Kizito Sikuka Correspondent
The 38th SADC Summit has come up with a number of initiatives aimed at deepening regional integration and sustainable development.
Some of the key decisions made by the region are contained in a communiqué released soon after the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit of Heads of State and Government, which met from August 17-18 in Windhoek, Namibia.
With regard to advancing forward the industrialisation agenda, SADC leaders endorsed the theme of “Promoting Infrastructure Development and Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development” for the coming year to encourage member states to prioritise infrastructure development and youth empowerment.
The theme builds on the focus of the past four SADC summits that sought to advance industrial development.
One of the three pillars of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap is Enhancing Infrastructure, hence the theme resonates well with the industrialisation agenda. The other two pillars are Strengthening Value Chains, and Corridor Development.
The focus on youth empowerment is aimed at ensuring that the region harnesses its human capital dividend through the youth, who make up the majority of the population in SADC.
Furthermore, as the timespan of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap progresses towards 2063, the youth of today will reap the benefits of the key elements contained in the strategy. Therefore, involving youth in the regional integration agenda makes sense.
SADC leaders called on member states to strengthen the momentum towards industrialisation and ensure that Southern Africa achieves its longstanding vision of a united, prosperous and integrated region.
“Summit noted progress made in the implementation of SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063, and urged member states to remain committed to the implementation of the SADC industrialisation agenda, as the overarching priority for the region.”
The SADC Industrialisation Strategy, adopted in April 2015, seeks to achieve major economic and technological transformation at national and regional levels to accelerate economic growth through industrial development.
A Costed Action Plan for the Strategy covering 2015-2030 was approved in March 2017. The Action Plan details the key actions, with reference to the three pillars of the strategy and the requisite activities, as well as the key enablers needed to unlock the region’s industrial potential.
On strengthening human resources and promoting youth development, the summit approved the operationalisation of the SADC University of Transformation.
The university will be “in the form of a virtual university, to focus on entrepreneurship, innovation, commercialisation, technology transfer, enterprise development, digital and knowledge economy, to support SADC Industrialisation agenda.”
The SADC University of Transformation is the brainchild of King Mswati III of the Kingdom of Eswatini, and once fully operational it will be based in Eswatini, which has already pledged to offer scholarships to 300 students – 20 each per member state for the initial intake.
In addition, summit said it was critical for SADC member states to implement other related regional policies and strategies to ensure the success of the region.
These policies and strategies include the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP), the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan, the Regional Agricultural Investment Plan, and the Strategic Indicative Plan of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Cooperation.
The RIDMP is the SADC strategy for the development of integrated regional infrastructure to meet projected demand by 2027, at an estimated cost of US$500 billion.
On food and security, the summit said there is need to increase investment in the agricultural sector as well as putting in place measures to avert a pending drought.
“Summit noted the overall decline in food production in the region for the 2017-18 crop season, and urged member states to put in place measures to tackle food insecurity in the region, while developing contingency plans to enhance drought preparedness in view of the likelihood of adverse El Nino-induced conditions during the 2018-19 cropping season,” the communique read.
According to a report released in July, the State of Food and Nutrition Insecurity and Vulnerability in Southern Africa, the SADC region is estimated to have a cereal surplus of 6,3 million metric tonnes, down from 7,5 MT the previous year.
The number of food insecure people in the 2018-19 consumption year is estimated at 29 million, about 14 percent of the population in SADC, according to the report.
With respect to intra-regional and Africa trade, “summit urged member states that have not yet signed and/or ratified the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) Agreement to do so” as a matter of urgency.
The main objective of the TFTA Agreement is to strengthen and deepen economic integration of the Southern and Eastern Africa regions, and to harmonise policies and programmes across the continent in the areas of trade, customs and infrastructure development as well as movement of goods and people.
When fully operational the TFTA will bring together a market of more than 1,2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product of over US$2,5 trillion
A total of six of out of the 16 SADC member states have signed the TFTA Agreement and more are expected to do soon.
On peace and security, the leaders hailed the stability that generally prevails in the region, but noted that it was critical to address pockets of volatility in member states such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kingdom of Lesotho and Madagascar.
Summit expressed satisfaction with the elections in Zimbabwe on July 30, adding that “all stakeholders in Zimbabwe should remain calm while the legal process regarding the outcome of the elections is being considered by the courts, and to respect the will of people of Zimbabwe”.
Summit called on the international community to lift all sanctions against Zimbabwe and to support the country in its efforts to rebuild the economy.
To honour heroes who contributed to the liberation struggle in the region, the leaders “endorsed 23 March as the day for commemorating the Southern Africa Liberation Day.”
At the summit, Namibian President Hage Geingob took over the SADC chair from his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa, while President Dr John Magufuli of the United Republic of Tanzania was elected deputy.
Summit elected President Edgar Lungu of Zambia as chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defense and Security Cooperation. He will be deputised by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.