SADC pursues inclusive development through the effective participation of disadvantaged and marginalized groups in the process of regional integration. This approach fulfils core SADC Treaty commitments to ensure poverty alleviation, to enhance the standard and quality of life of the people of Southern Africa and support the socially disadvantaged. Decades of notable economic progress across the world, and in SADC, have unfortunately only slightly reduced poverty levels with evidence showing that eradication of poverty and exclusion does not happen automatically. As noted in the RISDP blueprint, African countries will not achieve the 3% SDG target on reduction of poverty levels. Available official SADC statistical indicators in recent years show that the proportion of persons living below the national poverty line exceeds 50% in several Member States.
SADC Member States have responded by expanding the region’s social policy framework to enhance focus on participation of people with disabilities in socio-economic development and enhanced welfare of senior citizens.
These measures complement interventions to address child care and protection, including orphans and vulnerable children. The approach is to strengthen social protection systems and address the social and structural determinants of human development, encompassing both social assistance, social insurance and developmental programmes. Programmatic interventions in this regard include the following:
- Implementation of social protection strategy, including promotion of disability-sensitive policies and legislation.
- Mainstreaming of disability inclusion in all sectors and programmes, including in decision-making processes.
- Strengthening measures to address the needs of elderly persons, including recognition of their contribution as people with skills and expertise implemented.
The SADC response to orphans and other vulnerable children (OVC) seeks to break the cycle of poverty and vulnerability, with common regional standards under implementation in Member States to improve the delivery of basic services. The SADC Minimum Package of Services for OVC provides for basic and complementary needs and services in the following categories:
- Education and vocational skills.
- Healthcare and sanitation.
- Food security and nutrition.
- Child and youth protection and safety.
- Psycho-social well-being.
- Social protection.
Youth Development and Empowerment
A 2018 study on youth in SADC revealed that Member States were actively implementing several programmes to promote youth innovation, youth entrepreneurship, youth leadership and participation. However, significant challenges for youth continue to persist largely because the scale of interventions remains limited and cannot accommodate the large numbers of youth in need.
Deficits in youth development and empowerment, are most notably on account of poor sexual and reproductive health of young people, limited access to secondary education and beyond, high rates of unemployment and underemployment, as well as the predominance of low-productivity entrepreneurship in the informal economy. The average youth unemployment rate is approximately 12 percent, with young women worse off in the majority of countries. Addressing these constraints is central to harnessing the demographic dividend, arising from the huge youth bulge of approximately 35% of the population.
Priority interventions for the region include the following:
- Strengthening the SADC Youth Forum to amplify youth voices in regional integration.
- Implementation of SADC Youth Programme through focused projects in targeted social, economic, and technological development initiative.
- Policy interventions on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises initiation, growth, and sustainability developed to stimulate employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for youth.
Key frameworks for youth development and empowerment include the following:
- SADC Declaration on Youth Development and Empowerment (2015)
- SADC Youth Empowerment Policy Framework (2021-2030)
- African Youth Charter (2006)