The Council of Ministers of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) met on 29th May, 2020 with a call for the region to turn the COVID-19 pandemic into an opportunity for emboldening industrialization and intra-trade in the Region.
In his remarks at the opening of the virtual meeting of the SADC Council of Ministers, Honourable Prof. Palamagamba John Kabudi, Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania, and Chairperson of the SADC Council of Ministers, indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity to boost intra-regional trade, currently at less than 20% and, ultimately create jobs and boost its economy.
Hon. Prof. Kabudi said, as the region continues to implement the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Road Map 2015-2063, there is need to take advantage of increased need of medicines and medical supplies and create conducive environment for the establishment of new pharmaceutical industries and provide various incentives to the existing ones.
Hon. Prof. Kabudi said resolving challenges and fast-tracking cross-border movement of goods and services during the COVID-19 pandemic will open an opportunity to ease movement of goods and people, accelerate intra-regional trade, consolidate the SADC Free Trade Area and facilitate the implementation of the SADC Protocol on Trade and drive the SADC industrialisation agenda.
The Council Chairperson said historically the SADC region has been known for standing in solidarity in times of crisis and that the complexity and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic reinforces the need for increased cooperation and solidarity in order to reap benefits of regional integration, which is in keeping with the spirit of the founders of SADC.
In her welcome remarks, the Executive Secretary of SADC, H.E. Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax commended SADC Member States for the taking necessary measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 which contributed to saving lives and livelihoods of SADC citizens and beyond.
The SADC Executive Secretary highlighted that COVID-19 Pandemic has brought multiple challenges and responsibilities that require extra-ordinary and innovative approaches to doing business. To this effect she appealed to Member States to remain vigilant and learn how to live it, and as such, defeat the social and economic impact of COVID-19 as a united region. H.E. Dr Tax paid tribute to the frontline staff across the SADC region for their dedication, commitment and selflessness during the COVID-19 pandemic and urged Member States to remain vigilant and enhance cooperation in the fight against COVID-19, as a united region.
H.E. Dr Tax highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic has come at a time when the SADC region has already been heavily affected by the unfavourable climatic conditions that affected SADC economies, leading to food insecurity, poverty and inequalities in the region.
While acknowledging the critical role of the SADC regional Guidelines on Harmonization and Facilitation of Movement of Essential Goods and Services across borders during the COVID-19 pandemic, H.E. Dr Tax reiterated the need to address the obstacles encountered in the implementation of the guidelines and called for a SADC regional approach for harmonizing and synchronizing these regulations and procedures so as to boost SADC intra-trade, stimulate production and economic prosperity of SADC beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. On this note, H.E. Dr Tax expressed the need for expanding the harmonisation and synchronisation of cross-border movements to the COMESA-EAC-SADC tripartite, taking into account the overlapping membership of countries in the region.
On the socio-economic impact of COVID-19, the SADC Executive Secretary said the preliminary analysis done by the Secretariat has shown that the COVID-19 pandemic will heavily impact the SADC region across a number of social and economic sectors. The preliminary analysis indicates that the decline in the global economy is projected to lead to the decline in commodity prices, increase in debt and significant contraction of the SADC economies in 2020.
The following are the speeches made at the opening of the SADC Council of Ministers meeting: