The curtain comes down on yet another eventful year for southern Africa in which the region scored some major successes in terms of its regional integration agenda and consolidation of elusive political stability.
It was a year in which the Southern African Development Community (SADC) embarked on the process of recalibrating its integration targets as part of efforts to realign the region's development agenda with emerging global dynamics.
This included the review of its 15-year development blueprint - the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) - to ensure that the targets are realistic and more manageable.
An independent review process of the RISDP was completed during the year, with the final draft report of the consultants tabled at the 33rd Ordinary Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government held in Lilongwe, Malawi in August.
The review process is ongoing and is expected to be completed in 2014.
According to the independent mid-term review done by Trade and Development Studies (Trades) Centre of Zimbabwe, there is need for a revision of most SADC targets and protocols to align them with the new challenges and emerging issues affecting regional integration.
SADC Member States have signed 27 protocols and a number of declarations, charters and memoranda of understanding on various matters, ranging from trade, mining and finance and investment to illicit drugs, forestry and shared watercourses.
Most of the 27 protocols have been ratified and entered into force. It was noted that this process does not have a roadmap to enable a systematic approach to implementation of protocols at both regional and national levels.
Most of the protocols do not have obligations but principles, making it difficult to enforce the instruments. In cases where obligations are clear, they are not measurable, unrealistic and unattainable and do not have time frames.
Another area of the regional integration agenda that requires attention is the implementation mechanisms and coordination, notably the non-functional SADC National Committees and the absence of a platform for policy engagement between the SADC Secretariat and non-state actors such as regional think tanks, the private sector and non-governmental organisations.
The findings of the RISDP mid-term review were presented during a validation workshop held in Johannesburg, South Africa in July where a roadmap was agreed for the process of completing the review process.
The roadmap is expected to lead to the final submission of a revised blueprint to the 34th SADC Summit scheduled for Zimbabwe in August 2014.
A multi-stakeholder task force, including representatives of the SADC Secretariat, Member States and non-state actors, was formed to implement recommendations of the independent review team.
Malawian President Joyce Banda assumed the rotating SADC chair from President Armando Guebuza of Mozambique during the Summit in Lilongwe.
She set poverty alleviation as the top priority of her tenure, promising to champion policies and programmes to improve the agricultural and rural sectors.
Promising to bring SADC "closer to the people," Banda said she would target ending "the contemporary, deliberate and savage violence of poverty and underdevelopment" during the coming year.
"To win this war …we must promote inclusive politics. In this, we cannot afford to leave the youth behind. We cannot afford to leave women behind. We cannot afford to leave the poor to look after the poor," Banda said in her acceptance speech.
She promised to push for innovative agricultural policies and programmes such as effective extension services and affordable inputs which have the capacity to promote rural development and boost food security.
The theme for her tenure is "Agricultural Development and Agro-Industries: Key to Economic Growth and Poverty Eradication."
Another major milestone achieved during the year was the completion of the leadership transition at the SADC Secretariat in Botswana, with a new team now in place to steer the regional integration agenda.
The new SADC Secretariat leadership is headed by Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena L. Tax from the United Republic of Tanzania who will be deputized by Dr Thembinkosi Mhlongo of South Africa and Emilie Ayaza Mushobekwa of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Dr Tax was appointed and sworn-in as executive secretary during Summit in Malawi, replacing Dr Tomaz Augusto Salomão of Mozambique who had served his maximum two four-year terms.
Prior to her appointment as SADC executive secretary, she was permanent secretary in the Tanzanian Ministry of East African Cooperation since 2008.
She has vast experience in trade negotiations; private sector development; policy analysis, formulation, implementation and reviews; and programme design, management, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
Dr Mhlongo was appointed new deputy executive secretary responsible for regional integration during an Extra Ordinary Meeting of the SADC Council of Ministers held in late October in Lilongwe.
He replaced Angolan engineer João Caholo whose term ended in October after serving the SADC Secretariat for the maximum eight years set for those in top leadership positions.
Another major event during the year was the SADC Regional Infrastructure Investment Conference held in Mozambique in June.
Southern Africa presented its multi-billion-dollar infrastructure development plan to potential funders.
At least 106 cross-border infrastructure projects covering the priority sectors of energy, transport, tourism, water, information communication technology and meteorology were presented to the investment summit.
These projects are contained in the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan - a 15-year blueprint that will guide the implementation of cross-border infrastructure projects between 2013 and 2027.
With regard to the political situation in the region, southern Africa witnessed positive developments in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Madagascar and Zimbabwe.
These included the signing of a peace agreement by the DRC government and rebels who have waged an insurgency in the east of the country since 2012.
DRC slid into political turmoil early last year when anti-government rebels calling themselves the March 23 movement invaded and captured the city of Goma, causing displacement of people and loss of lives and property.
The year 2013 witnessed the successful conclusion of SADC-mediated political negotiations in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabweans voted for a new Constitution in a referendum held in March, a landmark development that shaped the destiny of the country.
The adoption of the new Constitution paved the way for the holding of harmonized elections in Zimbabwe, later held in July, and were endorsed as peaceful and credible by a 573-member SADC observer mission.
Following years of SADC mediation, Madagascar held the first round of presidential elections in October that did not produce an outright winner and resulted in a run-off on 20 December.
Former Health Minister Jean-Louis Robinson and ex-Finance Minister Hery Rajaonarimampianina led first round presidential polls with 21 and 16 percent of the vote, respectively, but failed to win sufficient votes for an outright majority.
The Madagascar Constitution requires that a presidential candidate must amass 50 percent-plus-one of total votes cast in a national election to be declared as president.
Robinson and Rajaonarimampianina faced each other in the run-off that will be held along with parliamentary elections.
The winner will replace Andry Rajoelina, a former disc jockey who ousted former president, Marc Ravalomanana in a military-backed coup in 2009.
The year 2013 also witnessed the coming into force of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development following ratification by the requisite two-thirds majority of the Member States.
The objectives of the Protocol are to provide for the empowerment of women, eliminate discrimination, and achieve gender equality and equity through gender-responsive legislation, policies, programmes and projects.
The targets include, among others, the achievement of 50 percent representation by women and men in politics and decision-making by 2015, in line with the decision of the African Union.
With the busy year now behind it, SADC can now look to yet another potentially dramatic year 2014, the last year of stock taking on social and economic gains before the UN-initiated Millennium Development Goals deadline in 2015.