THE recent Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Summit in Pretoria, South Africa ended with a commitment by host president and new chairperson, Jacob Zuma, to grow trade between Lesotho and other SADC states which remains very low at under 20 percent.
President Zuma, who took over the chair from Swaziland’s King Mswati III, identified several inter-state programmes to be implemented in collaboration with the private sector as key for growing intra-regional trade and economic growth.
He said South Africa had chosen as the theme for its tenure, ‘Partnering with the private sector in developing industry and regional value chains’.
The theme was chosen with the view to building momentum and continuity in the collective aspiration of achieving regional sustainable economic development and industrialisation.
“Our cooperation as a region will allow our economies to overcome the challenge of small, fragmented economies, and create a larger market that improves the region’s prospects of attracting investment,” President Zuma said in his address to the Summit.
“The key activities during our chairpersonship will be the development of a high impact Annual Operation Plan, with targeted interventions and public policy tools to foster the development of regional value-chains in agro-processing, pharmaceuticals and mineral beneficiation.”
President Zuma also pledged that South Africa would identify cross-border projects that would strengthen regional value-chains and contribute to the development of the region- all of which required a functional regional market.
“We will need to ensure that we find an effective way of promoting a rules-based trade environment that promotes certainty and stability. The implementation of commitments under the Trade Protocol have to be an integral part of this agenda so as to create an integrated market that is conducive to the development of regional value chains.”
South Africa will also develop programmes to capacitate senior officials from SADC member states in industrial policy making and implementation.
President Zuma also spoke of the need to accelerate plans to establish a Regional Development Fund to facilitate infrastructural developments in member states as these were key to industrialisation.
The fund will serve as start-up capital for regional programmes and projects in the various sectors.
South Africa is also proposing the establishment of an Inter-State Natural Gas Committee to share lessons for regional gas development and to prepare for the development of the wider gas economy.
Industrialists have said that Southern Africa is sitting on massive natural gas reserves in excess of 600 trillion cubic feet, adding these must be exploited to reduce dependence on biomass energy.
“The inclusion and promotion of gas into the regional energy mix will facilitate an increase in universal access to energy, as well as industrial development in SADC,” President Zuma said, adding, this would attract private sector investment and boost regional energy infrastructure and maintenance projects.
In addition to pushing for greater integration through the Continental Free Trade Area, South Africa will also push for the conclusion of the Trade in Services negotiations in SADC. Prioritised sectors include construction, communication, transport, finance, energy and tourism.
President Zuma also pledged that South Africa will work closely with other SADC countries and the Food and Agricultural Organisation to develop strategies to prevent, monitor and deal with destructive invasive species.
South Africa and other SADC states recently experienced trans-boundary pests such as the Fall Army Worm as well as the ‘bird flu’ virus.