SANF 22 no 22 – by Kizito Sikuka in Kinshasa, DRC
Southern Africa must remain vigilant and united in its fight against COVID-19 to ensure sustainable development in the region.
The outgoing chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministers, Nancy Tembo said this at the Council meeting held ahead of the 42nd SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government set for 17-18 August in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Tembo, who is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malawi said the SADC region has made significant progress to contain and address the impact of COVID-19, but the pandemic is still a serious concern.
“The assessment of the period that has passed since Malawi took the Chair of SADC indicates that COVID-19 remains a serious concern to the world and our region,” Minister Tembo said.
“The SADC region should, therefore, remain vigilant, and ensure close monitoring and compliance with all precautionary measures determined by the health authorities.”
She said it is within this context that the region supported the implementation of its planned activities under the theme of “Bolstering Productive Capacities in the Face of COVID 19 Pandemic for Inclusive, Sustainable Economic and Industrial Transformation”, which was agreed at the previous Summit held in Malawi last year.
The SADC Executive Secretary, His Excellency Elias Magosi emphasised this point, saying that it is critical for the region to contain and address the pandemic by ensuring that its citizens are vaccinated against COVID-19.
There has been a low uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine in some Member States due to various factors including misinformation.
Magosi urged Member States to engage with the private sector on producing vaccines and other medical products locally and regionally, saying such a development will strengthen self-reliance and ensure that the region is able to take charge of its own health agenda.
He said a priority for SADC is to invest more resources in strengthening public health systems to combat new health threats.
“In the health sector, we continue to see the emergence of new health threats, including COVID-19, which we have lived with for the last two and a half years,” Magosi said.
“We need to remain vigilant as a region since there are other emerging diseases such as monkeypox, even in countries where the disease has never been seen before.”
Some of the key regional responses put in place by SADC Member States to contain and address the impact of COVID-19 include harmonized disease surveillance standards at points of entry to facilitate the smooth flow of essential commodities such as fuel, medicine and food.
Member States also shared information about the evolution of the pandemic in their respective countries, which helped in informing decisions on cross-border issues.
The SADC Secretariat engaged International Cooperating Partners to mobilize resources to procure commodities such as testing kits and other biomedical equipment.
In this regard, the 42nd SADC Summit is expected to see leaders from southern Africa discuss ways on how the region can intensify its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 42nd SADC Summit is running under the theme “Promoting industrialization through, agro-processing, mineral beneficiation, and regional value chains for inclusive and resilient economic growth.”
The theme continues with the industrialization trajectory, as SADC has since 2014 held its summits under the industrialization theme.
At the summit, President Felix Tshisekedi of DRC will become the SADC Chair, taking over from his Malawian counterpart President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera for a period of one year.
The SADC Summit is responsible for the overall policy direction and control of functions of the Community, ultimately making it the supreme policy-making institution of SADC.
The Summit is made up of all Heads of States or Government of SADC Member States and is managed on a Troika system that comprises the current SADC Summit Chairperson, the incoming Chairperson (the Deputy at the time), and the immediate previous Chairperson.
For the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa will hand over the Chair to the Namibian President Hage Geingob.
The SADC Organ on Politics Defence and Security Cooperation is also managed on a Troika basis and is responsible for promoting peace and security in the SADC region.
The SADC Summit Troika and the Organ Troika are separate bodies, and the Chairperson of the Organ does not simultaneously hold the chair of Summit, but both positions rotate on an annual basis. sardc.net
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