DAR ES SALAAM – Namibia was roundly applauded for carrying the Sadc chairpersonship baton with resounding success during the past 12 months – during which the regional body circumvented its way past a myriad of challenges.
Both incoming chairperson, Tanzania’s President John Magufuli and Sadc Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, also Tanzanian, paused to congratulate President Hage Geingob for his wise leadership during the past 12 months as chairperson.
“Indeed, his leadership has been instrumental in attaining the successes recorded by Sadc during his tenure as Sadc chairperson,” said Tax.
Magufuli remarked: “I would like to seize this opportunity to acknowledge the exemplary leadership of our community by the outgoing chair of Sadc, His Excellency President Dr Hage Geingob, during the past one year. Indeed, as his Deputy, I must admit that I benefited from his huge experiences, which I believe will help me for the new role I have just assumed.”
“I particularly wish to commend outgoing chairperson for his dedication and commitment on the issues of infrastructure development and youth empowerment, as well as for ensuring that Sadc actively participated and played its role in the efforts towards reducing the effects of cyclones Idai and Kenneth that had affected some Sadc member states,” he amplified.
At the occasion of exchanging the Sadc chair on Saturday here in Dar es Salaam, Southern African countries also adopted Swahili - an indigenous African language – as the fourth Sadc official language, adding to English, Portuguese and French.
For the first time, therefore, Sadc will have a non-European language under its wings for interstate communication.
While the region remained largely stable politically during Namibia’s chairpersonship, it endured subdued growth and natural disasters such as deadly cyclones and – in the case of countries like Namibia – devastating drought.
President Geingob, who passed the chairpersonship baton to Magufuli on Saturday here in Dar es Salaam, chronicled the year that was to an antettive audience of fellow regional leaders and senior civil servants of 14 member countries.
“Indeed, democracy has continued to mature in our region, as demonstrated by the fact that a number of heads of state are attending this 39th Ordinary Summit, for the first time following the successful elections in their countries,” the Namibian Head of State told the gathering.
He was referring to the fact that six Sadc member states – eSwatini, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Comoros, Malawi and South Africa – held elections since the last summit in Windhoek.
He also briefed the gathering about the contingency funds amounting to US$500,000 that were released towards emergency relief efforts of tropical Cyclone Idai to complement efforts by affected member states, as well as national and international partners.
“A regional floods appeal was launched in response to tropical Cyclone Idai, which sought US$323 million to support victims with immediate needs and resilience building actions,” the Namibian leader told his peers.
“Post-disaster needs assessment (PDNA) was conducted in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe for reconstruction and rebuilding following tropical Cyclone Idai.”
‘We are not poor’
Magufuli reminded his peers that Sadc is not poor – hinting that it is the the thinking and development planning that must carry that tag instead.
“Our countries are not poor. They are very rich. We have all the resources to make us rich. Apart from a large population of 327 million people, the Sadc region is home to a large number of wildlife and plant species that are of extreme importance, not to mention livestock and marine ecosystems.”
“The region has also a wide diversity of ecozones, including grassland, bushveld, karoo, savannah and riparian zones. In addition, our region is endowed with hydrocarbon materials and mineral resources. Indeed, as a matter of fact, our region contributes to the world about 18 percent of cobalt, 21 percent of zinc, 26 percent of gold, 55 percent of diamonds and 72 percent of platinum group of metals. Therefore, we are not poor.”
He added: “We must, therefore, work together to ensure that we exploit and utilise these resources for the benefits of our countries and our peoples. This is important because, it is only through cooperation that we will be able to utilise these resources effectively and achieve our objectives.”
Sadc continues to endure economic challenges, despite being the most politically stable region in Africa.
“Had our Secretariat also lived up to its duty, our countries would have known the reasons why, after two consecutive years of positive trade balance in 2010 and 2011, Sadc region’s external position deteriorated to a negative balance of USD17 billion in 2015, USD9 billion in 2016 and improved a little bit in 2017 to USD1 billion. These are some of the critical questions that our Secretariat must address and advise member states accordingly for a new direction,” he said