With only a few days left before the start of the 37th Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in Tshwane, preparations are at an advanced stage for the all-important regional gathering.
There was a heavy police presence outside the Department of International Relations and Cooperation's OR Tambo Building on Thursday with police sniffer dogs patrolling the area where delegates will gather for the next 10 days.
Throngs of delegates were already seen entering and leaving the venue of the summit where the Standing Committee of Senior Officials began meeting. But a programme circulated to the media indicates that key meetings are scheduled for next week and these will be kick-started by a gathering of SADC's council of ministers on 15 August.
Heads of State from the 15-member countries will start arriving from Thursday 17 August. On Friday, 18 August, there will be a meeting of the Heads of State from three countries made up of the previous chairperson, current chair and the incoming chair. Heads of State are scheduled to meet for their session on 19 August.
The Government Communication and Information System expects about 150 journalists from across the region who have applied to cover the summit. Arrangements have been made with OR Tambo Airport as well as Waterkloof authorities for journalists to cover the arrival of Heads of State next week.
South Africa, which is taking over the chair of SADC from Swaziland, will over the next year be responsible for several programmes of the regional body which is celebrating 25 years of existence.
The summit will be held under the theme: "Partnering with the Private Sector in Developing Industry and Regional Value Chains".
According to a SADC statement, the body's 2017 Industrialisation Week emphasised the need for the region to place value chains top on its agenda. At least six value chain clusters have been identified in the fields of Agro-processing, Mineral beneficiation and related mining operations, pharmaceuticals, other consumer goods, capital goods and services. These are also key value chain areas that South Africa, through the Department of Trade and Industry, has been placing emphasis on over the last few years.
The SADC Summit in South Africa will, among other things, be expected to review progress made in the attainment of regional objectives and build on successes since the last SADC Summit in Swaziland.
Although the topic on advancing regional value chains is expected to dominate talks, the state of peace and security in the region will also be discussed as will a report on regional economic integration and industrialisation.
Regional economic integration and industrialisation are topics that feature in every SADC summit but critics say implementation has always been very slow.
According to a paper written by Kizito Sikuka, a researcher with the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre, policy implementation is a challenge confronting many countries in southern Africa. Sikuka argues that one of the factors impacting on the effective implementation of regional projects and programme is lack of communication.
"For example, if a particular policy or programme is not well understood by stakeholders, there is likely to be some obstacles in the policy implementation. In this regard, communication is an essential ingredient for effective implementation of regional policies," writes Sikuka.
President Jacob Zuma is expected to emphasise, when he opens the summit, that SADC remains integral to South Africa's foreign policy and the country's commitment towards regional integration.
Investments in youth education, entrepreneurship, training and economic opportunities are also seen to be essential for the region and the continent.
Government has said the National Development Plan, Nine Point Plan and the Industrial Policy Action Plan form part of commitments to change the social and economic landscape of South Africa and the region.