Southern Africa: President of Seychelles Tells SADC Summit That Cooperation Drives Progress

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, left, and Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, wearing scarf, on the sidelines of the 41st Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government in Lilongwe, Malawi, August 17, 2021.

The values and principles of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are guiding its members in the creation of a region in which cooperation, rather than conflict, drives progress, said President Wavel Ramkalawan of Seychelles in an address to the bloc's annual summit on Tuesday.

Ramkalawan made the statement via video teleconference on the occasion of the 41st Summit of SADC Heads of States and Government. It was his first address to the summit as the President of Seychelles, an island nation in the western Indian Ocean.

The SADC 41st Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government is taking place in Lilongwe, Malawi from 17-18 August with a limited number in attendence so as to observe COVID-19 protocols.

Ramkalawan thanked the leaders who participated in the recent Extraordinary SADC Summit of Heads of State in Maputo, Mozambique and said that this affirms the region's commitment to tackling terrorism head-on and ensuring lasting peace.

He said that countries must remain vigilant and focus on identifying opportunities, practical solutions and more importantly be action-oriented.

"Maritime security may seem to be a somewhat distant concept to some of us on the mainland. But let me reassure you all that the protection of our waters must be a concern to us all. The western Indian Ocean maritime route accounts for 12 percent of the global world trade and the protection of this important route means protecting our very livelihood," said Ramkalawan.

In the endeavour to transform the SADC Parliamentary Forum into the SADC Parliament, Ramkalawan said this is an important development to elevate the level of engagement and enhance the political and democratic discourse, within our region.

"The establishment of the SADC Parliament will transcend political cooperation and will also play a pivotal role in amplifying the voice and the will of the people in our region. I have been a staunch advocate of this transformation. Seychelles has already given its commitment and I urge all of us to make this happen here in Malawi at this session," he said.

Ramkalawan said that the region must stand strong and unified to address the current challenges it is facing and that having access to vaccines is a basic human right, and that as long as Africa remains deprived of this vital resource, battling the COVID 19 pandemic will be futile.

"For this reason, I join in the call to countries having a surplus of vaccines to share them with others that are having difficulty accessing the supply of these vaccines. Hoarding of vaccines serves no purpose, but only the narrow, selfish and misguided interests," said the Seychelles' president.

Ramkalawan said that the World Bank has estimated that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement will boost regional income by 7 percent or to the value of $450 billion.

"In this regard, I am pleased to announce to this Summit that Seychelles is the latest SADC member to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. Being an import-dependent country, the agreement will be a positive tool to help us achieve our objectives, tackle inflation and lower the cost of living for our people," he added.

The Seychelles' president spoke of the survival of Small Island Developing States which are intertwined with the ocean and that Seychelles has always attached immense importance to the ocean.

"Our people have a direct dependence on the ocean resources for their identity, sustenance and livelihood. Our traditional economic pillars, tourism and fisheries, depend on the ocean. With our tourism sector brought to its knees in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are forced to give greater attention to the ocean in ways which will yield greater benefits and minimise the risks to the ocean. An ocean which is already under pressure from overfishing, illegal fishing, threats to maritime safety, and the impacts of climate change," he said.

Given that most of the states have a coastline, RamkaIawan called on all members of SADC to give greater importance to the protection of their seas and oceans, as was celebrated by the African Union recently.

"We, the member States, have invested a lot of resources in SADC and we are working tirelessly towards ensuring that the multilateral system as a whole is fair, transparent and efficient. We believe that working in the interest of peace and stability means striving for a more balanced and fairer system, founded on true dialogue between all member states. We must never lose sight of these principles," he added.

During the 41st summit, the President of Malawi, Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, will take over the chairpersonship of SADC from Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, President of Mozambique, who assumed the chairpersonship on August 17 last year during the 40th Summit.

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