SADC Cooperation Vital for Growth

THE fifteen affiliate states to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) recently converged on Victoria Falls Town in Zimbabwe for a two-day, 34th extraordinary Head of State and Government summit.

The summit which was held under the theme “economic transformation,” drew attendance from Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Swaziland, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Zambia was represented by Vice-President Guy Scott who was accompanied to the summit by his wife Charlotte, Commerce Minister Robert Sichinga, Foreign Affairs Minister Harry Kalaba and other senior government officials.

Among the key issues on the meeting’s agenda was how SADC member countries could collaborate further for the achievement of one common aim which is bettering the lives of their citizens.

In his keynote address to the August House, Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe as chairperson of SADC said for the sake of full economic emancipation, Southern Africa needed to move away from over reliance on foreign aid.

Mr Mugabe said the region could use its abundant natural resources such as minerals, water and land to become self reliant and economically self-sustaining.

This is possible as the region has the world’s largest deposits of minerals such as copper, platinum and supplies of other valuable commodities such as diamonds and gold.

But the continued over-reliance on the generosity and goodwill of cooperating partners in the West tends to compromise the ownership and sustainability of developmental programmes.

It also poses a threat to the cultural or religious values and beliefs which can be twisted in preference for continued foreign aid to better the lives of poor SADC citizens.

This platform concurs with Mr Mugabe’s observations because how can we proudly claim SADC to be our own region when close to 60 percent of the developmental programmes are externally funded?

Thus the just ended summit has provided some of the answers to the issues regarding foreign aid and its time that the respective government’s acted collaboratively to achieve the common goal of poverty alleviation.

One way of reducing reliance on foreign aid is for member states to invest in surrounding economies for the purpose of supporting value addition to the local endowment.

Zambia posses 40 per cent of the water bodies in SADC and occupies acres of arable land which can be can be cultivated and transformed to enhance value addition.

Government has done its best to maintain a favourable economic landscape and there is no reason why regional entrepreneurs can not set base here and establish viable businesses.

With the exception of South Africa and more recently Tanzania, entrepreneurs from other SADC countries have not done much to come on board and invest in income generating ventures in Zambia.

Likewise, there are few Zambian entrepreneurs establishing businesses in other SADC countries and Government together with the local business people needs to address this issue.

Countries like Botswana, the DRC and South Africa are ripe for investment in mining, Angola and Tanzania for energy while Zimbabwe is best known for agriculture having served as the regional bread basket.

The Seychelles, Madagascar and Mauritius offer quality tourist resorts and entrepreneurs including Zambians can invest there in facilities such as hotels.

Malawi boasts of inland fisheries, Mozambique has a good transport and communications system while Lesotho also has land waiting to be cultivated.

The marine fisheries sector is booming in Namibia while Swaziland has a profound system for human resource development in the region.

SADC member countries can also drive growth by exporting more finished goods amongst themselves instead of raw materials.

That is why President Michael Sata ensured the ban on exporting copper concentrates which could be processed locally and exported as finished metal to neighbouring countries.

This region has abundant resources, which instead of being sold in raw form at very low prices must be exploited and beneficiated to add value to the products.

Southern Africa must wean itself from exporting raw materials and create value chains that will lead to the exportation of finished products.

The Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC) has already embarked on this process locally and these are some of the concepts that can be shared with neighbouring countries for the benefit of many poor people.

Source : The Times of Zambia

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