SADC introspects on its 25th anniversary

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) celebrates its 25th anniversary today and the bloc has used the occasion to reflect on the progress made in its regional integration agenda.

SADC was formed on 17 August 1992 in Windhoek, Namibia, with its precursor known as the Southern African Development Coordinating Conference (SADCC), which was established in 1980 in Lusaka, Zambia. 

Its founding member states are Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  The main aim was to coordinate development projects in order to lessen economic dependence on the then apartheid South Africa.

Today, the regional bloc boasts 15 members -- Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe -- who have a vison of a common future.

The vision is one of common sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development, and the pooling of resources to achieve collective self-reliance in order to improve the living standards of the estimated 300 million people of the region.

In his message on SADC Day, outgoing chair King Mswati III of Swaziland said the regional bloc has grown from strength to strength since its establishment.

“I am encouraged by the growing awareness and participation of our people in the implementation of SADC programmes and projects. I do hope that this will gradually move the region towards the goal of… reducing levels of poverty, and improved standards of living.”

For the past few years, the region has vigorously pursued an economic integration agenda involving the implementation of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap and the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan, which provides the strategic direction for achieving SADC’s long term social and economic goals.

SADC has also put in place the Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ on Defence, Politics and Security (SIPO), whose core objective is to create a peaceful and stable political and security environment through which the region will realise its objectives of socio-economic development, poverty eradication and regional integration.

“These are indeed milestones which cannot go unnoticed. Yet there is still a lot of efforts we need to put to realize more fruits for the future growth of our region.”

King Mswati emphasized the importance of industrialising the region, which he said must be implemented speedily. The king said this will ensure that SADC’s macroeconomic policy environment is improved. The improvement of value chains to create attractive and competitive investments and production, beneficiation, infrastructure, transformation and investing in key skills and technologies is the way to achieve this.

“There is a need to closely collaborate with the private sector as the engine of growth, and other stakeholders such as think tanks and academia,” King Mswati said, adding that infrastructure development in industrialisation is imperative.

During its tenure as SADC chair, Swaziland focused on raising resources from SADC member states, international cooperating partners, regional and national investors and financial institutions to invest in sustainable energy infrastructure for industrialisation, which would help the region to address its shortfalls.

SADC is now exploring alternative options and innovative approaches of sustainable financing and broadening the resource base to achieve regional integration.

“It is my hope that by 2063, in line with the SADC industrialisation strategy and roadmap 2015-2063 as well as the Agenda 2063 of the African Union, the SADC region’s industrial landscape will completely be different from what it is at present,” said King Mswati.

SADC is now “opening her wings wider” to create markets with the launching of the SADC-COMESA-EAC Free Trade Area.

King Mswati hoped that with the FTA, the economic activities will create jobs and reduce levels of unemployment and poverty.

Peace and stability

King Mswati said the region continues to enjoy relative peace and stability, as citizens and political leaders continue to resolve their differences amicably through contact and dialogue.

Peace and security for SADC is at the top of the priority list because without it, the process of development and regional development will always be stalled.

“This continues to be witnessed as we have just seen that the Kingdom of Lesotho held the national elections peacefully and as SADC, we will continue to support them to ensure lasting peace, security and political stability for the Basotho nation.”

While the region continues to be peaceful and stable, on the social and economic front, there have been other matters that require regional and national preventative and mitigation measures. These are food, water and energy insecurity, transnational drugs, human trafficking, smuggling, money laundering, cyber security and climate change and environmental degradation to mention just a few.

The King said SADC will continue to strengthen the regional and national early warning centres to allow the exchange information and data through secure communication infrastructure. This enables the region to respond quickly to any disaster, as was observed in the management of the outbreak of the fall armyworm.

With regards to unemployment, which remains high, especially among youth, SADC hopes that the industrialisation process will be inclusive to involve the youth and women so that they can benefit directly from the process of economic and technological transformation.

“One of the strategies to involve the youth is through SADC education and training programmes, especially vocational skills in the fields of science, technology and innovation, which are relevant and key for industries,” King Mswati said.

With education also key, regional leaders are looking to the establishment of the SADC University of Transformation, which will help the region with high level specialisations in science and engineering disciplines.

“The preparations for the establishment of the SADC University of Transformation are progressing well, as it is aimed at enhancing the human capital of the SADC region in the areas of technical and vocational education and training, innovation and delivering graduates, who are empowered with requisite skills for industrial development.”

King Mswati went on to pay tribute to the founding fathers of the regional bloc, saying those who are still alive continue to be the source of motivation.

The 15-nation group is currently meeting in Tshwane, where President Jacob Zuma will assume the chair.

The 37th SADC Summit will focus on how Public-Private Partnerships can be harnessed to drive forward the industrialisation agenda of southern Africa. -

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