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SADC 2023: The year for economic growth, resilience and value addition

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Picture: ANA file – Angola President João Lourenço. In August 2023, SADC will convene its 43rd Summit in Angola where regional leaders will take stock of progress made in the past year, challenges faced as well as solutions to tackle them. Angola’s Lourenço will assume the rotating chair of SADC from President Tshisekedi, and set the tone for the next year, the writer says.

By Clarkson Mambo

The year 2023 offers an opportunity for SADC to consolidate its development agenda and the gains made towards regional integration to positively impact the lives of citizens, including peace and security.

The previous year opened the way for southern Africa to emerge from the devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic in the two years before.

With the threat of the pandemic still hanging, the Member States of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) continue to take measures to minimise its impact, while forging ahead with their integrated agenda for development.

Under the leadership of President Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as the chairperson until August 2023, the SADC is firmly focused on industrialisation as the means to grow its economy, attract investment, create jobs and new initiatives, and improve standards of living for citizens.

At the 42nd SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government held in August last year, the regional organisation adopted the theme, “Promoting industrialisation through agro-processing, mineral beneficiation, and regional value chains for inclusive and resilient economic growth”.

The theme provides the direction in which the SADC Secretariat led by the Executive Secretary, His Excellency Elias Mpedi Magosi is expected to lead the organisation to achieve its objectives on industrialisation, which is a pillar of the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030.

The SADC RISDP (2020-2030) is a results-oriented plan to consolidate regional integration through infrastructure development, industrial development and market integration, social and human capital development and other crosscutting issues including the environment, climate change, disaster risk management, gender and youth empowerment.

For a region endowed with vast natural resources, efforts to promote industrialisation will ensure value addition to the resources and allow Member States to earn maximum possible value especially from exports.

The current situation is that most SADC Member States are exporting the bulk of their natural resources in raw form, and importing the same as finished products at a higher price, thus creating jobs outside the region.

Building the capacities of its industries and regional value chains will allow SADC Member States to effectively trade with each other and compete with other Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area and the rest of the world.

A key to this industrialisation puzzle is the question of energy, which the region must also prioritize this year. From aging power generation plants, inadequate generation due to growing demand, inadequate transmission interconnectors to enable full energy trading and the impacts of climate change, the region is battling a shortfall and must intensify development of sustainable and renewable energy solutions to address the deficit.

Plans are already afoot to develop a Regional Gas Masterplan and the SADC Regional Transmission Infrastructure Financing Facility aimed at providing long term solutions to the energy crisis.

The master plan for gas will enable the region to exploit its abundant gas reserves and reduce reliance on coal amid efforts to reduce carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.

But for the region to entirely focus on its development agenda, it is key that serious steps are taken this year towards silencing the guns in conflict zones in DRC and Mozambique which are a threat to peace and security in the region.

SADC has already taken action to address the insurgency in Mozambique after dispatching the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) which has been in northern Mozambique since July, 2021.

Following the intervention, the incidents of sabotage, destruction and killing have been reduced in Cabo Delgado province, with most displaced citizens returning to their homes, according to SAMIM.

In the eastern DRC, the M23 and other rebel groups continue to attack and occupy villages, with the SADC region having joined hands with the East African Community (EAC) and the United Nations to address the situation.

In line with SADC Vision 2050, a peaceful environment is one of the cornerstones to building the envisioned inclusive, competitive, middle to high-income industrialised region, where all citizens enjoy sustainable economic wellbeing, justice and freedom in a secure environment.

President Tshisekedi said that during his tenure as SADC chairperson, the DRC will ensure that Member States domesticate and implement regional protocols in line with the aspirations of the SADC RISDP 2020-30 and Vision 2050.

Domestication of SADC protocols into national law is paramount in ensuring uniformity which addresses the question of barriers when it comes to trade.

Four SADC Member States are planning to hold general elections this year – the DRC, Kingdom of Eswatini, Madagascar and Zimbabwe. DRC has set the date for elections, on December 20, while the other three countries are still to do so.

Mozambique will hold local government elections on October 11 this year, while the national and provincial elections are set for the last quarter of next year.

It is expected that all of these polls will be held in line with regional standards and guidelines, observing the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections which aim to produce clear and credible poll results.

Zimbabwe is a special case for SADC as the country is under United States and European Union sanctions which have been condemned by the 16 Member States as well as the 55 country-members of the African Union.

SADC has said the embargo is causing economic difficulties not only for Zimbabwe, but the rest of the region. African countries and the African Union took their message to the US-Africa Summit in Washington DC in December, where they expressed their opposition clearly and bluntly.

In terms of food and nutrition security, southern Africa is predicted to receive good rainfall for the 2022/23 agricultural season and this is expected to improve the food security situation as the region continues to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as protracted droughts and cyclonic systems that had affected agricultural production in most Member States over the past few years.

In August 2023, SADC will convene its 43rd Summit in Angola where regional leaders will take stock of progress made in the past year, challenges faced as well as solutions to tackle them.

At this Summit, the President of Angola, João Lourenço will assume the rotating chair of SADC from President Tshisekedi, and set the tone for the next year.

The President of Zambia, Hakainde Hichilema, will take over from President Hage Geingob of Namibia as chairperson of the Organ on Politics Defence and Security Co-operation.

This article was first published in