19 August 2014

Southern Africa: 'Unity, Dialogue and Trust Key to Integration'

The 34th Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government closed on 18 August in the resort town of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe with a call for southern Africa to continue working together in pushing forward the regional integration agenda.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said the region has a lot to gain from working together, especially if all member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) implement the agreed regional projects, programmes and activities.

"As the curtain comes down on our Summit, I note with appreciation our renewed collective commitment to expend even more efforts to fulfil the ideals of SADC for the benefit of our individual countries and the region at large," said Mugabe, who is the incoming SADC chair.

"The decisions that we have taken will only be meaningful to the people if we implement them. We, therefore, need to improve our scorecard on that front."

Mugabe said that, as the incoming SADC chair, "I pledge to represent the interest of our region at various fora so that the SADC voice, programmes and projects are ever present."

He, however, said that this task cannot be accomplished without the full support of other member states.

Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba concurred, saying that SADC has come a long way and the region should continue to uphold the ideals of the founding fathers for the benefit of future generations.

"We have demonstrated that through unity of purpose and concerted action, we can overcome challenges that may stand our way," Pohamba said in his farewell speech delivered at the 34th SADC Summit.

He said the return to constitutional normalcy in Madagascar, and general stable socio-economic situation in the region were ample examples of collective efforts by SADC countries.

He also urged the region redouble its efforts and ensure that all agreed regional projects, programmes and activities are implemented as per schedule.

"It is imperative for SADC to ensure that the noble intentions that are articulated in SADC protocols and programmes are transformed into practical outcomes for the benefit of the entire region," he said.

"If implemented on time, I have no doubt that these interventions will continue to produce desired results for the benefit of all SADC citizens."

His Mozambican counterpart, Armando Guebuza, who also bid fellow leaders farewell, said "unity, dialogue, and deepening of mutual trust" is critical for SADC in its quest to boost socio-economic growth and deepen integration.

"We must continue to address our challenges head-on and as one," he said, adding that SADC must accord the new breed of SADC leaders all the support to uphold the values and vision of the founding fathers of SADC.

The 34th SADC Summit was held on 17-18 August under the theme "SADC Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region's Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development through Beneficiation and Value Addition."

According to a communique read soon after the Summit, the leaders noted progress in the review of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) and directed the finalization of the implementation plan in order to provide guidance towards the implementation of SADC programmes.

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

The plan has undergone a review process, starting with a desk review that was undertaken by the SADC Secretariat in 2011, followed by an independent mid-term review between 2012 and 2013, and another multi-stakeholder review taskforce, as directed by the 33rd SADC Summit held in Lilongwe, Malawi last year in 2013.

There are concerns that the targets and milestones set out in the regional plan are not realistic, hence the need to come up with more achievable goals.

The summit also directed that industrialization "should take centre stage in SADC's regional integration agenda."

"To this end, summit mandated the Ministerial Task Force on Regional Economic Integration to develop a strategy and roadmap for industrialization in the region," reads part of the communique.

Industrialization is critical as it enhances production by allowing countries to diversify their economies and utilize local resources through comprehensive value-addition.

The leaders also expressed satisfaction with progress to finalize negotiations to establish Africa's largest integrated market covering 26 countries in eastern and southern Africa.

The proposed Tripartite Free Trade Area involves three regional economic communities namely the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and SADC.

According to a roadmap developed by COMESA-EAC-SADC, the Grand FTA is expected to come into force by 2016.

If this happens, intra-regional trade is expected to increase sharply and deepen regional integration through improved investment flows and enhanced competition.

On agriculture and food security, the summit noted that food nutrition and security had increased during the 2013/14 growing season. However, some countries are still experiencing food shortages.

"To this end, summit endorsed a regional food and nutrition security strategy for 2015 to 2025 to ensure improved food availability, accessibility and utilisation in a more sustainable manner."

With regard to the political situation in the region, the leaders called for international support to end the instability in eastern DRC.

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 improving.

On Lesotho, the Summit encouraged the coalition government to continue working together for the good of the country.The leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to support Madagascar on the road to recovery.

The 34th summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) closed Monday afternoon in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, with regional leaders adopting three new protocols and two declarations on promoting cooperation in environmental issues, employment and infrastructure.

SADC leaders signed the revised Protocol on the SADC Tribunal, a Protocol on Environmental Management for Sustainable Development, a Protocol on Employment and Labour, and a Declaration on Regional Infrastructure Development.

"Summit signed a Declaration on Small Islands Development States in support of sustainable aquatic and oceanic development of Small Island Development States ahead of the Third Conference of Small Island Development States to be held in Samoa in September 2014," the communique said.

The summit elected President Sereste Khama Ian Khama of Botswana as the deputy SADC chair, meaning that the 35th SADC Summit will be held in Botswana in 2015.

South African President Jacob Zuma was elected to chair the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, deputized by the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho, Thomas Thabane.

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