SADC under SA leadership will prioritise intra-regional trade – Zuma

President Jacob Zuma. File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Pretoria – As President Jacob Zuma took over as chairperson of the 15-state Southern African Development Community (SADC) on Saturday, he said Pretoria takes the baton with the hope of prioritising value addition to Africa’s resources and intra-regional trade.

“In line with the global development agenda on sustainable development, the SADC has under the chairship of Zimbabwe, developed the regional industrialisation strategy and roadmap (2015-2063) as an inclusive long-term modernisation and transformation mechanism. The industrial strategy and the roadmap sets out three potential growth paths which are agro-processing, mineral beneficiation, and manufacturing,” Zuma said in his acceptance speech at the 37th SADC heads of state and government summit in Pretoria.

The SADC’s goal was to improve and establish manufacturing capacity, productivity, and competitiveness in these sectors.

“The implementation of these will ensure successful transformation of regional economies from the commodity dependent growth path to a production induced growth. This will not only raise the living standards of our people but also facilitate the rapid catch-up of the SADC countries with industrialised and developed countries,” he said.

“South Africa therefore intends to advance progress made by the previous SADC chairpersons. It is of central importance to SADC to add value to our resources and to grow our intra-regional trade and our regional brand. The key activities during our chairship 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.”

Zuma said Pretoria would promote a member state-driven process through the industrial development forum to facilitate the identification of cross-border projects that would strengthen regional value-chains and contribute to the development of the region.

“The achievement of this requires a functional regional market which is key to facilitate 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,” he said.

As a contribution towards capacity building, South Africa would 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.

Earlier, Zuma used his welcoming remarks at the summit to pay tribute to iconic members of the SADC who had recently died.

“We remember and salute the role of both former president of Botswana Sir Ketumile Masire and the Namibian liberation struggle stalwart and former minister Herman Andimba Toivo ya Toivo. We appreciate the achievements of both these giants for their sacrifices and will continue to be inspired by their legacies,” he said.

Zuma said South Africa had been working closely with Swaziland, which had been chairing the regional bloc under Swaziland’s King Mswati III, and the SADC secretariat towards ensuring a smooth transition.

Numerous SADC heads of state and government, including Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane, Namibian President Hage Geingob, Botswana President Ian Khama, Zambian President Edgar Lungu, and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe were in attendance at the summit.

The predecessor of the SADC, the Southern African Development Co-ordination Community (SADCC) was established in 1980 in Lusaka, Zambia. In 1992, regional heads of state agreed to transform the SADCC into the SADC with a special focus on regional integration.