Kizito Sikuka Correspondent
The new chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) says the region is not poor, and he urged the 16-member states to use their vast resources to generate wealth.
President John Pombe Joseph Magufuli of the United Republic of Tanzania, who now chairs SADC, said this at the opening ceremony of the 39th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government which he hosted in Dar es Salaam on August 17.
“Our countries are not poor, they are very rich.
“We have all the resources to make us rich,” he said, adding that SADC has vast natural resources, including fertile land, minerals and wildlife in addition to human resources.
“We must, therefore, work together to ensure that we utilise and exploit these resources for the benefit of our countries and people.
“This is important because it is only through cooperation that we will be able to utilise these resources effectively and achieve our objectives.”
He urged member states to develop their industries, and to trade more with each other to ensure that the region fully benefits from its resources.
Speaking on acceptance of the rotating SADC chair from President Hage Geingob of Namibia, Magufuli said the region has the capacity to achieve sustainable development and integration if these resources are developed within the region, rather than being traded elsewhere as raw materials.
He urged SADC member states to industrialise their economies so the natural resources are used to finance the development of southern Africa.
A vibrant industrialised sector would allow the region to add value to its raw materials before exporting, thus creating jobs within the region rather than exporting resources in raw or unprocessed form, and later importing them back as finished goods.
The imbalance between export and import costs has negatively contributed to the poor economic performance of the region, and pushed SADC to the periphery of global trade.
“By exporting our raw materials, it means we are also exporting jobs,” he said, noting that the developed countries of the north are industrialised, and that without industrialisation, there is no sustainable development.
“History has taught us that no country or region in the world has ever developed without undergoing the process of industrialisation.”
Magufuli said the region should be commended for adopting the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap as well as making a decision in 2014 that industrialisation is a top priority and will feature each year in the theme of the annual SADC Summit.
The 39th summit, which ended on August 18, ran under the theme: “A Conducive Environment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development, Increased Intra-Regional Trade and Job Creation.”
“In this respect, I wish to assure this august body that issues pertaining to industrialisation will be the top priority of our chairmanship.
“It is our sincere hope that the implementation of this theme will serve as a catalyst for sustainable industrial development, increased intra-regional trade and job creation in our region.”
Magufuli said it was important for SADC to address the factors that cause member states to trade more with the outside world than within the region.
These factors include poor infrastructure built during the colonial era that hampers the smooth movement of goods, services and people between African countries, as well as the imposition of non-tariff barriers between countries.
“For our industrial sector to flourish, we must also work together to improve business environment in our region by addressing all impediments and bottlenecks, including transit delays, bureaucratic red-tape, and corruption,” he said.
Studies have shown that the costs relating to customs in SADC are much higher than those in Asia and other developing countries.
Further, the cost is higher to import some goods such as animal feed and refined sugar within the SADC region as compared to importing the same from South America.
“Difference in trade and investment policies, laws, regulations and standards has also done its fair share in hindering business and economic cooperation between and among SADC member states, thus affecting our economic performance,” he said.
For example, a good that is produced and cleared in one SADC member state can be denied entry into another member state for not meeting the quality standards.
Magufuli said it was, therefore, critical for SADC to harmonise policies, laws, regulations and quality standards “to increase the volume and value of our intra and extra regional trade.”
“Unless we do that, it will remain a daydream for our region to fully realise its economic objectives,” he said, adding that infrastructure development is another important enabler of industrialisation and market integration.
He urged SADC member states to share information on the opportunities available in their countries.
“Due to lack of information, our countries are importing cars, sugar, and fuel very far away from our region, while some SADC member states are producing the same.”
On the political front, President Magufuli said the region should aim to consolidate and strengthen the peace and stability that exists in the region.
He said the recent conclusion of peaceful elections in six SADC member states — the Union of Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Kingdom of Eswatini, Madagascar, Malawi and South Africa — is “indeed another testimony that democracy has continued to grow and take roots in our sub region”.
“It is, therefore, imperative that we continue to work together to address these challenges. This is important because, as we all very well know, peace and security are the most critical pre-conditions for socio-economic development and transformation,” he said.
“As the Chair of the SADC for the next one year, we pledge our commitment to work with all the member states in order to ensure that peace and security prevail in our region.”
President Magufuli said he felt “greatly honoured and yet privileged” to be elected to chair SADC, adding that the appointment “comes with high expectations”.
“I have all the confidence that, with your support and cooperation, I will be able to live up to your expectations and to the expectations of the people of this region.” — sardc.net