Packed agenda for the 35th SADC Summit
The 35th SADC Heads of State and Government Summit set for 17-18 August in Gaborone, Botswana will deliberate on a wide range of issues, particularly on how southern Africa could fully benefit from its vast natural resources and improvement of the livelihood of its citizens.
According to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministers, which meets prior to the Summit of Heads of State and Government, discussions will mainly focus on advancing the industrialization agenda of the region.
Industrialization was identified by the last summit held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe in August 2014 as one of the critical enablers for SADC to achieve sustainable socio-economic development.
This is in realization of the fact that countries in the southern African region are getting very little in return from their natural resources since most of them do not have vibrant industrial bases that can allow them to add value to their resources before trading among themselves or exporting to other parts of the world.
To ensure that this industrialization momentum is maintained, the 35th SADC Summit will be held under the theme, “Accelerating Industrialization of SADC Economies, Through Transformation of Natural Endowment and Improved Human Capital.”
The theme continues the trajectory of the 34th Summit hosted by Zimbabwe, which focused on economic transformation and sustainable development through beneficiation and value addition.
“The proposed theme by Botswana takes forward the industrialization agenda,” new SADC Council chairperson, Kenneth Matambo said.
He noted that Council agreed to recommend to the heads of state and government when they meet on 17-18 August that all member states will now be expected to make progress reports in implementing the industrialization agenda at all future Council and Summit meetings.
Another key issue is on the Tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA) involving two other Regional Economic Communities (RECs), namely the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC).
COMESA, EAC and SADC jointly launched an enlarged market in June covering 27 countries in eastern and southern Africa.
The Tripartite FTA creates a combined population of some 600 million people covering half of the member states of the African Union with a total Gross Domestic Product of about US$1 trillion.
The enlarged market aims to promote the smooth movement of goods and services across borders, as well as allowing member countries to harmonize regional trade policies to promote equal competition.
A total of 16 countries have signed the agreement to establish the Tripartite FTA, eight of them from SADC – Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Namibia, Seychelles, Swaziland, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
The remaining countries requested more time to complete their internal processes before signing the document.
As such, the leaders set to come up with ways on how SADC as the current chair of the tripartite arrangement is able to facilitate the finalizations of negotiations on some of the outstanding areas still under discussions.
Linked to this is preparation for the launch of the Continental FTA. The SADC region has started negotiations for the launch of the Continental FTA set for 2017.
According to Matambo, the summit is expected to “advocate for a pragmatic approach to the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area, building on progress achieved and lessons learnt at the REC levels and the Tripartite FTA”.
Other issues for the leaders will be the implementation plan and financing of the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap and the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2015-2020.
The SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap aims at accelerating the growing momentum towards strengthening the comparative and competitive advantages of the economies of the region, and is anchored on three pillars, namely industrialization, competitiveness and regional integration.
The Revised RISDP is a five-year plan that guides the implementation of all SADC programmes from 2015 until 2020.
Summit is also expected to approve the Draft Charter establishing the Aviation Safety Organisation as well as the Draft SADC Declaration on Youth Development and Employment. Both legal instruments were approved by Council when it met on 14-15 August.
The heads of state and government will also discuss the region’s political and socio-economic development issues. These include the political situation in Kingdom of Lesotho and the continuing instability in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
At the summit, President Seretse Khama Ian Khama of Botswana will assume the rotating SADC chair from his Zimbabwean counterpart, President Robert Mugabe.