WINDHOEK - Despite the significant achievements in the implementation of programmes across all priority areas under his watch, wealthy South African President Cyril Ramaphosa says there are still areas that require regional leaders’ urgent attention.
Handing over the SADC chair to President Hage Geingob, Ramaphosa said as regional leaders, they have a responsibility to prioritise the needs of the people and find lasting and sustainable solutions to poverty, inequality and underdevelopment.
Ramaphosa noted this is reason the 37th SADC Summit held last year in Pretoria adopted the theme of “Partnering with the Private Sector in Developing Industry and Regional Value Chains”.
At the 38th SADC Summit that concluded in Windhoek on Saturday, SADC member states were thus urged to operationalise the theme through implementation of projects in the focus areas of agro-processing, mineral beneficiation, energy and pharmaceuticals.
He said member states were also called upon to develop skills and create mechanisms for the involvement of the private sector.
Over the period of his chairmanship, Ramaphosa said they have been able to secure more than $500 million of committed productive investments by South African companies in each of the priority value chains across the region.
He said the investments cover forestry, agriculture and agro-processing, fertilisers, mining and mineral processing, as well as pharmaceuticals.
“They reflect South Africa’s commitment to moving from a trade-based to an investment-led development strategy for the region,” he noted.
He said the previous Summit directed the Secretariat to facilitate the establishment of a regional Natural Gas Committee to promote the inclusion of gas in the regional energy mix.
The Terms of Reference on the Working Group for the Inter State Natural Gas Committee were approved, culminating in the signing of a Statement of Intent on Cooperation on the Development of Regional Gas Market and Infrastructure during the joint meeting of SADC Ministers responsible for energy and water in June 2018.
He highlighted a number of concrete initiatives over the last years that now form part of the SADC work programme.
These include the framework model on the control and management of the Fall Armyworm, which is being rolled out with the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Capacity building workshops have been held in Mozambique, Madagascar and Zambia.
The SADC Integrated Regional Electronic Settlement System has gained significant momentum, establishing a firm platform for increased intra-SADC trade and investment and further strengthening regional financial integration was another achievement he singled out.
He said the SADC Energy Foresight and Assessment Study in support of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap is underway, with data having been gathered from six of the member states.
As part of World Food Day, he said a model has been developed for regional food security. The model will be launched during this year’s World Food Day in Namibia.
Further, he maintained progress has been made in addressing tuberculosis in the mining sector across 10 SADC countries.
More than 10,000 claimants received payment and one-stop service centres were opened in Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique and eSwatini, thereby increasing access of ex-mineworkers to decentralised services.
Another success is the shared procurement of essential medicines and commodities in SADC, which has been identified as a priority with the aim to establish an autonomous non-profit organisation called the SADC Pooled Procurement Services.
Over the years, he said SADC member states have acknowledged that the private sector should play a leading role in creating jobs, driving trade and industrialisation and fostering regional integration.
However, he said, the ability of SADC countries to establish a competitive industrial sector and promote greater industrial linkages has been hindered by the lack of infrastructure in areas such as energy, transport and communications.
He explained regional cooperation in the development of infrastructure will lower transaction costs, enhance regional markets and make production and exports more competitive.
According to him, investment in infrastructure must therefore be a central priority.
Moreover, he said the region remains peaceful and stable, underlining the value of the successful mediation and conflict prevention strategies undertaken by member states in collaboration with the SADC Secretariat.
He disclosed that lawmakers in the SADC Parliamentary Forum have indicated their readiness to transform the Forum into a SADC Parliament.
He said the establishment of a SADC Parliament is therefore a matter to which members need to give due consideration.