Leaders from Southern Africa meet for their annual summit this month in Botswana, united by a common objective to improve the socio-economic situation in the region.
The 35th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will be held in Gaborone on 17-18 August under the theme “Accelerating Industrialisation of SADC Economies Through Transformation of Natural Endowment and Improved Human Capital.”
The theme continues the trajectory of the summit held last year in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, which focused on economic transformation and sustainable development “through beneficiation and value addition”.
The SADC region is endowed with an abundance of natural resources, including minerals such as diamonds and gold, as well as arable land, huge watercourses, and diverse wildlife and flora.
However, most countries in the region continue to get very little in return for the exploitation of their natural resources by foreign multinational companies, largely because minerals and other resources are usually exported in raw form. The value addition and beneficiation takes place outside the region, creating jobs and benefits for other countries.
Human resources also flow outside the region when well-trained professionals from SADC countries, including nurses, teachers and engineers, are attracted to use their skills outside the region.
Following an assessment of these factors, SADC has developed strategies to address these challenges and ensure that the people of the region fully benefit from their resources.
The solution focuses on industrialisation and infrastructure development.
A SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap was adopted by an Extraordinary Summit held in Harare, Zimbabwe in April to accelerate industrialisation and add value to their resources before export.
Leaders of the 15 SADC member states are expected to discuss the implementation plan for the industrialisation strategy and roadmap when they meet for the 35th SADC Summit.
Another key issue is the financing for the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2015-2020.
The revised RISDP, which was also approved in April, is a five-year plan that guides the implementation of SADC programmes until 2020.
The RISDP has four priority areas: Industrial development and market integration; infrastructure in support of regional integration; peace and security cooperation as a prerequisite for regional integration; and special programmes of regional dimension.
The strategic plan identifies a number of financing options including member state contributions, official development assistance, local and foreign investment, and public-private partnerships.
With regard to peace and security, the leaders will deliberate on the political situation in Lesotho and the continuing instability in the eastern areas of Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Kingdom of Lesotho has political challenges that date back to the time when the country attained independence in 1966, and continue to cause instability, resurfacing again recently.
The latest unrest follows snap elections held in February this year, and was triggered by the shooting of the former Defence Force commander, Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao in June, a few months after the successful holding of elections had raised hope for the restoration of stability in the country.
SADC has since approved the establishment of an Oversight Committee on Lesotho that will act as an early warning mechanism in the event of signs of instability in the country.
According to the decisions of the SADC Extraordinary Double Troika
Summit held in Pretoria, South Africa in July, the committee may intervene as appropriate to solve the crisis after consultation with the SADC-appointed facilitator, Cyril Ramaphosa, who is the Deputy President of South Africa.
The 35th SADC Summit is also expected to discuss preparations to host a continental military exercise, known as AMANI AFRICA II, which is scheduled for October-November in Lohatlha, South Africa.
AMANI AFRICA II was originally scheduled to be held early this year in Lesotho, before it was postponed to allow the country to conclude its peace process.
AMANI means “peace in Africa” in Kiswahili, and the exercise is part of preparations to operationalise the African Standby Force (ASF).
When operational, the ASF will consist of standby arrangements within Africa’s five sub-regions, composed of multi-dimensional capabilities, including military, police and civilian, on standby in their countries of origin and ready for rapid deployment.
The SADC Tribunal will also be discussed at the summit.
The SADC Tribunal was disbanded in 2010 following an order by the SADC summit for an independent review of its functions and terms of reference.
At the last summit in Zimbabwe, member-states agreed to a new Protocol on the SADC Tribunal, which specifies that the new Tribunal’s jurisdiction will be confined to advisory interpretation of the SADC Treaty and any other protocols adopted by member-states.