36th SADC Heads of State and Government Summit – overview of the agenda
Brian Mureverwi, Independent Expert, discusses the key topics on this year’s SADC Summit agenda, convening in Swaziland under the theme Resource Mobilisation for Investment in Sustainable Energy Infrastructure
The 36th Heads of State and Government Summit will formally kick off in the Kingdom of Swaziland, from 30-31 August 2016. The summit is an annual event to take stock of various projects on regional economic integration, social development, and peace and security matters. This year’s summit theme has been dubbed “Resource Mobilisation for Investment in Sustainable Energy Infrastructure for an Inclusive SADC Industrialisation for the Prosperity of the Region”. This theme seeks to direct the attention of the SADC leaders to the challenge of mobilizing resources to improve energy infrastructure.
The theme continues the industrialization trajectory of the last two summits hosted by Zimbabwe in 2014 and Botswana in 2015, which focused on economic transformation and sustainable development through beneficiation and value addition, and on transforming natural resources and human capital to boost sustainable development respectively.
The 2016 summit is expected to deliberate a wide range of issues, and notable items on the agenda of the Heads of State and Government include:
- Economic situation in the region;
- Regional and continental economic integration;
- Status of Regional Integration: Implementation of the Regional Indicative Strategic Plan (RISDP);
- Food security;
- Regional peace and security cooperation;
- Gender and development.
During the Summit, the President of Botswana Lt. General Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama will hand over the chairmanship of the regional body to H.M. King Mswati III of the Kingdom of Swaziland. The 35th Summit was held in Botswana under the theme “Accelerating Industrialization of SADC Economies, Through Transformation of Natural Endowment and Improved Human Capital.” There is a growing realisation among member states of the need to improve infrastructure to support industrialisation efforts. The recent adoption of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063, Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan, and the Revised RISDP bears testimony to this development. The Energy Sector Plan of the RIDMP identifies a total of 73 power projects which, if implemented within the stipulated timeframe of 2012-2027, will increase generation capacity from the current 56,000 megawatts (MW) and ensure that the projected demand of 96,000MW is surpassed within the next 11 years, making the SADC region energy self-sufficient. The electricity challenge in the region is contributing to the weaker economic growth prospects of SADC member states. The energy problem in the Southern African region also has implications for SADC’s Industrialisation Strategy. In an effort to address the energy deficit, member states have commissioned a number of energy projects, which are at various levels of completion.
The 36th Summit is also being held at a time when the region is grappling with acute grain shortages. As effects of climate change worsen, droughts have become more frequent and severe in southern Africa. Last year’s devastating effect of the El Niño phenomenon has contributed to the the heavy toll on rural livelihoods and economies rendering an estimated 30 million people food insecure in the SADC region. Some countries in the region have already declared drought emergencies in an effort to scale up humanitarian response. This current El Niño effect, one of the strongest in 35 years, has since the first quarter of 2016 had very adverse effects on the agricultural season in the southern Africa region. Significant grain imports are coming into the region from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and USA. Meanwhile, intra-regional trade in grain has waned as countries preserve strategic stocks.
In 2015, the region adopted the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap, which aims to strengthen the comparative and competitive advantages of the economies of the region. It is anchored on three interdependent strategic pillars: namely industrialisation as champion of economic transformation; enhanced competitiveness; and, deeper regional integration. Major interventions proposed in the Action Plan include an improved policy environment for industrial development, increased volume and efficiency of public and private sector investments in the SADC economy, creation of regional value chains and participation in related global processes, as well as increased value addition for agricultural and non-agricultural products and services. While the Industrialisation Strategy takes a regional dimension, most of these noble SADC programmes have not been implemented at member state level, partly due to lack of integrated monitoring on the implementation of agreed decisions.
Summit will also review the Revised RISDP, which is a five year plan that guides the implementation of all SADC programmes from 2015 until 2020. The plan has four priority areas:
- Industrial development and market integration;
- Infrastructure in support of regional integration;
- Peace and Security cooperation as a prerequisite for regional integration; and
- Special programmes of regional integration.
With regard to peace and security, SADC Summit will deliberate on matters relating to consolidating regional stability through various measures, including mediation in conflicts in the Kingdom of Lesotho and Madagascar. They will also receive a report on the current political situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Meanwhile, SADC has affirmed its candidature for the Africa Union Chairperson as Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation from Botswana. This follows the resignation of the incumbent Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has served only one term, but has been very successful in advancing the continental integration agenda. She is expected to come back home to pursue active politics. Dr Dlamini-Zuma became the first southern African, and first woman, to head the AU Commission since the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) – predecessor to the AU – in 1963.
On another note, His Excellency President John Magufuli of Tanzania is the only new president to be welcomed by the 36th SADC summit, and to make his maiden speech. At the last summit, a total of three presidents – Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique, Hage Geingob of Namibia and Edgar Lungu of Zambia – delivered their maiden speeches.