Dar es Salaam — The new Chairperson of Southern African Development Community (SADC), John Pombe Magufuli has singled out poor information sharing among member states as a factor crippling intra-trade and economic performance in the region.
"There are many reasons why our economies are not performing as expected, one of them being lack of information on the opportunities available in our respective countries," said Magufuli, the President of Tanzania.
He told the SADC summit Saturday in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania that in May, this year (2019), he had an opportunity to visit four SADC countries, three of them were affected by food shortage due to drought and other natural disasters.
"It surprised me to hear that those countries were planning to import food from outside Africa while in Tanzania we were struggling to find markets for 2.5 million tonnes of our food surplus," said Magufuli when he delivered his acceptance speech as the new SADC chairperson.
"Due to lack of information, our countries are also importing cars, sugar, and fuel very far away from our region while some SADC member states like South Africa, Mauritius and Angola, for instance, are producing the same," he told the SADC Heads of state and delegates.
The Tanzania President observed that high exportation and importation costs also contribute to the poor economic performance of the SADC region.
"Studies have shown that the costs relating to customs in our region are three times higher than in Asia and five times higher than in OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries.
"These costs, compounded by the transportation cost, make the situation even worse. I am reliably informed, for instance, that it costs less overall to import animal feed and refined sugar from South America to our countries than to import the same from within our region," he said.
In his analysis, the difference in trade and investment policies, laws, regulations and standards, has a fair share in hindering businesses and economic cooperation between and among SADC member states.
"Why can't we harmonize our policies, laws, regulations and our quality standards and be able to increase the volume and value of our intra and extra regional trade?" wondered Magufuli.
"Unless we do that, it will remain a day dream for our region to fully realize its economic objectives," he added.
Dr. Magufuli further noted that there is also one more challenge that hinders SADC efforts towards economic emancipation:"History has taught us that no country or region in the world has ever developed without undergoing the process of industrialization.All developed nations are the industrialized countries."
He said it would take ages to advance socio-economic development and transformation in Southern African region if there are no concerted efforts.
In 2017, the SADC region which has 16 member states, a population of 327 million people residing in an area of 9,882,959 square kilometers and which is blessed with abundant and diverse natural resources only exported goods worth US$ 143 billion.
Contrary to the SADC situation, Mexico and Vietnam have 1,943,955 square kilometers and 331,210 square kilometers respectively and population sizes of 132.5 million and 97.5 million respectively. However, they export goods worth US$ 403 billion and US$ 214 billion respectively.
"Last year (2018), our region set a target of GDP growth of 7.0 per cent, but it grew by only 3.1 per cent. This was below the continent's average growth of 3.5 per cent," the new SADC chairperson explained.
With their Excellencies' support and cooperation during his tenure, Magufuli said he would like to live to the expectations of the people of the region to contribute to the transformation of its economic status.
"Tanzania is fully committed to the SADC; its vision, goals, principles and ideals. Indeed, we always consider SADC as an integral part of our future.
This is why we have continued to be an active member of SADC and effectively participate in the implementation of its various initiatives and programmes," Magufuli said.
He commened the outgoing SADC chairperson, Hage Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia for his dedication and commitment on infrastructure development, youth empowerment and his efforts in reducing the effects of Cyclone Idai and Kenneth in the affected SADC Member States.
"Indeed, as his deputy, I must admit that, I benefited from his huge experiences, which I believe will help me in the new role I have just assumed," said the Tanzanian leader.
He also applauded President Edgar Chagwa Lungu of Zambia, the outgoing Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defense and Security Cooperation for his tireless efforts to promote peace, stability and democracy in the SADC region.
"During his tenure, six Member States held their elections peacefully: Comoro, DRC, Eswatini, Madagascar, Malawi and South Africa."
In his remarks, before handing over the SADC budge to Dr, Magufuli, the outgoing chair expressed gratitude to heads of state and government and SADC secretariat for the support accorded to him as Chairperson of SADC, the position he assumed in Windhoek, Namibia, in August 2018.
He said, although the year was marked by challenges resulting from global uncertainties of the commodity markets, trade tensions, food insecurity and natural calamities, the region recorded some significant achievements towards the attainment of regional commitments.
Malawi is represented at this year's SADC Summit by Vice-President Right Honourable Everton Chimulirenji.