Windhoek – The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministers want member states to expedite negotiations on the exemption of VISAs in the Southern African region.
This was among the highlights of the items discussed at the SADC Council of Ministers’ Meeting on Monday ahead of the 38th Ordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government taking place in Windhoek, Namibia, from 17-18 August.
Briefing the media, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, the incoming chairperson of the SADC Council of Ministers and Namibia Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, said the council has noted progress in the implementation of VISA exemptions.
The SADC Council of Ministers was held on 13-14 August.
The ministers commended member states that have taken initiatives to operationalise bilateral visa exemptions, while encouraging those that have not done so to expedite negotiations and report on progress during the next summit meeting in August 2019.
Member states have for long mooted the idea of relaxing visa requirements for SADC countries under the Protocol on the Facilitation of Movement of Persons in SADC but due to operational systems not in place in some of the member states, the protocol has not yet entered into force.
The SADC Protocol on Facilitation of the Movement of Persons of 2005 seeks to fulfil the objectives of the SADC Treaty, which require SADC to develop policies aimed at the progressive elimination of obstacles to the free movement of capital and labour, goods and services and of the people of the region generally amongst member states.
Southern African countries agreed already in 2006 to relax visa requirements while member states upgrade their operational systems in line with a regional plan to facilitate the movement of people across borders, with a lawful purpose for a maximum of 90 days without visa into another member state.
Among other topics the Council of Ministers deliberated on was developing the SADC Regional Gas Master Plan, urging member states to nominate members of the SADC Regional Gas Committee; intensifying advocacy and lobbying campaigns on gender parity to create a conducive environment and supporting structures for women to join and stay in politics and decision making positions.
“Council urged member states to commit to the Regional Priority Power Projects aimed at enhancing security of energy supply and take necessary measures to enhance packaging of projects and create enabling environment for energy sector reforms in order to attract investors,” read the media briefing.
The ministers also urged member states to collaborate with the private sector to identify, package, attract investment and implement regional value chain projects.
The SADC Heads of State and Government are expected to elect Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of Summit and the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation.
The summit will discuss issues of continental integration, which include the Tripartite and Continental Free Trade Area, Implementation of Free Movement of Persons in Africa, the AU Institutional Reforms and Post-Cotonou Agreement.
It will also discuss the socio-economic situation in the region and the global economic situation as well as the performance of the SADC Economy and issues of gender and development, food security and HIV and AIDS in the region.