SADC chair proposes regional university on innovation

by Joseph Ngwawi in Mbabane, Swaziland – SANF 16 no. 43
Southern Africa could soon have an institution to train citizens in innovation and entrepreneurship as the region intensifies efforts to transform itself into an industrialised region.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) University of Transformation is one of initiatives proposed by the new SADC chairperson, King Mswati III of Swaziland measures to improve industrial productivity.

He said the establishment of the university “will be the next milestone in our journey which started in 1980.”

“The University for Transformation will deliver in educational and training terms, using the technical vocational educational training model of delivery,” King Mswati said.

“This initiative will give new hope and opportunity to our youth and our women. The intention is to have the first intake of students prior to the 37th SADCSummit in 2017.”

The SADC chair offered to host the proposed university and said his government would offer scholarships for 300 students for the initial intake to be drawn from all 15 community members – which is 20 students per member country.

The proposeduniversity will be a timely intervention that is expected to complement the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063.

The strategy and its roadmap is being implemented in three phases, covering the three main pillars of industrialisation, competitiveness and regional integration.

The first phase covers the period between 2015 and 2020.The second phase, which is expected to cover 30 years, would consist of a period 2021-2050 while the final phase is proposed to run between 2051 and 2063, building up for the convergence with the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

The Agenda envisaged that by 2063 African countries will collectively converge into “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena”.

The first phase of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap will involve implementation of measures to transform the production base of the region as well as to raise the quality of human capital and labour productivity.

Proposed interventions during this phase will include modernisation of industry and support structures; measures to upgrade science, technology, engineering and research capabilities of Member States; skills development; institutional reforms; and adoption of conducive macroeconomic policies for industrial development.

It is envisaged that the SADC economy would move from factor-driven to efficiency-driven during the second phase.

Measures will focus on diversification and productivity of sectors and increasing competitiveness of the region.

This will involve the introduction of policies targeting agro-food processing industries; introduction of value-chains involving the agricultural sector; mineral beneficiation; pharmaceuticals; and transformation of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

Proposed specific interventions during this phase will include introduction of advanced technology in agro-food processing projects; development of agro-industrial clusters; promotion of regional value chains; prioritization of mineral beneficiation; development of mineral industrial clusters; support for mining SMEs; and access to finance.

During the third and final phase, the regional economy is envisaged to further transform, based on high levels of innovation and business sophistication.

This will necessitate increased investment in knowledge, development of unique skills, nurturing innovation as well as promoting competitiveness and deepening the entrepreneurial culture.

King Mswati noted that the proposed university would go a long way in supporting implementation of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap as well as other regional integration initiatives in southern Africa.

“Africans were not born to be poor. We are highly capable of becoming innovative and creating a first world status for our nations. We must however, discard the tendency of failing to support one another,” he said.

The SADC chair said it was important that the region adopts “thought processes that encourage positive thinking such as the blue ocean strategy.”

SADC is considering strategies to embrace the blue economy concept that conceptualises oceans as “development spaces” where coordinated planning integrates conservation, sustainable use, oil and mineral wealth extraction and marine transport.

The blue economy concept is an initiative pioneered by Small Island Developing States (SIDS) but also relevant to coastal states with an interest in waters beyond national jurisdiction.

The concept emphasizes conservation and sustainable management of oceans and complements the green economy.

It recognizes the productivity of healthy ocean ecosystems as a way to safeguard sustainable ocean-based economies, as well as to ensure that SIDS and other coastal countries benefit from their marine resources.

Synergies could be exploited in areas such as the effective utilisation and management of natural and marine resources, science and technology, infrastructure development and tourism as well as environmental and climate change management through inclusive strategies and programmes.

The protection and regeneration of marine resources are priority issues for coastal states whose marine resources significantly contribute to the socio-economic welfare of the country.

The concept is appropriate for the SADC region since more than half of its 15 Member States are coastal or oceanic countries.

Eight SADC Member States – Angola, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa and the United Republic of Tanzania – are coastal or oceanic states.

The blue economy development strategy is timely for the SADC region, which has witnessed significant discoveries of large reserves of oil and natural gas in countries such as Mozambique, Namibia and Tanzania during the past few years.

Recent findings of natural gas reserves in a number ofsouthern African countries point to a huge potential forexploitation of the resource in a region presently grappling with acrippling energy

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