8 August 2014

Southern Africa: Packed Agenda for SADC Summit

Photo: UN Photo/Sylvain Liechti
A peacekeeper with the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (file photo).

The 34th SADC Heads of State and Government Summit to be held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe on 17-18 August will deliberate on a wide range of issues including the political and socio-economic situation in the region.

SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax told the incoming SADC chair and host President Robert Mugabe during her briefing on the preparation of the summit that the meeting will discuss a report on the Review of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP).

The RISDP is a 15-year strategic plan approved by SADC leaders in 2003 as a blueprint for regional integration and development

The plan was under review as part of efforts to realign the region's development agenda in line with new realities and emerging global dynamics.

The first review was a desk assessment by the SADC Secretariat in 2010, followed by an independent mid-term review in 2013, and another assessment done by a multi-stakeholder task force as directed by the 2013 SADC Summit held in Lilongwe, Malawi.

The review process is now complete, and the revised blueprint is expected to be presented to regional leaders for approval. Once adopted, the plan is set to provide the impetus for deeper integration among SADC Member States.

Another key issue for discussion is how southern Africa can come up with viable strategies that ensures that the region fully benefits from its vast natural resources.

This is in realization of the fact that SADC continues to be among the poorest in the world despite the abundant natural resources since the majority of SADC countries do not have beneficiation and value addition policies, hence the bulk of the value-addition takes place elsewhere and benefiting others.

“Bearing in mind that the theme for this year is ‘SADC Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region's Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development through Beneficiation and Value Addition', efforts will be made to prioritise beneficiation and value addition in SADC's economic strategies and programmes during the tenure of Zimbabwe as chair of SADC and thereafter,” Dr Tax said after meeting with President Mugabe on 6 August.

Southern Africa is home to a variety of natural resources including minerals such as diamonds, gold and platinum. Roughly half of the world's vanadium, platinum, and diamonds originate in the region, along with an estimated 36 percent of gold and 20 percent of cobalt.

SADC leaders are also expected to review the global economic situation and general performance of the SADC economy.

As such, the summit is set to adopt measures of improving agriculture - a major economic sector in most SADC countries.

Since the 34th SADC Summit is held in the year declared by the African Union as the “Year of Agriculture and Food Security,” leaders are expected to encourage member states to speed up the implementation of Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).

CAADP is a continent-wide programme formulated in 2003 by the AU to encourage countries to reach a higher path of economic growth through agriculture-led development.

Under this programme, African governments made a commitment to allocate at least 10 percent of their national budgets to the agricultural sector each year.

Ultimately, this ambitious and broad vision for agricultural reform in Africa aspires for an average annual growth rate of six percent in agriculture.

Most SADC countries have already signed the CAADP agreement and are making vigorous efforts to meet the targets.

With regard to the political situation, the leaders are expected to receive a report from the outgoing chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba.

The report will discuss the situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as an update on the situation in Lesotho.

Eastern DRC slid into political turmoil in 2012 when anti-government rebels invaded and captured the city of Goma, causing displacement of people and loss of lives and property. However, the situation is closely being monitored by SADC.

The Coalition Government in Lesotho led by Prime Minister Motsoahae Thabane is experiencing some challenges. However, at their recent meeting with President Pohamba, the leaders of the Coalition Government pledged to working together in addressing their challenges.

SADC leaders are expected to also receive a report on the SADC Tribunal. The SADC Tribunal was disbanded in 2010, following an order by the SADC summit for an independent review of its functions and terms of reference.

At the summit, Dr Tax will deliver her maiden speech since this is the first summit in her capacity as the SADC Executive Secretary.

Dr Tax was appointed the new SADC boss by the SADC leaders at their annual summit last year in Malawi to replace Dr Tomaz Augusto Salomão.

The 34th SADC Summit will also witness the historical launch and presentation of the publication on the Hashim Mbita Research on the Southern African National Liberation Struggle, and the launch of the Statistical Yearbook.

Prior to the SADC Heads of State and Government Summit, there will be a meetings of senior officials, followed by the Council of Ministers.

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