The 37th Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit ended in Tshwane recently with South Africa taking over the chair of the regional bloc of countries.
Heads of state of the 15 countries in the group left the capital after committing to use the region’s natural resources to drive projects to benefit its citizens.
The new SADC chair, President Jacob Zuma, said governments needed to explore ways to work with the private sector to promote sustainable growth.
It was time, the president said, for Africa to benefit from its wealth and not watch profits fund development on other continents. “Africa is the richest continent with the poorest people. Our heritage and endowment must be used to drive economic development for the benefit of all Africa’s citizens.”
Under South Africa’s leadership, the group of countries will prioritise industrial growth and regional trade. “The key activities during our chairship will be the development of a high-impact annual operation plan with targeted interventions and public policy tools to foster the development of regional value chains in agro-processing, pharmaceuticals and mineral beneficiation.”
Industrial development a priority
Increasing manufacturing capacity, productivity and competitiveness in these sectors as well as encouraging more intraregional trade would strengthen southern African economies and lift them above a dependence on raw materials to fuel growth. “This will not only raise the living standards of our people but also facilitate the rapid catch-up of the SADC countries with industrialised and developed countries,” the president said.
The summit started with all heads of state recognising that industrial and infrastructure development needs to be a priority in the region. Poor transport networks present the biggest challenge to creating a connected and prosperous continent.
South Africa will continue to push for implementation of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area. This continent-wide common market is worth $1.3 trillion and will allow for the free flow of goods and people.
“These initiatives are geared towards creating employment, improving manufacturing, enhancing development and addressing poverty alleviation in the SADC region specifically.”
Member states also considered applications from the Union of Comoros and Burundi to join SADC. One of 75 key decisions taken by SADC ministers, the Comoros will be admitted while Burundi did not meet the criteria to become a member because of its security situation. In line with SADC’s Silencing the Guns initiative, the continent is looking to end all conflicts by 2020.
As President Zuma explained in his closing remarks, “The heads of state and government have reiterated their collective resolve to promote peace and stability since this is a precursor to economic growth and development.”