SANF 20 no 36 – by Kumbirai Nhongo
Southern Africa should confront the unprecedented challenges being faced by the region and turn such challenges into opportunities to strengthen its development agenda.
Incoming Chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique said this in his closing remarks at the 40th SADC Summit held in a virtual format on 17 August.
“We must face challenges as opportunities to strengthen ourselves as countries and above all as a region, and to ensure that SADC is the pride of its people,” he said.
President Nyusi said this approach to transform challenges into opportunities is consistent with the summit theme, “SADC: 40 Years Building Peace and Security, Promoting Development and Resilience to face global challenges,” which will guide the integration agenda of the region until August 2021.
The theme identifies peace and stability as a key conduit for sustainable development, and calls for SADC to address some of the vulnerabilities and risks affecting integration in the region.
These vulnerabilities and risks include the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, transboundary crime, the effects of terrorism in its varied forms and manifestations and the threat posed by climate change.
The region has over the past few years experienced frequent and increasingly severe climatic shocks such as floods, cyclones and droughts.
In March 2019, Member States such as Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe saw widespread destruction of infrastructure, loss of lives and the displacement of people due to Cyclone Idai that was described as one of the worst tropical storms ever recorded in the southern hemisphere.
In addition, drought conditions have compromised the food security situation in most parts of the region.
According to the 2020 Synthesis Report on the State of Food and Nutrition Security and Vulnerability published by SADC in July, there are about 44.8 million people who are food-insecure in 13 Member States during the 2020/21 marketing season that ends around March/April 2021 when the next crop harvest is expected.
President Nyusi noted that there is need for the region to invest more in building the capacity of the agricultural sector, particularly in strengthening the capacity of smallholder farmers who make up the majority.
“The integration process that we envisage will continue to place rural farmers at the epicentre of our actions with the scope of poverty alleviation and greater autonomy in food production,” Nyusi said.
Food security and poverty eradication are central aspects of both the SADC Vision 2050 and the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030 that were approved by the summit to guide the medium to long term developmental aspirations of the region.
It is envisaged that by 2050 the SADC agricultural sector would have been transformed through mechanisation and other mechanisms in order to contribute to the sustainable management of the environment and natural resources.
The SADC Vision 2050 and RISDP 2020-30 envision a peaceful, middle-to high-income industrialised region, where all citizens enjoy sustainable economic well-being, justice and freedom.
In order for such targets to be attained, the SADC Chairperson emphasised the need to focus on “eliminating the redundant duplication of infrastructure, avoiding unnecessary competition or the creation isolated economic enclaves in favour of a more interdependent and cohesive region.”
Beyond climate-related issues and the resultant implications on the food security, the region is faced with an extraordinary public health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected the global socio-economic landscape and resulted in the loss of many lives.
A study by the SADC Secretariat shows that the regional economy will contract by about three percent this year due to the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax announced that “Summit received a report on the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 on SADC economies; noted its effects across sectors and approved the proposed measures that are to address the sectoral effects.”
Some of the COVID-19 response measures include strengthening early warning systems to guide the response and mitigation of disasters in the region.
In terms of regional peace and security, a risk assessment by the SADC Secretariat indicates renewed threats of terrorist insurgents and cybercriminals who are threatening to destabilise the rest of southern Africa.
“Summit directed the Secretariat to prepare an action plan for its implementation, that will among others, prioritize measures to combat terrorism, violent attacks and cybercrime; and to address adverse effects of climate change,” Dr Tax said.
This comes in the wake of organized acts of violence in the northernmost part of Mozambique, particularly in the Cabo Delgado Province. sardc.net
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