The Southern African Development Community is ready to use the opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area to drive industrialisation and boost the region’s agricultural production.
President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi said in his acceptance speech after taking over as SADC Chair at the 41st Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government, that the region already has the right tools in place to achieve its goals.
He said that Malawi, as Chair from August 2021 to August 2022, was fully committed to driving implementation of the region’s integration agenda, particularly industrialisation, riding on the success of programmes launched in the past year when Mozambique chaired the regional organisation.
Mozambique hosted the launch of the SADC Vision 2050 and the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan 2020–2030 as well as the SADC Emergency and Humanitarian Centre.
“The African Continental Free Trade Area has unveiled to SADC the opportunity to become the breadbasket and export basket of Africa, but we must seize the moment, we must fully implement the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap, SADC Regional Agricultural Policy, SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Masterplan among others,” said President Chakwera.
Natural disasters such as cyclones and drought have impacted on the region’s agriculture production in the past few years.
In January this year, Cyclone Eloise affected cropland in five SADC countries – eSwatini, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
AfCFTA, which came into operation in January this year, aims to boost trade within the continent by eliminating or reducing trade restrictions among African countries as well as to facilitate easier movement of people and goods across borders.
It presents a huge market of over one billion people and a combined GDP of more than US$3.4 trillion.
Under the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap (2015-2063), the region is targeting to double the share of manufactured goods it produces and sells to 30 percent of GDP by 2030 and to 40 percent by 2050.
President Chakwera said the region must redouble efforts to revitalize its economy in the wake of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We must truly embrace industrialisation as the most effective means of achieving the main goals of SADC namely, increased economic productivity, stronger regional integration and reduced poverty for people living in the region,” he said. “We must facilitate the free movement of our people in a manner commensurate with our shared conviction that we are truly a community of shared values and shared interests.”
The Summit is running under the theme, “Bolstering Productive Capacities in the Face of the COVID-19 Pandemic, for Inclusive, Sustainable, Economic and Industrial Transformation.” “The time has come for us on regional integration, to turn talk into walk,” President Chakwera said.
In line with the theme, Malawi will host the fifth SADC Industrialisation Week in November. The SADC Industrialisation Week is a public-private engagement platform that helps to foster new opportunities for intra-African trade and investment in the southern African region. Tanzania hosted the fourth industrialisation week in 2019.
“The SADC We Want is untenable without levelling the field of access to COVID-19 vaccines, revitalising the agriculture sector, enhancing value addition, facilitating trade, and simplifying rules of origin,” President Chakwera said.
Ensuring regional stability has been identified as the foundation for enabling the region to focus on its objectives of integration.
The outgoing SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Tax said the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap remains a top priority to improve trade within the region and the continent.
Intra-SADC trade has been fluctuating in the past few years and was 20 percent in 2017 and 19 percent in 2018.
“To address this, a number of measures are in place through the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap,” she said. – sardc.net