PRETORIA, South African President Jacob Zuma, who has taken over as the chairperson of SADC, intends to grow intra-regional trade, which remains under 20%, and build the regional brand towards diversifying and expanding value chains.
Zuma took over the chairpersonship of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on Saturday during the 37th SADC summit, which is underway in Tshwane, South Africa.
South Africa, which took over the chair from Swaziland, will over the next year be responsible for several programmes of the regional body, which is celebrating 25 years of existence.
The SADC chairpersonship, on a one-year-term basis, rotates among the bloc’s member states.
Zuma said South Africa’s theme for its chair tenure is ‘Partnering with the private sector in developing industry and regional value chains’. This theme seeks to build momentum and continuity in the collective aspiration towards regional sustainable economic development and industrialisation.
Our cooperation as a region will allow our economies to overcome the challenge of small, fragmented economies, and create a larger market that improves the region’s prospects of attracting investment, he said.
In his acceptance speech, the President outlined Tshwane’s strategy and key projects for the term, which he said will strategically advance and drive regional and continental industrialisation and integration.
The key activities during our chairpersonship will be the development of a high impact Annual Operation Plan, with targeted interventions and public policy tools to foster the development of regional value-chains in agro-processing, pharmaceuticals and mineral beneficiation, said Zuma.
Tshwane will promote a member state-driven process, through the Industrial Development Forum, to identify cross-border projects that will strengthen regional value-chains and contribute to the development of the region. The achievement of this will require a functional regional market, which is key to stimulating investment.
We will need to ensure that we find an effective way of promoting a rules-based trade environment that promotes certainty and stability. The implementation of commitments under the Trade Protocol have to be an integral part of this agenda, so as to create an integrated market that is conducive to the development of regional value chains, Zuma told the summit, which is attended by a number of Heads of State and Government, including Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and the Seychelles.
As a contribution towards capacity building, South Africa will — in addition to the initiative started by Swaziland on the establishment of the University of Transformation — introduce a new programme to develop capacity in industrial policy making and implementation for senior officials in the SADC region.
With regards to infrastructure, which has been identified as a key driver of industrialisation, South Africa has identified an important gap created by the lack of funding for bankable projects from both the public and private sectors.
We therefore need to leverage infrastructure spend to fast track the process of structural transformation in our economy, said Zuma.
Currently, the nature of funding or loans from international cooperative partners comes with restrictive conditions. President Zuma said this needs to change so that the region can take the lead in mobilising resources to fund its projects.
This is a key element towards the region’s ambitions of having its own Regional Development Fund, he said.
The fund will serve as start-up capital for regional programmes and projects in the various sectors.
Tshwane is also proposing the establishment of an Inter-State Natural Gas Committee to share lessons for regional gas development and to prepare for the development of the wider gas economy.
Industrialists have indicated that Southern Africa is most likely sitting on massive natural gas reserves of more than 600 trillion cubic feet, which the region must exploit to reduce a heavy reliance on biomass energy.
The inclusion and promotion of gas into the regional energy mix will facilitate an increase in universal access to energy, as well as industrial development in SADC, said Zuma.
This, he said, will attract private sector investment and help boost region-wide energy infrastructure and maintenance projects.
Zuma said South Africa will work closely with the SADC community in developing and rolling out a strategy to prevent, monitor and deal with destructive invasive species. The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and other related organisations in SADC will be part of this process.
The region has recently experienced natural disasters and felt the impact of trans-boundary pests such as the Fall Army Worm and Tuta Absoluta.
South Africa has also committed to lead the region towards broadening integration through the establishment of the Tripartite Free Trade Area and the Continental FTA.
South Africa this month appended its signature to the agreement establishing the TFTA, thereby becoming the 19th member state out of 26 nations to do so.
South Africa will also push for the conclusion of the Trade in Services negotiations in SADC. Prioritised sectors include construction, communication, transport, finance, energy and tourism.
The outgoing SADC chair, King Mswati III of Swaziland, thanked member states for their support during his country’s tenure, saying chairing the organisation gave them a sense of pride as a nation.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK