Southern Africa Regional Development Cooperation Strategy

USAID/Southern Africa is working towards a goal of a more integrated region for an improved quality of life for Southern Africans. 

In Congressional Testimony on the U.S. Policy in sub-Saharan Africa, Assistant Secretary of State, Johnnie Carson, stated that the U.S. Government (USG) has a “fundamental interest in promoting democratic institutions and good governance, peace and stability, and sustained economic growth across sub-Saharan Africa.” While in many respects Southern Africa has made significant inroads on these issues, it is a region of contradictions. The USG heralds South Africa as a keystone of economic strength and political stability for the continent, while viewing Zimbabwe as a threat that may become a model for unchecked executive power throughout the region. South Africa also faces challenges of one-party dominance regarding current, pending legislation that could significantly decrease political space and freedom of expression. As a whole, Southern Africa provides significant economic potential to the United States through its trade facilities, but is also the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS pandemic with nine of the 10 highest HIV prevalence rates in the world. Given these complexities, countries in Southern Africa cannot take a silo approach to development challenges. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mentioned in her recent remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations, “Few, if any, of today’s challenges can be understood or solved without working through a regional context.”

USAID/Southern Africa is working towards a goal of a more integrated region for an improved quality of life for Southern Africans. As a comparative advantage of a regional mission, USAID/Southern Africa is able to provide regional analysis of and a regional approach to development challenges. Work conducted by the Regional Mission strengthens the regional enabling environment, develops the regional capacity through networks and institutions, and builds upon already successful regional programs such as the Southern Africa Trade Hub (SATH). USAID/Southern Africa will achieve these goals through partnerships with regional organizations and institutions, some of which are based in South Africa. Regional efforts will complement USAID’s bilateral work with the South African Government in delivering trilateral assistance to countries in SADC and beyond. The trilateral assistance program will continue to be managed as part of USAID’s bilateral partnership with the South African Government as they move towards the establishment of the South African Development Partnership Agency. The regional mission will also strive to work closely with the U.S. State Department and other U.S. Agencies to harmonize regional diplomacy and development goals under the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. Furthermore, the USAID/Southern Africa Regional Mission provides holistic, strategic guidance for programs that seek to integrate into the Southern Africa region, both politically and economically, across national boundaries without creating disjointed and redundant interventions. The Regional Mission serves to multiply the individual efforts of bilateral missions by leveraging complementary projects, identifying program and project gaps, and offering technical support to client missions.

Southern Africa has taken steps towards greater regional integration in areas such as economic growth, resource management, and social service provision, but has yet to solidify these gains. Throughout all of USAID/Southern Africa’s development objectives there is a concerted effort to improve regional collaboration, capacity, and economic competitiveness. The Mission’s ultimate goal is to create the conditions where its work is no longer needed. This goal can only be attained if the assistance delivered strengthens the local actors and institutions that are ultimately responsible for transforming the Southern Africa region. As such, the USG, through USAID’s regional strategy and assistance agreements, will commit to strengthening the capacity of Southern African regional organizations. The Mission views regional economic, social, and political integration as key to the lasting success of development efforts in the region, including the work of USAID’s bilateral missions. Being able to move goods across borders, peacefully settle disputes regarding cross-boundary resources, and share best practices from one country to the next will create an environment for sustainable growth.

Reducing poverty is a key objective of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), but it is unlikely that any SADC country will achieve all eight of the Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 target date. Significant threats to the quality of life of Southern Africans exist in all countries in the region, whether they relate to the lack of respect for rule of law and basic human rights, policies that hinder growth, or lack of access to adequate health care. All of these challenges can be addressed through a regional approach that complements bilateral efforts. Many of the foreign assistance programs presented in this strategy will capitalize on the Mission’s strategic partnership with the Government of South Africa as a regional success and donor nation in its own right. South African private and civil society sectors will also be key partners in achieving the objective of this strategy.

Central to the Mission’s goal is the importance of regional integration, which benefits several countries through synergies of regional approaches and effectively addresses development challenges that are truly regional in nature. The Mission’s development objectives reflect this regional integration through a cross-cutting program that address food security and climate change; the role of migrant populations, regional networks, and health systems in the fight against HIV/AIDS; rule of law and human rights issues that are regional in nature or too politically sensitive to handle on a bilateral level; and quality administrative and support services, technical assistance, and human capacity development that supports USAID operations and greater non-governmental organization capacity across the region. These development objectives were created through ongoing collaboration with regional US Embassies and USAID missions and in consultation with international donors working in the region. Moreover, the implementation of the strategy is consistent with the standards of USAID Forward, ensuring that USAID/Southern Africa focuses on strengthening regional organizations and local organizations throughout the region, including those in South Africa, and enhancing their capacity as implementing partners.

The four Development Objectives (DOs) presented in this strategy are:

  • DO1: Increased sustainable economic growth in targeted areas
  • DO2: Reduced impact of HIV/AIDS on the region
  • DO3: Improved rule of law and respect for human rights
  • Special Objective 4: Effectively support USAID Missions and programs

USAID/Southern Africa aims to promote sustainable economic growth in targeted areas by increasing agricultural productivity and trade, ensuring sound natural resources management, and addressing the impacts of climate change in multiple technical areas. The first DO addresses policy barriers to the movement of goods and services across borders, including those related to agriculture; facilitates regional-level research related to agriculture and climate change; promotes an enabling environment for clean energy and transboundary natural resource management; and supports evidence-based decision making across sectors for improved development outcomes. This DO is based on the established premise that the efficient and cooperative flow of goods and services that capitalizes on regional comparative advantages, while taking into account the long-term sustainability of resources needed for growth, will advance overall quality of living through increased prosperity.

Given that in fiscal year 2010 alone the USG spent over $2 billion in the region to prevent and mitigate the spread of HIV/AIDS, undoubtedly improving the quality of life of millions of Southern Africans, there is a need for overarching support to the bilateral missions and a regional perspective on the cross-border challenges to the spread of HIV/AIDS. Under DO2, USAID/Southern Africa will strengthen regional organizations in key sectors such as human capacity development and provide services to migrant populations on a pilot basis. Knowledge management of lessons learned and best practices from the significant investments already made are another crucial aspect of USAID’s regional approach. USAID/Southern Africa will also give institutional support to the SADC HIV/AIDS Unit, to assist the organization in managing their recent Global Fund award for service provision to migrant populations. Providing prevention, care, and treatment services to the three Southern Africa non-presence countries (Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland) is incorporated into this DO.

The third DO will increase respect for rule of law and human rights (ROL/HR) by supporting regional institutions to conduct advocacy, strategic litigation and judicial and legal training throughout the region. Through consultations with bilateral missions in Southern Africa, several countries expressed difficulty in working on internal ROL/HR issues due to bilateral political constraints. An opportunity presents itself through the presence of several very strong regional ROL/HR civil society organizations, such as the Southern Africa Litigation Center (SALC) and the Africa Chapter of the International Commission of Jurists, that address regional ROL/HR challenges through judicial forums, strategic litigation that sets influential legal precedent, and support for progressive ROL/HR actors. SADC member states are at a crossroads in terms of adherence to rule of law and respect for human rights. Under the Strategic Organ on Politics, Defense and Security Cooperation, SADC member states agreed to “defend and safeguard the freedom of our peoples and their civilization, as well as their individual liberties and the rule of law.” The establishment of the SADC Tribunal under Article 14 of the SADC Treaty sought to uphold this provision and act as an ROL-safeguarding mechanism against rogue states. In 2008, the Tribunal ruled that the government of Zimbabwe violated the SADC Treaty by amending its constitution to allow for land seizure without compensation and making it a criminal act for citizens to contest this practice in court. The subsequent relentless campaign by the government of Zimbabwe to encourage other governments to support the suspension and disbandment of the SADC Tribunal was realized in May, 2011 by SADC Heads of State. Through this decision, SADC Heads of State have communicated an alarming lack of political will to recognize basic ROL/HR tenets as expressed in the SADC Treaty or to support the Tribunal as a judicial safeguarding mechanism. A regional ROL/HR program is timely to protect and strengthen existing rule of law mechanisms in the region and support human rights actors seeking to improve the quality of life of Southern Africans. As well, USAID/Southern Africa will seek input from U.S. embassies located in Southern Africa as prescribed by the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review in an effort to link the Mission’s justice-sector assistance to diplomacy.

As an objective unique to a regional mission, the Special Objective (SpO) 4 covers the assistance that USAID/Southern Africa provides to USAID missions and programs, ranging from management oversight of non-presence programs; legal, executive office, financial management, and contractual support; and a variety of technical assistance in program design, implementation, and evaluation. USAID/Southern Africa is able to provide economies of scale in providing technical and support assistance to other missions and programs in the region. Many of the bilateral missions in Southern Africa rely on USAID/Southern Africa for essential support to design, procure, and implement programs. Without the Southern Africa support hub and the technical and support resources it provides to the region, USAID would not be as efficient or effective in improving the lives of Southern Africans and supporting the goals of each bilateral mission.

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