Andreas Thomas & Timo Shihepo
Windhoek – The Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will meet in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, for their traditional annual gathering this week.
The 38th SADC Summit is being held under the theme “Promoting Infrastructure Development and Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development” and leaders will review progress made towards regional integration and socio-economic development.
Making their debut at the SADC Summit are five presidents, marking a new era for the regional body.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, Joao Lourenco of Angola, Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe and President Azali Assoumi of the Union of Comoros make their maiden appearances at the region’s apex body.
The island nation of Comoros, off Africa’s east coast, was admitted to the SADC family during last year’s summit in South Africa.
The SADC Summit is responsible for the overall policy direction and control of functions of the 16-member regional community, ultimately making it the policy-making institution of SADC.
The summit is made up of all SADC Heads of State and Government and is managed on a Troika system that comprises the current chairperson, the incoming chairperson and the immediate previous chairperson.
The SADC Chairperson and South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa will pass the baton on to Namibia’s President Hage Geingob. King Mswati III of the Kingdom of eSwatini, who preceded Ramaphosa, is the third member of the Troika.
Members of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation are President João Lourenço of Angola as Chairperson, President Edgar Lungu of Zambia as the incoming Chairperson and the outgoing chairperson, President John Magufuli of Tanzania.
The summit will be preceded by a series of meetings that began with the meeting of SADC senior officials on 9 August. At the meeting, Namibia took over the SADC Standing Committee of Senior Officials Chairpersonship from South Africa yesterday.
Ambassador Selma Ashipala-Musavyi, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation took over that role from South Africa’s Kgabo Mahoai, the Director General for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation for South Africa.
Ashipala-Musavyi said Namibia feels honoured and privileged to be assuming the new role, “whose objectives are to achieve development and economic growth, alleviate poverty, enhance the standard and quality of life of the people of Southern Africa and support the socially disadvantaged through regional integration. These are socio-economic challenges that we are all grappling with and aspirations for which we collectively continue to strive”.
The theme of this year’s gathering builds on the focus of the past four regional summits that sought to advance industrial development.
“The theme illustrates that infrastructure development and youth empowerment go hand in hand, and are vital in driving SADC towards industrialisation. The theme also speaks to the socio-economic realities of our continent, in the spirit of ‘The Africa We Want’, as outlined in the AU Agenda 2063, and reflects the general concerns of the Global South as entailed in the UN Agenda 2030,” Ashipala-Musavyi emphasized.
She noted that since 2015, SADC leaders have decided to accentuate the industrialisation of the region.
“We have set ourselves targets through various enablers, particularly the implementation of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP), of which implementation has partly been realised through the choice of themes for the summits, and subsequent operationalisation,” she said.
Other meetings that will precede the main gathering were the SADC Standing Committee of Senior Officials; the SADC Finance subcommittee; SADC Council of Ministers Meeting; as well as the Double Troika Senior Officials, and Ministerial Council of the Organ and Double Troika Summit.
Namibia is hosting the regional summit, 26 years after it hosted a similar but historic Summit in August 1992. At that historic meeting held in Windhoek, the Heads of States and Government signed the SADC Treaty to transform the regional bloc from the old 1980 body, which was primarily Coordinating Conferences into a Development Community which evolved into the present day Southern African Development Community.
SADC was established under Article 2 of the SADC Treaty, with the main objectives being to achieve economic development, peace and security, and growth, alleviate poverty, enhance the standard and quality of life of the peoples of southern Africa, and support the socially disadvantaged through regional integration.
Member States are Angola, Botswana, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Kingdom of eSwatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The members are however meeting at the time when the region is grappling with a host of challenges
The region is facing land disputes, economic hardships and drought. While political instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kingdom of Lesotho, Madagascar, and now Zimbabwe continue to haunt the region.
The incoming chairperson, Namibia’s president Hage Geingob has one less problem after DRC President Joseph Kabila announced, two days ago, that he would not run for office in that country’s December election. The chairperson will, however, have to deal with a term characterised by land disputes that threaten to escalate in South Africa and Namibia. Both countries are flirting with the idea of expropriating farmland without compensation from the minority white farmers.
It will be under Geingob’s chairpersonship and for the first time in 26 years that the institution will welcome its newest member, The Comoros as the 16th member of SADC. The Southern Times, however, understands that the small nation located on the Indian Ocean is yet to be integrated fully and could only attend this summit on an observer’s ticket.
The Summit will review decision taken at last year’s gathering includes the need to address the critical constraints of financing SADC’s work programme, the summit emphasised the need for resource mobilisation, including the Operationalisation of the Regional Development Fund.
SADC also sees a vision of a connected and prosperous African continent, the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) should find expression in the work of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA).
The CFTA is likely to feature on the agenda especially the fact that region has now signed the agreement, which will pave the way for the region to benefit from inter-regional trade within the African continent.
This year’s summit will also review the progress made by the Secretariat in facilitating the establishment of a regional Natural Gas Committee to promote the inclusion of gas in the regional energy mix and in the promotion of industrial development.
Last year’s summit emphasised the need to have concrete outcomes so as to leverage the natural endowments to change the structure of economies and promote value-addition with the focus on agro-processing, mineral beneficiation and pharmaceuticals.
“There is convergence among member states on the importance of working with the private sector in this regard. Energy security is a critical input to industrial development. This is an indication of our resolve to practically implement our Industrial Strategy and Roadmap,” said executive secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax.