Kumbirai Nhongo Correspondent
A regional business council to strengthen private sector engagement in advancing integration in southern Africa which was established on August 5 is a good move that will benefit the SADC bloc.
The SADC Business Council was officially launched on August 5 ahead of the 39th SADC Summit which ran between August 17 and 18 in Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania.
SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax said the business council is expected to enhance cooperation among the private sector in the region.
“The establishment of the SADC Business Council is commendable,” Dr Tax said at the SADC Council of Ministers meeting, adding that the business council “will establish closer public-private sector cooperation in the technological and economic transformation of SADC economies, and thus push forward the SADC industrialisation agenda”.
“May I call upon the private sector to utilise this platform not only for the benefit of their business interests, but also for the benefit of SADC citizens, and in doing so be a contributing partner to the SADC integration agenda.”
The private sector and other non-state actors are critical partners towards attaining inclusive and sustainable economic development as acknowledged in the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap.
Recognising that the involvement of the private sector is critical for the successful implementation of the Industrialisation Strategy, the SADC Secretariat in collaboration with the private sector apex bodies in the region decided to establish the SADC Business Council.
Salum Shamte of Tanzania was appointed chairperson of the council. Shamte is chair of the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation.
The operationalisation of the SADC Business Council is expected to strengthen the engagement of the private sector in the SADC integration and development agenda, at borg the regional and national levels.
The decision to strengthen private sector engagement in regional integration is in line with the recommendations of the SADC Strategic Ministerial Retreat on the “SADC We Want” held in Ezulwini, the Kingdom of Eswatini, in March 2017.
The retreat agreed on measures aimed at strengthening implementation of the integration agenda and promoting inclusive participation by citizens in regional programmes.
It was noted that the lack of direct involvement by the private sector is a barrier to economic development.
Furthermore, the 37th SADC Summit held in Pretoria, South Africa, focused on exploring ways of harnessing the public and private sectors to work together to promote sustainable economic development in the region.
The theme for the 37th SADC Summit was “Partnering with the private sector in developing industry and regional value-chains”.
Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are regarded as a viable model for attracting investment for public projects by allowing governments to have more access to additional capital and off balance sheet financing.
Other initiatives to strengthen private sector engagement in regional integration include the convening of an annual SADC Industrialisation Week to popularise the strategy and garner support for its implementation.
Launched in 2016 ahead of the 36th SADC Summit in Eswatini, the Industrialisation Week provides an opportunity for member states and the SADC Secretariat to engage and network with the private sector, which is a key player in the industrialisation agenda.
Since its launch, the Industrialisation Week has been held in South Africa in August 2017, and in Namibia in July-August in 2018 as well as in Tanzania on August 5-9.
The objective of the Industrialisation Week is to popularise the strategy and identify industrialisation projects that can be implemented jointly by the public and private sectors within SADC member states.
Such projects include infrastructure development, regional trade and industrial capacity.
The main focus is on three spheres —strengthening value chains, corridor development and enhancing infrastructure.
Regarding value chain projects, priority is placed on mining and mineral beneficiation, agro-processing and pharmaceuticals.
Corridor development involves various enabling factors such as standards and quality infrastructure, trade facilitation and transport infrastructure.
With regard to infrastructure development, special focus is on water and energy projects.
The 39th SADC Summit which saw President John Pombe Joseph Magufuli of Tanzania assuming the rotating SADC chair from his Namibian counterpart Hage Geingob, ran under the theme “A Conducive Environment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development, Increased Intra-Regional Trade and Job Creation”.
Industrialisation is a top priority for Southern Africa, and since 2014 all SADC summits have focused on how the region can attain industrial development. — sardc.net