Full plate for SADC Council of Ministers meeting in Angola SADC executive secretary Mr Elias Magosi

Clarkson Mambo

The SADC Council of Ministers has its hands full when it convenes on March 10-11 in Angola to review progress made in the past six months in pursuit of the regional integration agenda.

The agenda will include the resourcing of the SADC Secretariat, the industrialisation drive, peace and security as well as the food security situation, the cholera outbreak, and impending elections in some member states.

The Council of Ministers is preceded by the Standing Committee of Senior Officials which functions as the technical advisory body for the ministers and will meet from 4-5 March. 

The Finance Committee meets on 6 March.

Resourcing of the SADC Secretariat remains a key matter for the regional organisation to achieve its integration, growth and development goals. 

The Secretariat, led by executive secretary Elias Magosi, is the principal executive organ of SADC for strategic planning, coordination and management of SADC programmes.

Its financing has over the years remained a sticking point as the regional organisation’s programmes have relied mainly on donor support, with member states finding it difficult to provide adequate financing.

At the Council of Ministers, the SADC Secretariat will present its annual plan and budget for the period 2024/25.

“Resource mobilisation is the most important factor in implementing the regional agenda. However, the region has not satisfactorily utilised the SADC Resource Mobilisation Framework to mobilise resources for regional programmes,” Mr Magosi said in the Report of the Executive Secretary released in July 2023 for the period 2022/23.

Industrialisation, which has been at the core of SADC programming for the past 10 years, also requires financial resources to fully implement.

The drive aims to maximise economic benefits from the region’s abundant natural resources and produce through value addition and beneficiation to improve the socio-economic lives of its 390 million citizens.

A key aspect of the agenda to industrialise is to create more job opportunities for the youth who make up to 75 percent of the region’s population.

As chairperson for the period 2023/24, Angola is driving the industrialisation agenda under the theme, “Human and financial capital: The key drivers for sustainable industrialisation in the SADC region”.

The Council will therefore review progress made in addressing the theme’s two critical aspects of human and financial resources in the context of climate change and the fourth industrial revolution.

Away from budgetary issues, the Council of Ministers will address the question of peace and security in the region which is a pre-requisite for unhindered implementation of the regional integration agenda.

While the region continues to enjoy relative peace and stability, concern remains high about instability in two member states the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and northern Mozambique.

Keen to silence the guns, SADC has deployed regional military missions to the two countries to address the insurgency in northern Mozambique and the conflict with rebel groups in the eastern DRC.

The situation in northern Mozambique is described as largely “under control,” while fighting has been recorded at different intervals in the DRC. 

The Council is expected to get updates on the readiness for elections that will take place this year in five member states Botswana, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa.

Another top priority for the SADC Council of Ministers will be the health situation in the region following an outbreak of cholera in some member states.

An Extra-Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government held on February 2 agreed on a multi-pronged strategy to address the outbreak which has led to the death of over 4 000 people in the region in the past 12 months, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control.

The summit appointed the President of Zambia, Hakainde Hichilema as the regional Cholera Champion to spearhead the fight against cholera.

In terms of food security, the council will deliberate on mechanisms to address a potential food security challenge following erratic rains received across the region in the 2023/24 season that have resulted in some farmers who are reliant on rain- fed agriculture writing off their crops.

Weather experts had late last year forewarned of an impending drought season. 

Last week, Zambia became the first country in the region to declare a national disaster as a result of the drought.

“With heavy hearts, we have declared a national disaster and emergency as our country faces severe drought, caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon, influenced by climate change. 

“The prolonged dry spell has impacted both Zambia’s food and energy security which are our key priorities,” president Hichilema said.

Besides these topical issues, the Council of Ministers will review progress by the SADC Secretariat in the implementation of decisions made by Heads of State and Government at the ordinary summit held in August 2023.

These include progress made by member states towards the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement that establishes the SADC Humanitarian and Emergency Operations Centre (SHOC) and the implementation of the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan 2020-2030. 

The focus will be on the region’s socio-economic situation and economic performance, infrastructure development, gender and development as well as disaster risk management.

Besides the drought warnings, weather experts have also predicted that the region will likely record an increased number of tropical cyclones this year compared to 2023.

This requires the regional organisation to expedite the operations of the recently established SHOC to assist member states.

The Council of Ministers is expected to get an update on preparations for the 44th SADC Heads of State and Government Summit which will be hosted by Zimbabwe in August 2024.

A SADC preparatory mission visited the member state recently for the first round of discussions on readiness, with a second round set for mid-year.

The Council of Ministers is made up mainly of ministers responsible for foreign affairs and is responsible for overseeing the functioning and development of SADC, as well as ensuring that policies are effectively implemented. 

The Council meets twice a year in the first quarter of the year, and just before the annual Heads of State and Government Summit which is held every August. sardc.net

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