The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministers’ two-day meeting kicked off in Tshwane this morning with a call for increased focus on industrialisation.
With increased industrialisation, the regional bloc is set to diversify economies and expand value chains in the zone.
“Industrialisation remains a core pre-requisite for prosperity in the region and has to be achieved through a strong partnership with the private sector,” International Relations and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said on Monday.
She was speaking at the opening of the meeting in her capacity as the new chairperson of the council which oversees the functioning and development of SADC and ensures that policies and decisions are implemented.
The council, which consists of ministers from each of the 16 member states (usually from the ministries responsible for Foreign Affairs and International Relations, Economic Planning or Finance), meets twice a year.
Advancing regional industrialisation
Minister Sisulu said all SADC members should focus on the need to strengthen the region’s capabilities both inside and outside of government in order to advance regional industrialisation.
“It is our belief that SADC governments should identify priority value chains and take steps to attract the private sector into these specific sectors.”
However, Minister Sisulu said industrial development should be underpinned by sound infrastructure.
The lack of interconnectivity and poor transport within the region have been identified as the key stumbling blocks for the region to fully move forward with industrialisation and beneficiation.
This has pushed the regional bloc to develop and introduce the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015 – 2063, which aims to accelerate the momentum towards strengthening the comparative and competitive advantages of economies in the region.
Plan to address socio-economic issues
The regional bloc also adopted the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan, which is a comprehensive 15-year strategic roadmap which aims to deepen the integration agenda of SADC with the view of accelerating poverty eradication and other economic and non-economic development goals.
Tshwane assumed the chair of the SADC in August last year by emphasising the need for improved infrastructure that can help to address socio-economic issues, ensure a better quality of life, boost regional economic integration, bridge the inequality gap and aid industrialisation efforts.
“This is why we adopted the ‘Partnering with the private sector in developing industry and regional value-chains’ as a tenure theme to help mobilise private sector in addressing this challenge,” said the Minister
Through this theme, Minister Sisulu said, Tshwane seeks to build momentum and continuity in the collective aspiration towards regional sustainable economic development and industrialisation.
As such, it has identified key activities which 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.
“As part of our regional strategy, South Africa is also working on a set of deliverables, which will focus on some high-impact cross-border projects in order to support manufacturing and the creation of new regional value chains. We will report back to the next SADC Summit in August this year on progress in this respect,” the Minister told the council.
SA’s vision for chairship
The new Minister outlined South Africa’s vision for its chairship, saying: “It is to provide for policy direction and for all of us an enabling environment for a sustainable programme that prioritises the preparation of high impact cross-border projects that are pragmatic, that enhance skills, create jobs and boost regional trade”.
This, she said, will improve the quality of life for people to advance sustainable economic development.
“We have a long journey to travel and we cannot be found to be wanting or to have failed. It is, therefore, fundamental that we unleash the appropriate resources and make a concerted effort to work together towards the SADC our people deserve and a SADC we can be proud of,” Minister Sisulu said.
Meeting to look at progress made
SADC Executive Secretary Lawrance Tax, who also gave opening remarks, said the meeting will look at the progress made in their plans and will review the implementation of the August 2017 Council and Summit decisions and approve the SADC Secretariat’s budget for the year 2018/2019.
Tax highlighted some of the progress, saying they have made tremendous progress with regional integration by partnering with the private sector in order to develop an active public sector. These ensured that activities of the sector meet the needs of the region.
There has also been cooperation around the mining sector and the implementation of the SADC industrialisation agenda.
The region, according to Tax, also continued with the SADC Integrated Regional Electronic Settlement System (SIRESS) – the region’s cross-border payment system, which uses the South African rand.
“To date, over a million transactions are representing R4.9 trillion have been settled using this system.”
SIRESS offers an alternative platform to settle cross-border payments. The benefits of the system include faster settlement time, the reduction of settlement risk and the low-cost of transacting.
To ensure that the system caters for all currencies, Tax said a multi-currency system along the borders was developed.
During the two-days, the ministers will discuss issues of regional importance; consider a number of strategic documents and receive reports on the implementation of the priority areas.
The council is expected to brief the media on their conclusions on Tuesday.