There is a need to level the playing field on the COVID-19 pandemic, revitalise the agricultural sector, enhance value addition, facilitate trade, and simplify rules of origin in order for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Region to attain its vision, Incoming SADC Chairperson and President of the Republic of Malawi, Dr Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera said.
H.E Chakwera assured SADC of his Government’s commitment to the ideals, values, and principles of SADC; best efforts to steer the implementation of the SADC Regional Integration Agenda; and his enthusiasm to serve by conducting the affairs of SADC with the determination required of Chair. He said this in his acceptance speech after taking over as SADC Chair at the official opening of the 41st SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government in Lilongwe, Malawi, on 17 August 2021.
H.E Dr Chakwera launched the theme for the 41st SADC Summit is “Bolstering Productive Capacities in the face of COVID-19 Pandemic for Sustained, Inclusive, Economic and Industrial Transformation” the ceremony attended by several SADC Heads of State and Government. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 41stSADC Summit took a hybrid approach as other delegates attended physically while others attended through virtual platforms.
In line with the theme, the Government of Malawi is currently implementing the Malawi 2063, a vision focused on three drivers towards middle-income status for its economy: Agricultural Productivity and Commercialisation, Industrialisation, and Urbanisation. “These are the tools for regional integration I promise to push for during my tenure as chair, because the time has come to turn our talk on regional integration into our walk. That is why Malawi will ensure that the Fifth SADC Industrialisation Week is held here sometime this coming November to make this year’s theme a reality,” said H.E Dr Chakwera.
He paid tribute to H.E Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana, and Outgoing Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, for the commendable progress achieved in consolidating democratic principles of transparency and the rule of law, peace and security in the Region during his term of office. SADC Member States had no choice but to apply themselves to sustaining the gains made to date, considering how critical this is to other multilateral agreements like the 2063 African Union Agenda; the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014 to 2024.
H.E Dr Chakwera said in assuming the SADC Chairship, Malawi commits to pushing the regional goals as it represents the Southern African Group at the African Union Peace and Security Council, UN Human Rights Council and provide leadership at the UN Least Developed Countries.
Malawi’s assumption of the SADC Chairship comes in the context of COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to stop it in its tracks and restore social order. H.E Dr Chakwera said the inequalities and disparities in accessing COVID-19 vaccines were seriously hindering efforts to save the lives of millions in the SADC and must, therefore, be tackled head on.
For the sake of the dignity of all human beings everywhere, Africans have a moral duty to refuse to be treated as second-class citizens in the rules of engagement for participating in the global economy. H.E Dr Chakwera said the time had come for Africans to work together to put the ratified African Free Trade Area to full use until the economic rules that disadvantage African nations were rewritten. The time had also come for Africans to stand together in insisting that the Bretton Woods Institutions reconfigure the terms and conditions they have imposed on the continent for decades, leaving Africans in deeper poverty than they found them. Africans had a moral duty to refuse second-class status in participating in UN decisions that affect the peace, stability, and sustainability of their world.
“So the time has come for us to insist that Africa must have at least one permanent seat on the UN Security Council. And now, as the world faces this global health crisis that has killed millions, torpedoed economies, and disrupted social order, we as Africans have a moral duty to reject second class status in the distribution and production of COVID-19 vaccines, vaccines invented and manufactured in labs where some of the scientists doing such work are Africans,” said Dr Chakwera.
At the SADC regional level, he said this means recognising that SADC’s truest friends are not those who are satisfied to see the Region continue in poverty so that they can sustain their “messianic complex as our benefactors and liberators”.
Outgoing SADC Chairperson and President of the Republic of Mozambique, H.E Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, chronicled SADC’s achievements under his country’s Chairship. He noted that the impact of COVID-19 is still present and visible through the daily tragedy of new mutations, the increase in the number of infections and deaths, as well as the slowdown in national, regional and global economies.
Mozambique had recommended massive COVID-19 testing in urban and community centres; greater co-ordination in the enforcement of epidemiological control measures; accelerating the acquisition of vaccines and expanding immunisation programmes. The country had also appealed to international co-operating partners for financial support and debt relief, waiver of intellectual property rights for technology transfer; and the promotion of investment in the pharmaceutical sector and vaccines manufacturing within the Region.
H.E Nyusi said all the 16 SADC Member States have been affected by the effects of climate change in one way or the other by natural disasters that have resulted in the destruction of infrastructure, prolonged disruption of essential services, complete stoppage of economic activity, food insecurity and sometimes in the loss of lives and livelihoods of entire communities. The launch of the SADC Emergency Humanitarian Operations Centre (SHOC) in Nacala, Mozambique, on 21 June 2021 to deal with these issues was therefore of paramount importance.
H.E Nyusi said during his Chairship, Mozambique had, as one of its priorities, preside over the launch of the first SADC Business Forum, with the aim of attaching fair relevance to the involvement of the business community in the implementation of the SADC development agenda and the need to market the Region as a destination for investment.
