Leaders in the Southern African Development Community have agreed to ensure industrialization takes the centre in regional integration to ensure more than 270 million people benefit from its natural and mineral wealth through poverty eradication.
The summit noted that despite the vast mineral and natural resources endowed in the region, the potential has remained unexploited and that there is need to salvage ‘limping’ economies in the region-riddled with among other challenges-huge external debts as a means of Deepening Regional Integration.
SADC is home to among other minerals, diamonds, gold, Vanadium and platinum. It is estimated that about half of the world’s vanadium, platinum, and diamonds, coal, among other minerals, originate in the region, along with an estimated 36 percent of gold and 20 percent of cobalt.
Despite the potential, the regional grouping having growth potential it remains impoverished.
However the leaders that met in Victoria Falls from August 17-18 under the Theme: “SADC Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region’s Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development through Beneficiation and Value Addition” agreed that to achieve this goal, a ministerial Task Force on Regional Economic Integration be mandated to develop a strategy and roadmap for industrialization in the region.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the summit, the leaderships having noted progress in the review of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP), directed for the finalization of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) and the preparation of an Implementation Plan to provide guidance towards the implementation of SADC programs.
Meanwhile, incoming SADC chair and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has urged member states to develop their own resources than depend on donors for growth.
President Mugabe in his acceptance speech called on SADC leadership to devise policies that will assist nurture and derive the real value from the natural and mineral wealth endowed in the region and ensure they are focused on poverty eradication than reduction.
He implored the SADC leadership ‘to wean’ off from total donor dependence in building their economies with a call for all members to devise policies that will make the region self reliant.
President Mugabe called on SADC leadership to only ‘court’ donors with a good track record to ensure it benefits from the beneficiation of natural resources and value addition and to better the lives of the more than 270 million population through various tenable interventions.
President Mugabe, while appreciating the new Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP), urged the regional bloc to desist from temptations that might force it be ‘too ambitious’ in developing programs they cannot fund by using own resources.
This he said might ultimately force them resort to begging from donors wondering why 60 percent of programs are externally funded.
“How can we claim to own SADC when 60 percent of programs are externally funded?” President Mugabe said adding that the review of the RISDP (2015-2029) must result in fewer and sustainable programs that will enable member states be able to fund using their ‘home grown resources’.
Recently, SADC Executive Secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax urged member states to wean off from dependence on donors and generate ‘home grown funds’ and reduce dependence on donors to fast track economic regional integration and development, while consolidating their political gains achieved so far over the years.
“The time has come for SADC to seek innovative ways to mobilise and generate resources and thereby lessen dependency in its endeavors to fast track economic regional integration and development, while consolidating the political gains achieved so far over the years”.
During an earlier meeting with journalists in Victoria Falls, SADC reiterated its desire to develop its own natural and mineral resources through beneficiation and value-addition to eradicate poverty in the region.
This comes amid realization that 90 percent of the natural resources are exported in raw form, and the benefits accrue elsewhere where value-addition is done.
The regional leaders seek to maximize or fast-track industrialisation to ensure value addition to minerals in its Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP), a blue print for regional integration and development.
“It was discovered that we were too ambitious, so we have identified priority areas in order to deepen regional integration for the benefit of the region,” said SADC executive secretary Stergomena Tax at a joint press briefing with in-coming Council of Ministers chairperson Simbarashe Mumbengegwi.
SADC has since decided to fast-track in-dustrialisation, trade liberilisation and infrastructure development. The four priority areas in the RISDP are industrial development and market integration, infrastructure development, peace and security and special projects.
Mumbengegwi, who is Zimbabwe Minister of Foreign Affairs, said the Council of Ministers has directed the SADC Secretariat to finalise the RISDP by frontloading industrialisation.
Beneficiation and value addition to natural resources is a critical pillar in the RISDP because it is a sure way to promote socio-economic development and end poverty.
“Industrialisation means value-addition to our natural resources. We all know that industrialisation is the bedrock of economic development,” Mumbengegwi said.
Member states cannot improve the quality of life of their people if they don’t pay attention to industrialisation and infrastructure development. SADC will stand to benefit more from its mineral re-sources and crops if value-addition is factored in.
“If we are able to value add, our tobacco, for instance, our revenue will increase tenfold,” he said.
The council has since directed the Secretariat to develop the implementation plan and budget for the revised RISDP 2015-2020 and present it for approval in March 2015.
He said the natural resource-endowed SADC must also wean itself from exporting raw materials to get real benefits of its natural resources.
Outgoing SADC chairperson and Malawi President Professor Peter Mutharika committed himself and the country to promoting the ideals of the regional body.
“We want to translate the dreams of SADC into tangible action. My Government will play its role to ensure that the SADC regional agenda is implemented,” Mutharika said.