By Lovemore Ranga Mataire recently in Windhoek, Nambia
Tanzania President John Magufuli once again snubbed the SADC Heads of State and Government summit in Windhoek, Nambia.
The 38th Heads of State and Government SADC summit took place in Namibia from 17- 19 August.
The Tanzanian president sent his deputy, Samia Suluhu Hassan, to attend the 38 Heads of State and Government summit where at least five new leaders made maiden appearances.
This is not the first time the Tanzanian leader has absented himself from the gathering of the region’s highest decision making body and provided no explanation.
In 2016, President Magufuli missed a similar meeting of Heads of State and Government slated for Mbabane, Swaziland.
His attendance at the 36th Mbabane summit had been highly anticipated as he was to be introduced to his regional counterparts and deliver his maiden speech as well as give a detailed overview of his vision for regional integration and development.
President Magufuli also decided not to attend the regional’s Extraordinary Double Troika summit in June 2016 held in Gaborone, Botswana. He was represented at the summit by his Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa.
There was no explanation from the Tanzanian delegation about the absence of their leader when Deputy President Suluhu Hassan landed at Hosea Kutako International Airport last week.
Meanwhile, the Comoros became the newest member of SADC at the 38th SADC Summit.
The Comoros became the 16th member of SADC after Seychelles which joined in 1997.
Although Comoros President Azali Assoumani did not manage to attend the summit, his Foreign Affairs Minister Elamine Souef represented him throughout the summit.
Speaking to The Southern Times, Souef, said the island nation had completed all the requirements.
“Last year, we were at the summit in an observer role. We were given a year to formalise all legal instruments and that has been done. We are happy to have joined the family,” he said.
Souef said the SADC region has quite a lot to offer in terms of education and skills.
He said the Comoros is not just joining SADC to take from it, as it also has products to offer the region.
“The Comoros is a touristic country. We can offer many things to SADC. With us in SADC it means we have now to open our doors even wider to tourists from the region. Comoros can be a link between SADC and other worlds because our country is a full member of the Arab League, a full member of the Islamic Conference organisation and a full member of the Francophone union,” he said.
The Comoros will now have a chance to enter its products into the European Union for free should they wish to join the EU-SADC Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)
Southern African countries are expected to tap even more into the European Union market after the EPA with the EU came into effect in 2016.
The Comoros is most famous for exporting cloves - the dried flower bud of a tropical tree used as an aromatic spice, vanilla, wood charcoal, essential oils and scrap aluminium.
In 2016, the island nation exported cloves worth US$43 million, vanilla (US$9.7m), essential oils (US$9.7m), wood charcoal (US$5.42m) and scrap aluminium (US$4.5m).
Presently, the trade volumes between SADC and the Comoros are almost non-existent.
The top export destinations of the Comoros are India (US$22.9m), the United Arab Emirates (US$11m), France (US$9.4m), Germany (US$5.67m) and Tanzania (US$4.52m).
The top import origins are Tanzania (US$172m), China (US$48.3m), the United Arab Emirates (US$46.6m), France (US$40.7m) and India (US$20.3m).
The country has been recording a trade deficit for many years and it is hoping that by trading with SADC, the deficit would reduce.
In 2016, the Comoros exported US$78.3m and imported US$409m worth of goods, resulting in a negative trade balance of US$331m.
The Comoros is an island and borders Madagascar, Mozambique, Mayotte, the Seychelles, and Tanzania.
Mauritius, Seychelles and Madagascar are other member countries of the Francophone union and Souef said other SADC countries can rely on them and be the representatives to advance their interests.
The Comoros is also on the verge of discovering oil and gas. Latest data show a potential oil find of seven billion barrels and 1.1 tcf of associated gas. Made up of three islands and with a population of just 800,000, a major gas discovery and subsequent monetisation have the potential to dramatically increase the Comoros Islands’ GDP from US$660m.