Towards 41st SADC Summit

SANF 21 no 20 – by Kizito Sikuka in Lilongwe, Malawi
The 41st SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government scheduled for August in Lilongwe, Malawi will be held in a hybrid format where some delegates will attend the meeting physically while others will follow the proceedings virtually.

This is due to health measures and travel restrictions imposed by most Member States in response to the novel coronavirus, commonly known as COVID-19.

Malawian Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Dr Luckie Sikwese said this on 29 July in his address to an editor’s roundtable aimed at capacitating the local media on SADC regional integration.

“The configurations (for the summit) are 30 percent physical and 70 percent virtual,” Dr Sikwese said.

He said live coverage for the event will be broadcast by the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation with regional and international broadcasters able to get the feed from the broadcaster.

He said as the new chair of SADC starting August 2021, Malawi is ready to take forward the integration agenda of SADC, adding that a united region is key to sustainable development.

“We want our chairpersonship to leave a noticeable and significant mark not only at the national or regional level but also at global level.”

However, Dr Sikwese said Malawi will only achieve this feat if the local media plays its role in educating and informing citizens about the benefits and opportunities of belonging to a shared community in southern Africa.

“Lack of information is hindering key players from fully exploiting opportunities that SADC offers,” he said, adding that the media should actively popularize the SADC regional integration agenda in Malawi and the rest of the region to ensure citizens are fully aware of the benefits and opportunities of regional integration.

Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC) Executive Director, Munetsi Madakufamba concurred, saying that the media is an important player in the integration agenda of SADC since it has the power to decide which voices published or broadcast.

“The media acts as a bridge between SADC Member State Governments and its citizens by conveying government policies to citizens as well as feedback from the citizens to their governments,” he said.

Madakufamba said it was thus critical for SADC Institutions to strengthen the capacity of the media to report objectively on regional integration since most people are still unaware of the benefits, opportunities as well as challenges of belonging to a shared community in southern Africa.

“We believe that capacitating the media on SADC issues will assist to create a constructive dialogue between SADC Member State Governments and their citizens on various regional integration issues”

“A well-informed media will not only be able to educate SADC citizens on integration issues, but also contribute to shaping the integration agenda of SADC and the agenda for SADC leaders to discuss at their regional meetings as well as track the implementation of regional agreements signed by Member States to ensure accountability of the integration agenda,” he said.

The editor’s roundtable on SADC regional integration is part of a series of workshops being organized by the Government of Malawi in partnership with the SADC Secretariat and SARDC, with support from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) to strengthen the knowledge base of journalists to report objectively on SADC issues.

The workshops set for 29 July to 2 August will also include a three-day training seminar for local journalists on 30 July-1 August 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 regional integration agenda during its tenure as Chair of the regional body from August 2021 to August 2022.

On 2 August, a seminar will be held for 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 9-18 August in Lilongwe, Malawi, including the preparatory meetings, with the Heads of State and Government meeting scheduled for 17-18 August.

At the summit President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera will assume the SADC Chair from his Mozambican counterpart President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi for a period of one year.

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 is “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.

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