The first edition of the SADC Business Forum and SADC Expo was held on 22nd and 23rd June 2021 in Maputo on the sidelines of the SADC Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government.This regional event provided a unique opportunity to project, in a sustainable way, the competitive and productive assets and the potential of SADC Member States with the framework of its structural development agenda. The Forum also enabled exposure of the Southern African region at the international level, as a platform for dialogue between SADC and the private sector.
Peace and security constitute one of the foundations of the regional integration process as its role in enabling the promotion of cooperation, social and economic development aimed at fostering the well-being of the people of the Region is vital. It was in the regard that Mozambique had defined the eradication of terrorism and violent extremism in the Region as a strategic priority, focusing on a holistic approach and bilateral and multilateral synergies.
The SADC Extraordinary Summit in Maputo on 23 June 2021 authorised the deployment of the SADC Standby Brigade to Mozambique which may be complemented by other support raised by Mozambique under bilateral engagements to achieve successes in the fight against terrorism. H.E Nyusi commended Member States for the brotherhood and prompt solidarity demonstrated by the deployment of the SADC Standby Brigade in Pemba, Cabo Delgado province, on 9 August 2021, in the spirit of the SADC Mutual Defence Pact.
During its Chairship, Mozambique had identified food and nutrition in the Region as another priority action and set out to work towards the eradication of hunger and to promote the transformation of the agrarian sector into a source of income for the population, taking advantage of the immense natural resources potential in the Region.
Mozambique also hosted and continued to leverage activities in the important sectors of Education, Science and Innovation, among others, that enabled progress in the regional integration agenda. This was in recognition that Science, Technology and Innovation are cross-cutting and play a pivotal role in the future development trajectory of SADC towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution that will shape the world of today and tomorrow.
The Region has also recorded progress in the revitalisation of the culture sector in line with the decision of the SADC Council of Ministers of March 2021. In addition, efforts to transform the SADC Parliamentary Forum into the SADC Parliament will bring the peoples of the Region closer to regional institutions, engaging them in the implementation of the priorities of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030, whose Operationalisation and Implementation Plan was approved in June 2021.
Outgoing SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax highlighted some of the Region’s achievements over the years.
On the social and economic front, SADC has made notable strides in terms of macro-economic convergence, industrialisation, SADC intra-trade, regional connectivity, access to energy, financial integration and inclusion, and mobile penetration.
While the Region progressed well in terms of macroeconomic convergence over the years, it has been severely hit by a dual shock of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fall in commodity prices. The impact of COVID-19 has exerted more pressure on an already weak regional economy, resulting in significant deterioration in fiscal position and elevated debt sustainability risks.
Dr Tax, who is the first female SADC Executive Secretary, said she had noted with satisfaction the progress made in empowering women, both economically, and in leadership positions in the Region.
SADC has a number of female leaders in various positions, including a female President in SADC, H.E Samia Suluhu Hassan of the United Republic of Tanzania, who has demonstrated beyond any doubt that women are capable of steering nations with outstanding and exemplary leadership, and wisdom.
Dr Tax called for sustained and accelerated progress in women empowerment, saying while she was confident that the Region will get more female presidents, more female Chairpersons of the African Union, more female SADC Executive Secretaries, and many more women in leadership positions, there is still ground to be covered.
Dr Tax, who was appointed as the SADC Executive Secretary on 18 August 2013 and took oath of office in Lilongwe, thanked the SADC Heads of States and Governments for the confidence and trust bestowed on her to lead the SADC Secretariat, and to serve the SADC Region. She said she was proud of SADC’s achievement over the eight years, and was grateful for the wealth of knowledge and experience that she had acquired during her tenure.
A national of the United Republic of Tanzania, Dr Tax also expressed her gratitude to the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania for the trust, and for nominating her for this position in 2013. She said SADC has come a long way since the days of liberation struggles, and the Region owed its cooperation, unity and development to the founders of this great organisation whose sacrifices have enabled the level of transformation and successes it is enjoying today. It was befitting that SADC recognises the contributions of the Founding Fathers, and in acknowledging their contributions, in August 2020, the SADC Summit approved a mechanism to honour the Founders of SADC.
Dr Tax implored SADC Member States to operationalise the mechanism, which will ensure that the history of SADC, and the legacy of the SADC Founders, remains engraved in the history of the organisation, and is imparted to the generations to come. She said the Hashim Mbita publication, which was launched in 2014, documents authentically the history of the Southern Africa Liberation struggles, and is also an important reference for SADC history.
The journey that SADC has travelled over the 40 years of its existence, since the establishment of the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) in April 1980, has been documented in a publication https://www.sadc.int/files/1116/2446/6301/40_Years_of_SADC-Enhancing_Regional_Cooperation_and_Integration-English.pdf launched in June 2021. The publication presents four decades of lessons and successes.
Dr Tax said SADC needs a dynamic, effective and efficient Secretariat and that a vibrant and dynamic Secretariat facilitates a vibrant Region.