Dar es Salaam – Outgoing Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministers chairperson, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, has urged the regional bloc not to lose focus but rather deliver on its promises.
Nandi-Ndaitwah, who is also Namibia’s Minister of International Relations and Deputy Prime Minister, said that while she agrees with the sentiment that SADC is well positioned to share its key lessons with the rest of the continent, this shouldn’t mean that the bloc should rest on its laurels.
Nandi-Ndaitwah was speaking at a public lecture on “Deepening Integration in the SADC: Achievements, Challenges and Opportunities” at the University of Tanzania on Thursday.
Despite the progress made, Nandi-Ndaitwah was quick to caution that in celebrating the region’s success, it was easy to become complacent and lose out on an opportunity to fast-track the realisation of the “SADC we want”.
“In the same vein, we have a responsibility to ensure that we are more realistic, when we take stock of what has worked and what has not. Yes, SADC is not integrated; the region is in the process of integration. The general public has to feel this process. I am sure many, if not all drivers, feel a sense of belonging when looking at their driving licence written SADC. But the question is when will they have similar ID, if not a passport that will allow them to study and even do business in the region on equal terms. This question will be answered when we reinforce protocols related to the free movement of people and goods,” she said.
She added that as a region, the success in cementing the principles of regional peace and stability, a prerequisite for development and a strong pillar in the process of integration, was commendable.
However, Nandi-Ndiatwah, said at times the region operated in a context where on the one hand there was great impetus and appreciation for the whole and this was best depicted through regional projects like the Southern African Power Pool.
She said this had translated into great direct benefits for the people through power sharing arrangements, which were able to balance energy surpluses and deficits in the region.
“On the other hand, however, we see how sometimes at national level, and more so in terms of policy issues, there is a tendency to invoke national interest and sovereignty, which in turn could be an impediment to our ability to move regional initiatives forward. For example, the issue of value chains has been on the cards for some time. Value chains are one of the strong pillars for regional economic integration.”
The focus of the 39th Summit of Heads of State and Government takes cognisance of the fact that there is a conducive environment created for inclusive and sustained industrial development. It further highlights the importance of intra-regional trade and job creation.
On the Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap, Nandi-Ndaitwah said the bloc had identified potential value chains in the region, which had a specific focus on a combination of how individual and regional strengths could be leveraged for optimal benefits from both regional and global value chains.
She added that this approach specifically allowed SADC to profile the sectors in each country and develop the strategies for value addition, beneficiation and down-stream processing.
“It also allows us to have a vested interest in promoting investment in regional projects, as we are able to reap the collective benefits for all the people in our region. What remains is the real implementation. SADC has also made good progress in the area of women empowerment, thus enabling them to play a role both in the political and economic field. That is to say in our region women are making their input in the process of regional integration. However, we have to accept that gender equality is not fully realised. As we continue to harmonise our legislative and policy frameworks, to create opportunities for our citizens and create an environment that enables easier transactions and facilitates intra-regional investment, we should not overlook to have programmes focusing on women and youth,” she said.