Making the case for a SADC BIG

SADC logo final hi-res-SMALLDespite high levels of mineral resources that exist in most countries within SADC, SADC states are characterised by high levels of poverty and some of the highest levels of inequality globally. It is against this background that the Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII) initiated a campaign for the introduction of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) – wide universal cash transfer (Basic Income Grant – BIG) to be funded by a tax on extractive industries.

Africa accounts for 60% of the world’s Platinum; 40% Gold; and 90% diamonds. Furthermore, 32 of the 54 African countries have discovered oil reserves and yet it remains the world’s poorest continent, with 47% of the population living on less than $1.25 per day[1]. This makes the case for a SADC BIG more compelling if it is to be financed by such a tax on extractives considering that US$62 billion leaves the continent annually through illicit flows and price manipulation by multinationals[2]. Furthermore, the revenue stream created will counter the usual rhetoric that African countries cannot afford a social cash transfer scheme due to poor revenue reserves and lack of capacity.

Making the case for a SADC BIG is based on the principle of economic justice of broadening access to the proceeds of mining beyond the current narrow circle of national and international beneficiaries and shareholders of the mining companies, and aligned elites, to each and every resident of the SADC sub-region. Furthermore, the importance of a SADC BIG is accentuated by evidence from countries such as India and Brazil that has shown that social cash transfers have the ability to help alleviate the worst destitution currently faced by millions of poor people, and reducing the critical and unsustainable levels of inequality in a very short period of time. Furthermore, given the fact that extraction depletes the levels of natural resources, such a scheme would introduce an intergenerational justice between those who oversee the extraction and the development of future generations.

A universal scheme (payable to everybody in SADC, but recaptured from wealthier people through national tax systems) would ensure transparency and a greater even -handedness on the distribution of resources, reducing the risk of capture by politicians to win political support for their own gain. It would promote solidarity, and contribute to the regional integration and movement of people, and of social and economic policies as is provided for in SADC Treaties and Protocols. For such a scheme to work there is need for political will, a transparent accounting system of concessions and agreements concluded in the extractives sector. As former South Africa President Nelson Mandela noted, “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom. The steps that are needed from the developed nations are clear.”

In its on-going efforts, SPII has established a network of organisations that share a collective commitment to pursuing economic justice and the realization of human rights in the sub-region. Currently SPII co-ordinates a network of over 50 partner organisations from 12 SADC member countries covering issues around tax justice, extractive sector, social protection, cross-border migration and food security. To join this campaign, please CLICK HERE.