The 37th Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit ended in Tshwane on Sunday with a commitment to use the region's natural resources to drive projects that will have economic development snip-offs for the benefit of citizens.
"The summit emphasised the need to have concrete outcomes so as to leverage our natural endowments to change the structure of our economies and promote value-addition, with the focus on agro-processing, mineral beneficiation and pharmaceuticals," said President Zuma, who assumed the chair of the regional bloc.
These projects, the leaders say, must be boost the skills, enhance regional integration and create mechanisms for the involvement of the private sector.
"Member states must operationalise the outcomes by partnering with the private sector in developing industry and regional value chains," says the communique issued at the end of the summit.
The region has recently discovered natural gas, which could constitute the backbone of regional economic integration. The summit has directed the SADC secretariat to facilitate the establishment of a regional Natural Gas Committee to promote the inclusion of gas in the regional energy mix.
"There is convergence among member states on the importance of working with the private sector in this regard. Energy security is a critical input to industrial development," said President Zuma.
In order to address the constraints of financing, the summit emphasized the need for resource mobilisation, including the operationalisation of the Regional Development Fund, which will support and drive the industrialisation agenda.
"We all remain collectively engaged with working on improving the prosperity and development of our people. In this regard, the SADC Integration Agenda is important for our family of nations," said President Zuma.
The summit also concluded that the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) should find expression in the work of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA). The FTA between SADC, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and East African countries would open up a market of US $1.3 trillion in terms of the Gross Domestic Product, while also improving the movement of goods and people.
"We need to move forward with the plethora of issues on our agenda. We also welcome the solidarity displayed by our distinguished guests from United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, as well as the African Development Bank's commitment to support our programme of action," said President Zuma.
Other decisions the summit made was the direction to urgently develop a comprehensive regional strategy to deal with drug abuse and cybercrime.
The summit commend member states that have reached 50:50 gender representation in political and decision making positions and urged those who have not to strive towards reaching the targets.
President Zuma described the summit as a success.
"As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of our community, it is absolutely important to acknowledge that as a region, we have performed exceedingly well over the years. Our region is undoubtedly politically stable and peaceful. True to the key objectives of SADC, member states continue to implement critical programmes of the organisation, including the conduct of regular democratic elections," said President Zuma.
Numerous SADC Heads of State and Government, including Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane, Namibian President Hage Geingob, Botswana President Ian Khama, Zambian President Edgar Lungu, and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe were in attendance at the summit. Some of the leaders were, however, absent on Sunday, the final day of the summit.