Dar es Salaam. The 39th Summit of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) ended yesterday with leaders endorsing measures to take the region to another level of development.
They include resource mobilisation to accelerate industrialisation and infrastructure development, as well as stepping up action against trade barriers, red tape and corruption.
“Our focus remains accelerating growth to improve the livelihoods of millions of our people,” said President John Magufuli, the new Sadc chair, as the high-profile event came to an end.
In that vein, the member countries of the bloc signed a new protocol on industrialisation that seeks to attract more investments through innovation and new technologies.
“Industrialisation to boost trade remains key in our development agenda,” he told the closing session of the two-day summit at the Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre (JNICC).
Dr Magufuli implored fellow leaders in the 16-nation bloc to take action against barriers to cross-border trade and red tape, saying they hampered the flow of trade and investments.
Statistics indicate Sadc exports to the outside world in 2017 amounted to $143 billion, far below the $403 billion and $213 billion which Mexico and Vietnam exported during the same period, respectively.
The annual economic growth of the vast region, covering one third of African continent’s land surface and with a population of 327 million, has not been any better. Last year, the bloc recorded an average GDP growth of 3.1 per cent, which is below the African continental average of 3.5 per cent and also lower than other regional blocs in Africa.
Beside the protocol on industrialisation, the summit, hosted by Tanzania for the second time, signed three other protocols aimed at tackling cross-border crime.
These are the protocol on inter-state transfer of sentence offenders, amendment of a protocol on extradition of suspects and legal assistance in crime matters.
The summit also agreed to establish a disaster risk reduction body to identify, assess and reduce the risk of disasters in the region.
President Magufuli, who assumed the Sadc chairmanship on Saturday, said the fight against corruption was among a raft of measures agreed upon in order to stimulate trade and investments in the region.
He announced that in resource mobilisation, member states have pledged to contribute $31 million to support this year’s expenditure budget of the Sadc secretariat.
For the 2019/2020 financial year, the secretariat of the regional body based in the capital of Botswana, Gaborone, has budgeted to spend a total of $74 million for its activities.
The new Sadc chair was firm on his resolve to ensure that the funds budgeted for the organisation were spent to implement projects that would improve the livelihoods of the people.
He also challenged Sadc member countries to remit their annual budget contributions to the organisation as agreed, noting that delay or failure to remit money would paralyse integration efforts. Unlike the East African Community (EAC), budgetary contributions in the Sadc region are based on economic strength of member countries. For the EAC, the partner states contribute equally. The summit agreed to make Kiswahili the fourth official language of Sadc. Currently, the official languages are English, French and Portuguese, reflecting the diversity of the region.