Victoria Falls — Southern African leaders have made renewed calls for regional economic integration and cross-border infrastructure development as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit got underway here on Sunday.
SADC Heads of State are meeting for their two-day summit in the resort town of Victoria Falls as slow economic growth and high rates of employments continue to torment in the region.
The beneficiation of minerals coming out of SADC took centre stage, in opening on Sunday, with incoming SADC chairperson and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe saying the goal for SADC to drive short and long term economic growth could be realised if only the region could beneficiate its minerals.
"Our region has abundant resources, which resources, instead of being sold in raw form, at very low prices, must instead be exploited and beneficiated in order to add value and cost to those products which we eventually export," President Mugabe said.
"This process should assist us in our efforts to industrialise and in turn, increase employment opportunities for our people."
Zimbabwe is taking over the chairpersonship of SADC for the next year. The Summit in Victoria Falls is emphasising economic growth and food production in a year that the African Union has dedicated to food security for the continent.
In his first speech as the chairperson of the regional body, President Mugabe urged the 15-member states to move away from exporting raw materials to Europe, Asia and America.
"I am confident that in our discussions, we will lay a foundation for the necessary value addition of our natural resources. Our material resources are capable of playing a pivotal role in the development of all SADC member states," President Mugabe said.
Having adopted its blueprint for infrastructure development in a summit in Maputo in August 2012, SADC's goal is to target the development of high priority infrastructure projects such as rail and marine.
Africa the next growth path
Also speaking at the summit, African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said Africa was the next growth path and a continent of endless possibility.
"Indeed we are able to navigate our social and economic challenges. We are defining our own agenda and Africa will be seen as the place to invest and do business," Dlamini Zuma said.
She also weighed in on the issue of beneficiation of the continent's minerals, saying the only time Africa can realise its potential is when it scaled down on exporting raw material.
"Exporting raw material resources means exporting the high level jobs we should be creating. Africa is endowed with oil, gas, platinum, gold diamond, you name it, but with all that endowment most of African countries are still lacking economic progression and are behind by development standards," said Dlamini Zuma.
For Africa to achieve its potential, it needed to transform its economy and the way the continent does things, added Dlamini Zuma.
The two-day summit ends on Monday. - SAnews.gov.za