Declining food production and slow growth in intra-Africa trade levels were flagged as areas of concern at the 39th Southern African Development Community (SADC) Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government.
Held at the Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the two-day summit noted the overall decline in food production in the region for the 2018/19 crop season.
The meeting, which was also attended by President Cyril Ramaphosa, urged member States to implement comprehensive multi-year response plans to tackle the recurrent droughts and food insecurity to boost agricultural production.
The summit noted progress in the implementation of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy while also approving the Protocol on Industry, which aims to promote the development of a diversified, innovative and globally competitive industrial base.
"The summit noted with great concern the slow growth in the intra-SADC trade levels, and that the region continues to export unprocessed raw material to the rest of the world, thereby forfeiting the potential benefits of the resource endowments," a communique issued at the end of the statement read.
To this effect, the summit agreed to accelerate the implementation of the industrialisation strategy.
Kiswahili and approvals
A decision taken at the summit was to approve Kiswahili as the fourth SADC Official Working Language. This is in recognition of its contribution and Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere's role during the liberation struggle.
The current official languages are English, Portuguese and French.
Meanwhile, the summit also approved the Protocol on Inter-State Transfer of Sentenced Offenders, whose objective is to allow for the transfer of sentenced offenders to serve their sentences in their home countries.
Developments on the continent
On developments in individual countries, the summit also noted that Burundi met some of the eligibility criteria for admission of new members into SADC.
The East African country will submit a progress report based on which a verification mission will be undertaken.
The summit noted the adverse impact of sanctions on Zimbabwe's economy and the region at large.
"[The summit] expressed solidarity with Zimbabwe, and called for the immediate lifting of sanctions to facilitate socio-economic recovery in the country," the summit said.
The summit declared 25 October as the date on which SADC member States can collectively voice their disapproval of the sanctions through various activities and platforms until the sanctions are lifted.
The summit called for the unconditional implementation of all UN resolutions and AU decisions on Western Sahara, which will lead to a positive, peaceful and permanent solution that meets the aspirations of the people of Western Sahara.
The summit expressed solidarity with Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic/Western Sahara (SADR) by urging African Union Member States and other partners to ensure that the SADR is not excluded from participating in continental and international events.