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SADC: Virtual Meetings Focusing on Regional Integration & Industrialisation Strategy

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The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Ministerial Task Force on Regional Integration (MTF) and Committee of the Ministers of Trade (CMT) held virtual meetings on 30 July 2021 to deliberate on issues pertaining to the regional integration which includes the implementation of SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap (2015-2063).

The meeting was presided by the Minister of Industry and Trade of the Republic of Mozambique, Mr Carlos Mesquita, who is the Chairperson of the Ministerial Task Force on Regional Integration and the Committee of Ministers of Trade.

The MTF took note of the progress made in the implementation of the Industrialisation Strategy and urged Member States to continue up-scaling implementation of activities including signing and ratifying the protocol on industry to enable realisation of the strategy and roadmap.

As regards the SADC Protocol on Industry, it was approved by the 39th SADC Summit in August 2019 in Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania and seeks to strengthen the economies of Member States to ensure that they are driven by industrial development. As of July 2021, the Protocol had been signed by 13 Heads of States and Government and ratified only by the Seychelles. The Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa and Zambia are the three Member States who are yet to sign the Protocol.

The MTF also observed that SADC Member States need to address the slow progress in ratifying the Protocol on Industry; and delays in the operationalisation of the SADC Regional Development Fund to facilitate mobilisation of meaningful resources and industrial investments.

In the same vein, the MTF and CCMT noted that to date, 10 Member States have ratified the Protocol on Trade in Services. They recommended the need to facilitate accession to the Protocol by the remaining Member States so as to prioritise services sectors and activities that support SADC’s industrialisation.

It was observed that emerging issues and key challenges that need attention under the integration pillar included improving logistics and transportation systems that remain a key hindrance to intra-regional trade; dealing with extra-SADC importation of agricultural commodities, and dealing with nationalistic local content requirement policies that pose risks to Regional Integration.

The meetings recommended improving cross-border rail networks and corridors to facilitate the flow of goods within the SADC Region. This should include the involvement of the private sector through the establishment of export trading companies and export credit facilities.

In terms of the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA),  the meeting noted that six SADC Member States namely Angola, Eswatini, Namibia, Mauritius, South Africa and Zimbabwe ratified the Agreement.  Trading under the AfCFTA started on 1 January 2021.

COVID-19 pandemic

The Ministers also discussed the impact COVID-19 pandemic on the implementation of regional and national interventions across the Secretariat and the SADC Member States at large during the 2020/21 Financial Year.

The meeting took note that in order to ensure continuity of SADC business, Member States will need to adhere to their National COVID-19 Response Plans as well as the Hybrid Plan for Regional meetings approved by Ministers of Health in their meeting on 17 June 2021 and endorsed by Council on 22 June 2021. The Secretariat has continued to work closely with the World Health Organisation and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to gather information on the evolution of the pandemic and to provide updates to Member States in real time.

In addition, the Ministers remarked that the availability of adequate supplies of vaccines remains a great concern for the sustaining of the current vaccination momentum that is being observed throughout the Region. Countries in the Region have largely received their vaccine supplies through the COVAX facility, but many have also been engaged in bilateral negotiations with vaccine manufacturers and friendly governments to acquire vaccines.

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