Regional integration and trade highlights at SADC Industrialisation Week
The message from the opening session of the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) annual regional public-private engagement forum, known as Industrialisation Week, was that regional integration is a necessary precursor to global integration.
The SADC Industrialisation Week commenced in Windhoek yesterday and will run until tomorrow, 1 August, under the theme “Promoting Infrastructure Development and Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development”.
“We are recommitting ourselves, as a region, to industrialisation; to produce what we can sell to each other and to ultimately increase SADC’s productive capacity. The reality is that Namibia, and other SADC countries, must trade more with neighbouring countries in order to gradually trade more with the African continent,” said Tapiwa Samanga from the SADC Secretariat.
He added that because regional integration is the ultimate goal that member states cannot walk away from, deliberate steps need to be taken to improve every year and the push for regional industrialisation needs to continue.
Another key speaker during yesterday’s official opening was German Ambassador to Namibia Christian-Matthias Schlaga, who reminded delegates that his country places great value on regional integration and therefore fully supports SADC’s integration initiatives.
“Namibian companies can only achieve economies of scale (with large competitors) when they look beyond their borders,” said Schlaga. He cautioned, however, that both regional integration as well as industrialisation take time.
“One of the key aspects of achieving these goals is to develop a mindset of regional and global integration. This is why the slogan of ‘my country first’ does not fit into today’s world and the global objectives,” he added, in an obvious jab at US President Donald Trump’s “America First” philosophy.
Also speaking during the official opening, the European Union’s Ambassador to Namibia, Jana Hybaskova, noted that ‘value chains’ are the buzzwords for this important week. “We have to really consider how we position local value chains to connect to regional value chains to contribute to global value chains,” said Hybaskova.
Officially welcoming the delegates at the event, Namibia’s Minister of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development, Tjekero Tweya, used an example of toothpicks to drive home the point of industrialisation.
“Twenty-eight years after Namibia’s independence we are still unable to manufacture toothpicks in the country. Even financial institutions would rather give you an overdraft to travel to China to go buy the toothpicks but they would be reluctant to give you the money to buy the machine to make your own toothpicks,” Tweya lamented.
SADC’s Industrialisation Week, which is aimed at fostering new opportunities for intra-regional trade and investment, also entails an exhibitor’s aspect on the side-lines where this year about 150 companies from across SADC are presenting their products.
The 2018 SADC Industrialisation Week is being hosted with the support of the NEPAD Business Foundation, the Southern Africa Business Forum (SABF), the Department of Trade and Industry of South Africa and the Department of International Relations and Corporation (DIRCO) and is being supported by the Barclays Africa Group and the European Union.
The SADC Industrialisation Week is being hosted as a precursor to the SADC Heads of States and Government Summit and its outputs will be reported to the annual SADC Ministers Meeting.
The first SADC Industrialisation Week took place in Swaziland, under the theme “Infrastructure Constraints” while the second transpired in South Africa where a regional gas task force committee was established.