Victoria Falls — Zimbabwe has pledged to ensure that the Southern African Development Community truly responds to the aspirations of the citizens of the region.
In an acceptance speech after assuming the chair of the SADC Council of Ministers, Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said success of the region's integration agenda should be measured by the impact of its programmes and activities on the citizens of southern Africa.
"It is not how many meetings we hold that will determine how effective we are. It is not how many agreement we will sign that will determine our impact on the people that we serve. Our success should be measured by the impact of our actions on the people," Mumbengegwi said.
Mumbengegwi assumed the Council chair from Malawian Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister George Chaponda.
The two-day SADC Council of Ministers meeting is expected to deliberate and finalise the agenda for the 34th SADC Heads of State and Government Summit that will be held on 17-18 August in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
The summit is expected to deliberate on a wide range of issues, including the political and socio-economic situation in the region.
The meeting will discuss a report on the review of the Regional indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP), 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 plan is expected to be presented to SADC heads of state and government for approval. Once adopted, the plan is set to provide the impetus for deeper integration among SADC member states.
"It is hoped that the RISDP review will result in a SADC with fewer targets and more focused programmes, geared towards improvement of the lives of the people of the region," Mumbengegwi said.
He noted that the region needed programmes that "we own and are sustainable".
"To this end, we should have programmes that, to a large extent, we are able to fund from our own resources. While we fully appreciate the assistance we receive from our cooperating partners, let us not forget the old adage that 'whoever pays the piper, calls the tune'."
Another key issue expected to be discussed during the summit 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 available in the region.
The majority of SADC countries do not have beneficiation and value-addition policies, hence the bulk of the resources benefit others.
The theme for the summit is "SADC Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region's Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development through Beneficiation and Value Addition".
Zimbabwe is expected to use its tenure as SADC chair to champion efforts to prioritize beneficiation and value addition in SADC's economic strategies and programmes.
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.
Council is also expected to review the general performance of the SADC economy and the global economic situation.
The ministers are expected to adopt measures to improve agriculture - a major economic sector in most SADC countries.
Since the 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.
The outgoing Council chair revealed that one of the milestones during the past year was the adoption in July in Malawi of the SADC Regional Strategy on Food Security and Nutrition Security by the joint committee of ministers responsible for agriculture and food security and for health and HIV and AIDS.
"In summary, the strategy will serve as a regional mechanism to facilitate the attainment of universal physical, social and economic access to safe, healthy and nutritious food to ensure the well-being of the people of southern Africa," Chaponda said.
The ministers are also expected to receive a report on the SADC Tribunal, which was disbanded in 2010, following an order by the SADC summit for an independent review of its functions and terms of reference.
The 34th SADC Summit will also witness the launch of the Statistical Yearbook, and the publication of research on the Southern African National Liberation Struggles, whose project Patron was Brig Gen Hashim Mbita of Tanzania, former Executive Secretary of the Liberation Committee.