Malawi’s 6th President, Dr Lazarus Chakwera, will assume the Chairmanship of the Southern Africa Development Committee (SADC) at the 41st Summit of Heads of State and Government Summit in Lilongwe next week.
Dr Chakwera will take over from President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique at a time the region is battling health, political and social challenges.
The incoming SADC Chairperson was born to a peasant family in a village west of Lilongwe on April 5, 1955. He was named Lazarus after the Biblical friend of Jesus, whom Jesus raised from the dead four days after his death. Dr Chakwera’s father believed his son would rise out of the family’s poverty.
Dr Chakwera studied Philosophy at the University of Malawi where he graduated in 1977, before pursuing Theology at the University of the North in South Africa, and later at the Trinity International University in the United States.
The 65-year-old former pastor, married to Monica with whom he has four children, has been involved in Malawian politics as president of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) for eight years since 2013, and Head of State since 2020.
As the next SADC chairperson, Dr Chakwera will drive the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030 and the SADC Vision 2050, which were adopted by the 40th SADC Summit in August 2020 based on a firm foundation of Peace, Security and Democratic Governance and founded on the three pillars of Industrial Development and Market Integration; Infrastructure Development in Support of Regional Integration; and Social and Human Capital Development.
Both the SADC Vision 2050 and RISDP 2020-30 envision a peaceful, middle- to high-income industrialised region, where all citizens enjoy sustainable economic well-being, justice and freedom.
Among other pressing issues, Dr Chakwera is expected to pursue regional peace and security as integral components of development planning in Southern Africa, where economic co-operation and integration require a peaceful environment in which people – including women and youths – can meaningfully participate in mainstream activities.
SADC plays a pivotal role in early warning, preventive diplomacy, mediation, conflict
prevention and resolution, with emphasis on preventing conflict at its early stages.
A strong linkage has been created between early warning leading to early action through establishment of the Regional Early Warning Centre (REWC) in Mozambique, which was launched this year.
Dr Chakwera will oversee the SADC Standby Force mission to combat terrorism and acts of violent extremism as well as the provision of humanitarian aid in Cabo Delgado in northern Mozambique.
He will also be expected to enhance SADC regional and national capacities in research and manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and other essential drugs and medicines, promotion of traditional and alternative medicines, and the development of vaccines; facilitate support for a temporary waiver of certain provisions of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to allow more countries to produce COVID-19 vaccine, for more efficient response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new Chairperson will push to ensure member states strengthen and expand coverage of social protection and safety nets programmes to cater for increasing numbers of food insecure population, and to promote value addition through agro-processing; and domesticate the Regional Food and Nutrition Security Strategy into National Food and Nutrition Security Strategies to address the growing rates of malnutrition; and to strengthen and expand coverage of social protection and safety nets programmes.
Malawi’s leadership of SADC will see the country take the lead role in hosting regional meetings under the architecture of key legal frameworks governing the bloc’s operations and its institutional arrangements as spelt out in the SADC Treaty.
Malawi last hosted the SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government in August 2013 where, among the key historic highlights, leaders appointed Dr Stergomena Tax as the sixth and first female Executive Secretary of the bloc.
Coincidentally, Malawi’s hosting of the 41st SADC Summit will once again see regional leaders appointing the next Executive Secretary.