The SADC Council of Ministers yesterday held a virtual meeting to consider issues of regional development, cooperation and the economic impact of Covid-19.
Ministers from Zimbabwe, Zanzibar, Angola, Botswana, South Africa, Mauritius, Malawi, Comoros, Seychelles, DRC, Mozambique, Tanzania, Namibia, Lesotho and Madagascar participated in the meeting.
Zimbabwe was represented by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Sibusiso Moyo, Finance and Economic Development Minister Prof Mthuli Ncube, Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza, among other senior Government officials.
On the agenda was the fight against Covid-19 in the region, implementation of council decisions, impact of Covid-19 programme implementation, socio-economic impact of Covid-19 and its implications on the SADC region.
The meeting also discussed the state of finances, implementation of council decisions, disaster risk management, review of status on the SADC intra trade and SADC industrialisation, among other issues.
SADC Council of Ministers chairperson, Tanzania Foreign Affairs Minister and East African Cooperation Minister Palamagamba John Kabudi expressed concern that Covid-19 had impacted negatively on intra trade in the region.
He urged member countries to turn the Covid-19 challenge from being a challenge to an opportunity to boost trade among the member states and also boost the economies.
Minister Kabudi expressed concern that long distance truck drivers were being stigmatised and regarded as causes of the spread of Covid-19 when they were executing their essential duty of transporting goods.
“We should treat our drivers with respect and the dignity they deserve,” he said.
“We urge regional integration and encourage trade. Covid-19 pandemic is likely not to end soon. We should practice safe trade. Our industries should produce more PPEs so we are able to share and sell.”
Minister Kabudi said efforts should be put in establishing more pharmacies and coming up with medicines, thereby creating employment and boosting economies.
SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax said Covid-19 was going to have negative impact on the economies of different nations.
“We understand the efforts to curb this pandemic, but focus should now move to promote other economic activities, so that our region boost its industrial revolution in the face of Covid-19,” she said.