By Kizito Sikuka
Namibia is intensifying preparations for the annual regional summit of southern African leaders which is expected to review progress towards regional integration and promotion of socio-economic development.
The 38th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is scheduled for Windhoek, Namibia on 17-18 August.
According to a statement released at a meeting of the Namibian cabinet in May, the theme for the summit will be “Promoting Infrastructure Development and Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development”.
The theme builds on the focus of the past four SADC summits that looked at how the region can attain industrial development.
The industrialisation trajectory started during the 34th SADC Summit held in Zimbabwe in 2014, which focused on “Economic Transformation and Sustainable Development through Beneficiation and Value Addition”.
Successive summits held in 2015, 2016 and 2017 in Botswana, the Kingdom of eSwatini and South Africa, respectively, maintained the industrialisation momentum – marking the first time in the history of SADC that a similar theme has run for so many years.
For example, the summit in Botswana centred on “Accelerating Industrialisation of SADC Economies, Through Transformation of Natural Endowment and Improved Human Capital, ” while the summit in South Africa ran under the theme “Partnering with the Private Sector in Developing Industry and Regional Value Chains”.
In this regard, the focus of Namibia as the new SADC chair from August will be on strengthening infrastructure development in the region as well as harnessing the human capital dividend through youth empowerment to ensure sustainable growth.
Infrastructure development is pivotal to the socio-economic growth including the industrialisation agenda of the region as thriving economies depend on a reliable infrastructure base, both at the national and regional level.
In fact, one of the three pillars of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap adopted in April 2015 is Enhancing Infrastructure. The other two pillars are Strengthening Value Chains, and Corridor Development.
In addition to Namibian President Hage Geingob assuming the leadership of the regional organisation from his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa in August, the 38th SADC Summit is expected to welcome its newest member, the Union of Comoros.
Comoros was formally admitted into SADC at the 37th SADC Summit held in Pretoria, South Africa.
Its admission brings the membership of SADC to 16, an indication of the confidence shown in the regional organisation.
The other 15 member states are Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Seychelles, ESwatini, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Comoros Foreign Minister Mohamed Souef said the country is looking forward to joining SADC and developing relations with its neighbours.
Comoros – is an archipelago island nation in the Indian Ocean located at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel, off the eastern coast of Africa between north-eastern Mozambique and north-western Madagascar.
At 1,660 square kilometres in size, excluding the contested island of Mayotte that is claimed by France, the Comoros is the third smallest African country by area, and has a population of about 798,000 people.
As a nation formed at a crossroads of different civilisations, the archipelago is noted for its diverse culture and history.
It consists of three major islands and numerous smaller ones, all in the volcanic Comoros archipelago. It became part of the French colonial empire in the 19th century before becoming independent in 1975
Prior to the actual summit of SADC heads of state and government on 17-18 August, there will be meetings of senior officials, followed by the Council of Ministers.
According to the last SADC Council of Ministers meeting held in March in South Africa, the summit is expected to deliberate on a wide range of issues, including implementation of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap and the political situation in the region.
To ensure success of the 38th SADC Summit, Namibia has established a preparatory committee to coordinate activities ahead of the regional meeting.
The National Preparatory Committee comprises representatives from ministries, government agencies, local government and the private sector. -- sardc.net.