South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday handed the chairmanship of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to his Namibian counterpart Hage Geingob at the regional bloc’s 38th summit, held in Windhoek.
“I have no doubt that with His Excellency Hage Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia, at the helm of our organisation, the SADC integration agenda will be advanced even further,” Ramaphosa told delegates as he opened the summit.
He urged SADC nations to develop a long-term strategy looking towards 2050.
“With the expiration of both the Regional Indicative Strategic Plan and the Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ by the end of 2020, SADC needs to begin formulating a long-term vision and a strategic plan, in line with the decision of the June 2012 Summit.
“It should identify where the region wants to be by 2050 and should direct our resources and mobilise our people towards the achievement of our shared goals. We should aim to have the strategy presented at our Summit in 2019.”
Ramaphosa said the possibility of setting up a regional parliament for the 15-nation bloc should form part of its deliberations on the future.
He said politically the focus should be on being healthy democracies and holding regular elections, and economically, on creating a business-friendly environment to boost job creation, trade and industrialisation.
The region should also work on infrastructure development that would make production cheaper and exporting more competitive.
The ability of SADC countries to establish a competitive industrial sector and promote greater industrial linkages has been hindered by the lack of infrastructure in areas such as energy, transport and communications, Ramaphosa said.
“Regional cooperation in the development of infrastructure will lower transaction costs, enhance regional markets and make production and exports more competitive. Investment in infrastructure must, therefore, be a central priority.”