Southern African News Features                                           SANF 09 No 19, August 2009
SADC Summit to discuss socio-economic situation in the region
by Kizito Sikuka

Southern African leaders will meet in early September to review the socio-economic and political situation in the region, including the impact of the global economic crisis.

The annual SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government is scheduled for 7-8 September in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The SADC Council of Ministers meets prior to the Summit and, according to a draft agenda, discussions will include progress on implementation of key decisions made by SADC and two other regional economic communities at a Tripartite meeting held a year ago.

The two others are the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa) and the East African Community (EAC).

At their historic Tripartite Summit in Uganda in October 2008, the three organizations approved a plan to set up an enlarged Free Trade Area encompassing 26 members in the respective regions.

The decision is a giant step towards the long conceived goal of deeper continental integration among member states as envisaged by the African Union and its New Partnership for Africaís Development (Nepad).

Another major issue for discussion is the global economic crisis.

The SADC Ministerial Task Force on Regional Economic Integration said at a recent meeting that the global economic crisis has had a negative impact on the economies of most countries in the region, thus impacting on regional macroeconomic convergence.

Mining, agriculture and tourism are the most affected sectors.

The Task Force has reaffirmed the need to accelerate efforts to deepen regional integration and resolved to closely monitor the effects of the crisis with a view to implementing measures aimed at minimizing impact on the SADC region.

With regard to the political situation in the region, Madagascar will be a key focus of discussion as SADC leaders seek a lasting solution to bring stability to the island Member States.

The political turmoil in Madagascar emerged again earlier this year after opposition leader Andry Rajoelina seized power from President Marc Ravalomanana in a public demonstration back by the military, similar to the method used by Ravalomanana when he seized power a few years earlier from his predecessor, Didier Ratsiraka.

Former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano is mediating in the peace talks sponsored by SADC.

Both leaders together with other two former Madagascan presidents have so far agreed to set up a transitional government, which will hold fresh elections within 15 months, however they have been unable to agree on the allocation of the top positions.

Another main focus will be the situation in the DRC itself, which has been trying to bring an end to the conflict in the eastern part of the country, and has been the subject of a Great Lakes region mediation effort, whose progress will be reported to Summit.

A progress report on the Zimbabwe inclusive government established in February 2009 by the countryís three main political parties after SADC mediation is likely to be presented at the Summit as part of a presentation by the outgoing SADC chairperson, South African President Jacob Zuma, whose country led the mediation exercise.

DRC President Joseph Kabila assumes the rotating SADC chair as host of the 29th SADC Heads of State and Government Summit.

Another issue to be discussed by the Summit include the election of Malawi or Lesotho to take over the AU chair from Libya, whose tenure expires in January 2010. The AU chair rotates according to regions and the next chairperson should come from the SADC region.

Malawi and Lesotho have put forward their names for this position.

Another issue for discussion will be SADCís preparedness for the 2010 World Cup Soccer final in South Africa and the 2010 African Cup of Nations in Angola.

The major world sporting event will be held for the first time in Africa from mid-June to mid-July next year, while earlier in the year Angola will host its first major international sporting event since independence in 1975.

Successful tournaments in Angola and South Africa should bring significant benefits to neighbouring countries and the entire region.

Others issues to top the Summit agenda is the energy shortage in southern Africa and climate change, notably preparations for the World Climate Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark in December.

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