Malawi readies for 41st SADC Summit …as country capacitates media on regional integration

SANF 21 no 19 – by Kizito Sikuka
In his address to a Conference on Understanding Contemporary Africa held in New Delhi, India in 15 February 1996, the Founding President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere highlighted one of the threats to regional integration in southern Africa.

He said lack of information is hindering the region from fully exploiting the benefits and opportunities that exist in the shared community of southern Africa.

For example, while a lot has been achieved by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) since its formation in 1980, the narrative has however remained largely untold and in most cases negative.

“Among the good, but generally unreported things of Africa, is the Southern African Development Community,” Mwalimu Nyerere said at the 1996 conference.

His assessment is an echo of the Declaration and Treaty that transformed the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) into SADC in 1992.

The Declaration and Treaty clearly acknowledges the critical role of the media in its integration agenda, and states that the “regional integration will continue to be a pipe dream unless the peoples of the region determine its content, form and direction, and are themselves its active agent.”

The SADC Communications and Promotional Strategy of 2016 concurs, adding that “without effective communication, SADC will continue to be misunderstood and its achievements will remain invisible and the organisation will not fully realise its developmental goals.”

Cognisant of this, the Government of Malawi which will assume the Chair of SADC in August is organizing a series of workshops aimed at strengthening the knowledge base of journalists to report objectively on SADC regional integration.

The workshops scheduled for 29 July to 2 August are being held in partnership with the SADC Secretariat and the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), with support from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

According to the draft agenda, the first workshop on 29 July will target editors in Malawi.

Engaging editors is critical since they are the gatekeepers of information in the newsroom, who have the power to decide which story to publish and broadcast.

Furthermore, capacitating editors will ensure that the coverage of SADC issues is sustained well beyond the media trainings workshops.

On 30 July-1 August, a training workshop will be convened for local journalists to increase awareness of SADC processes among journalists in Malawi.

A knowledgeable local media will be important in articulating Malawi’s leadership role in guiding the SADC’s regional integration agenda during its tenure as Chair of the regional body from August 2021 to August 2022.

The last seminar on 2 August will target members of the SADC National Committees (SNC) in Malawi.

SNCs are a key component of the institutional arrangements within SADC.

They were established to provide inputs at national level in the formulation of regional policies and strategies, as well as to coordinate and oversee the implementation of programmes at national level.

The committees are also responsible for the initiation of SADC projects and issue papers as an input into the preparation of regional strategies.

The committees comprise key stakeholders from government, private sector and civil society in each Member State and a provision for their establishment is reflected in the SADC Declaration and Treaty.

The 41st SADC Summit is set for 9-19 August in Lilongwe, Malawi, including the preparatory meetings, with the Heads of State and Government meeting scheduled for 18-19 August.

At the summit President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera will assume the SADC Chair from his Mozambican counterpart President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi.

For the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana will hand over the Chair to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The theme for the summit “Bolstering Productive Capacities in the Face of COVID-19 Pandemic for Inclusive, Sustainable, Economic and Industrial Transformation.”

The theme continues with the industrialization trajectory, as SADC has since 2014 held its summits under the industrialization theme.

Southern African News Features offers a reliable source of regional information and analysis on the Southern African Development Community, and is provided as a service to the SADC region. 

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