Dar es Salaam - SADC is steadily progressing towards achieving regional integration and sustainable development, with the aim of eliminating poverty and ensuring better living conditions for its citizens, SADC Chairperson and Namibian President Hage Geingob has said.
In his SADC Day message delivered here this week, Geingob said all this was being achieved through the harmonisation of policies and strategies in order to put in place people centered sustainable development.
SADC Day is observed on 17 August each year to mark the day the regional bloc was established 27 years ago, as a successor to the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference (SADCC).
SADC was established to further socio-economic cooperation and integration, as well as deepen political and security cooperation among member states of the Southern Africa region.
The regional bloc is now made up of 16 countries namely, Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“Over the years since its establishment, SADC has transformed into an important and effective regional organisation, by contributing positively and significantly to economic development and integration within the region, while ensuring that peace and security prevails,” President Geingob said.
“SADC is determined to achieve regional industrialisation through effective implementation of the flagship strategies, which include the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP), the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP) and the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap.
“In this regard, the 38th SADC Summit, which was held in Windhoek in August 2018, adopted the theme, ‘Promoting Infrastructure Development and Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development’. The theme was adopted because SADC is committed to infrastructural development, which has been identified as a catalyst to youth empowerment and employment creation.”
The RISDP is a comprehensive development and implementation framework guiding SADC’s regional integration agenda over a period of 15 years (2005-2020). It was designed to provide clear strategic direction with respect to SADC programmes, projects and activities in line with the SADC Common Agenda and strategic priorities, as enshrined in the SADC Treaty of 1992.
The ultimate objective of the plan is to deepen integration in the region with a view to accelerate poverty eradication and the attainment of other economic and non-economic development goals.
The RIDMP is the region’s strategy for the development of integrated regional infrastructure to meet projected demand by 2027, at an estimated cost of US$500 billion. It is pivotal to the socio-economic growth of the region, including the industrialisation agenda. Its establishment was informed by the perspective that infrastructure development and maintenance is a priority for accelerated regional integration, economic development, industrialisation and trade.
The SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015–2063 provides a blueprint for inclusive, long-term modernisation and economic transformation in the SADC region and is based on three interdependent and mutually supportive strategic pillars, namely industrialisation, competitiveness and regional integration.
Geingob said when he assumed the Chairmanship of SADC in Windhoek in August last year, he stated that he would strive to ensure that SADC remained focused on the promotion of intra-Africa trade.
A major milestone was reached when the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) entered into force on 30 May 2019, following the ratification by 25 countries.
“Subsequently, I am pleased to state that the operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area was launched on 7 July 2019 in Niamey, Niger, during the 12th Extraordinary Session of the African Union Assembly,” he said.
The AfCFTA is a flagship project of Agenda 2063, where goods and services will move freely among member states of the African Union (AU), with the objective of boosting intra-African trade. With this in place, buttressed by other regional free trade agreements, the SADC region is destined to accrue immense benefits that will contribute to the economic growth and development in the region.
Geingob said although SADC had intensified its efforts in ensuring development in the region, it was still confronted by natural disasters caused by unpredictable weather conditions. The region faced the reality of climate change and continued to experience devastating effects of cyclones and severe droughts.
“We should recall that three of our member states, namely the Republics of Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, were severely affected and devastated by the Tropical Cyclone Idai. The cyclone caused loss of precious lives and severe damage to infrastructure. In response, on 11 April 2019, I launched the SADC Regional Appeal for Humanitarian Assistance, in order to seek support for the countries affected by Tropical Cyclone Idai,” he said.
“I wish to take this opportunity to state that following the Regional Humanitarian Appeal, an amount of US$204 million has been raised for the affected SADC countries and communities. This is commendable and is an indication of our commitment towards the welfare of our brothers and sisters in distress. We also thank our development partners for the tremendous show of support offered to SADC during these trying times.”
He said Namibia had also declared a state of emergency because of the natural disaster of drought in all its regions. Namibia experienced a drought during the just –ended season, which has affected its people, animals and reduced water levels and agricultural production.
“In this regard, I would like to reiterate that, in view of the increased occurrence of climate-related catastrophes, such as cyclones, floods and droughts, around the world and especially in the SADC region, SADC re-emphasises its call for joint global efforts to reduce global warming and the impacts of climate change and variability, while stepping up efforts to enhance adaptive capacities of developing countries in line with the spirit of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030) and Article 8(4) of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change,” said Geingob.
He recognised the important role women had played and continued to play in pursuit of SADC objectives and the regional integration agenda. Women representation in the region had improved, ensuring that gender equality through the 50/50 ratio was achieved in all SADC member states.
“We should therefore endeavor to accelerate progress in terms of the empowerment of women. As a region we should always pursue the harmonisation of gender responsive legislation, policies and programmes and projects, as outlined in the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development,” he said.
The SADC Chairperson said the region continued to consolidate the tenets of democracy in order to ensure effective governance in member states.
He commended the people and governments of the DRC, the Comoros, Eswatini, Madagascar, Malawi and South Africa, for holding credible and peaceful elections over the past year. Geingob expressed hope that the upcoming elections in Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and Mauritius will be free, fair and that these will be held in a peaceful environment.
“The holding of regular elections in the region is testimony to the region’s shared values and observance of the principles of democracy and rule of law as enshrined in the SADC Treaty. The region will continue to hold elections in line with the principal objective of the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
“As Heads of State and Government meet this week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, for the 39th SADC Summit, it is encouraging to note that the issues for discussion speak to the main objectives of SADC, which are to achieve development, to maintain peace and security, stimulate economic growth, alleviate poverty, and enhance the standard and quality of life of the peoples of Southern Africa. As I bid farewell, I am pleased to say that SADC has taken significant steps forward, towards the attainment of these main objectives,” he said.