KASUBA MULENGA, Pretoria
PRESIDENT Lungu was yesterday among heads of State and Government who attended the official opening of the 37th Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit here.
The summit is being held under the theme ‘Partnering with the private sector in developing industry and regional value chain’.
President Lungu was accompanied by Ministers of Foreign Affairs Harry Kalaba, Home Affairs Stephen Kampyongo, Development Planning Lucky Mulusa and Commerce, Trade and Industry Margaret Mwanakatwe.
Outgoing SADC chairperson King Mswati III of Swaziland said one of the challenges facing the region is inadequate energy.
“I would like to thank member states for their support which enabled us to pursue the SADC agenda of industrisalisation. But one of the challenges facing the region is the deficit of energy, which is key to industrialisation and employment creation,” King Mswati said.
He said during Swaziland’s tenure as SADC chair, a number of energy and water projects were embarked on and the establishment of the SADC Regional Development Fund was spearheaded.
“The SADC Regional Development Fund is the champion of economic competitiveness and regional integration,” he said.
King Mswati urged all member states to remain committed to the ideals and values of the regional body.
Incoming SADC chairperson Jacob Zuma of South Africa, said member states have many things in common and share values such as upholding democracy by holding regular elections.
“However, regional economies are in severe difficulties following the global recession some few years ago. Member states also have increased debt burdens. African economies are small and therefore, the need for collective effort is essential,” Mr Zuma said.
He said SADC member states should not continue to be suppliers of primary commodities because this makes them vulnerable to global economic shocks.
President Zuma urged African countries to start adding value to natural resources the continent is endowed with to grow inter-regional trade.
Mr Zuma also called for an end for SADC countries to borrow funds from lending institutions whenever they face difficulties, but that they should only do so when investing in infrastructure development.
President Zuma urged member states to promote cross border trade to strengthen the regional value chain which requires a functional market.
He said SADC should take advantage of the opening of BRICS Bank South Africa to borrow and fund projects which will push the regional body’s development agenda.
“We should take advantage of the BRICS Bank to fund viable projects. There is enthusiasm by BRICS to deepen relations between itself and African countries,” Mr Zuma said.
Economic Commission for Africa executive secretary Vera Songwe said trade in SADC has gone down and called for investment in growth of the value chain to strengthen the region’s economy.
African Development Bank (AfDB) president Akinwumi Adesina said the financial institution strongly supports SADC’s aspirations and Agenda 2063.
Dr Adesina said SADC has significant challenges which need to be addressed, the reason why the bank will over the next five years invest US$12 billion in the continent’s energy sector to fast track development.
During the same function, Zambian journalist Patson Phiri walked away with US$2,000 after emerging overall winner of the SADC Media Awards print media category.