto Salomao’s book held at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Perhaps I should first confess that it has been quite tempting to find oneself not paraphrasing Dr Salomao’s riveting book instead of using it as a basis for my reflection on some of the contentious issues it is raising. For me, this thought-provoking book, aptly titled “Memoires on the SADC I Served”, is an opportune intervention which could serve as a blueprint for regional integration particularly right now as we are aggressively advancing towards the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) which is intended to integrate the continent into a single market.

The AfCFTA’s primary objectives are to create an integrated continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and thus paving the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union. The AfCFTA will cover a market of 1.2 billion people and a gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.5 trillion, across all 55 member States of the African Union.

Besides recognising that Dr Salomao is an economist, my intervention will focus to a large extent – if not solely – on the contribution he made to the regional integration of southern Africa into an organic body, Southern African Development Community (SADC), that metamorphosed from the erstwhile almost loose association of member states, the Southern African Development Coordinating Conference (SADCC).

Although Dr Salomao shares his discomfort as an economist raring to manage the economic development of the region who found himself too involved in extinguishing political fires in southern Africa – and these included the coup de tat in Madagascar and the rising political strife in Zimbabwe – I am confidently saying his track record from his ministerial posts in Mozambique until his ascension as the Executive Director of SADC details his achievements in integrating our regional economies through the development of critical economic infrastructure.

In presiding over negotiations for a political settlement to the deepening violent crisis in Zimbabwe in 2011, Dr Salomao distinguished himself as sharp negotiator who was trusted by all the warring parties. This gave legitimacy to the process and led to the subsequent signing of the Global Political Agreement been signed. The antagonistic parties signed this peace agreement as a contract to end the hitherto violent conflicts and ultimately to build and consolidate peaceful initiatives. This milestone could doubtlessly be attributed to Dr Salomao’s diplomatic feat.

Without creating an impression of cultivating the cult of personality, Dr Salomao’s contribution suggests one wouldn’t be off-the-mark to deduce that his name is synonymous with the concept of “regional integration” in SADC. Theorists argue regional integration could be described as an agreement between a number of countries in a geographic region to reduce and ultimately remove “tariff and non-tariff barriers to the free flow of goods, services, and factors of production between each other”.

According to the World Bank, the benefits accruing from regional integration are improvement in market efficiency; sharing the costs of public goods or large infrastructure projects; deciding policy collaboratively; a desire to reform; developing a building block for global integration; and last but not least, reaping other noneconomic benefits, such as peace and security.

On a lighter note, one uncontrollably chuckles at the irony that although Dr Salomao was once recognised with an award “for preserving his country’s national sovereignty”, in practice he was a fierce advocate for regional integration even though he understood that one of the disadvantages of this effort could largely result in the loss of a country’s national sovereignty in addition to a shifting of the workforce; less efficiency in trade diversion from productive exporters to less capable exporters; and possible establishment of trade barriers to non-members as frowned upon by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

In reading Dr Salomao’s treatise, one is reminded by the strategic pursuit by the African Development Bank (ADB) of the continent’s socio-economic development when it crafted four succinct strategic objectives that eloquently summed up the African Union’s strategic plan, which is dubbed “Agenda 2063”, by stating: Feed Africa; Power Africa; Industrialise Africa; and finally, Integrate Africa.

Although Dr Salomao’s book, “Memoires on the SADC I Served”, outlines his involvement in regional development in the Southern Africa, it eloquently captures the four objectives as outlined by this pan- African development finance institution. The books gives meaning to the regional integration approach adopted by the African Union as a building block towards the ultimate economic integration through the Africa Free Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) which will soon be launched [on 1 January 2021].

This is a highly decorated leader who has occupied several strategic ministerial portfolios in his home country such as the Minister of Finance and Planning and also the Minister of Transport and Communications.

Before ascending to the apex position as Executive Secretary of SADC, he had served as the Chairperson of the SADC Transport and Communications Committee from 2000 to 2002.

Dr Tomaz Salomao is the former Executive Secretary of the Southern African Democratic Community (SADC) from 2005 to 2013. During his tenure, he crafted the SADC Roadmap laying the foundation for the SADC Free Trade Area which was launched three years after his appointment.

In addressing the inadequate and underdeveloped infrastructure in this southern part of the continent, he oversaw the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan which was subsequently adopted in 2012 – and this currently serves as a strategic blueprint for infrastructure development programmes in the region.

Dr Salomao’s story is a noble one about the critical role played by infrastructure in economic development which will drive economic growth, generate employment and alleviate poverty. Some of his illustrious projects include the Maputo Corridor; Nacala Development Corridor and Beira Development Corridor.

I wouldn’t conclude my speech without congratulating the University of Witwatersrand to afford Dr Salomao an opportunity to serve as the Visiting Research Fellow at the Wits School of Governance. The role of universities in providing capacity in refining the regional mechanisms such as institutional and policy development cannot be underestimated.

The book itself highlights the dynamics and complexities of regional integration which include inadequate skills and expertise that may impact negatively on regional integration policy design.

Our universities have to acknowledge that in knowledge production, one has to appreciate the dialectical interdependence between the “inside-out“ and the “outside in“ approaches. And a studious care has to be undertaken in avoiding the common mistake of the one dimensionality approach often adopted by the institutions of higher learning in churning out theories that are not necessarily grounded on praxis. It is within this context that the University of the Witwatersrand has to be commended in having engaged Dr Salomao in the role he occupies here.

Congratulations to Dr Salomao on reaching this milestone of publishing this book. It isn’t just profiling Dr Salomao, but it also takes us down memory lane chronicling the challenges and opportunities of regional integration in southern Africa from when the precursor to SADC, the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), was launched in 1980.