FROM a layman’s perspective, SADC is just a regional body for Southern African countries, nothing more and nothing less.
Ordinary persons in the SADC region only hear stories regarding the regional body when their respective heads of state go to the summit.
This year, the Heads of State Summit was held at Julius Nyerere International Conference Centre in Dares salaam in Tanzania on August 17 which is a SADC day.
But before Tanzania could say Karibu to SADC or Habari to the visitors, German Development Cooperation and EU decided to set the tone for regional integration by organising a public lecture.
GIZ and EU have realised the need to increase the visibility of SADC to people in member countries and outside and to strengthen capacities to implement the regional agenda in SADC member states.
The public lecture was held under the auspices of the Strengthening National Regional Linkages Programme which was commissioned by Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and
co-funded by the European Union as part of its institutional capacity building for the SADC secretariat and national stakeholders programme.
It is implemented by GIZ.
The public lecture which was premised on “Deepening integration in SADC: Achievements, Challenges and opportunities” attracted a lot of people from the streets of Posta Mpya, Temeke district and of course outsiders to learn about SADC.
The speakers were carefully selected to ensure people got real substance which they would in a long run disseminate to their colleagues.
Of course, the organisers did not want to throw away the aspect of prominence and proximity in their well calculated formula of picking panelists.
Former Tanzania president Benjamin Mkapa who served as SADC chairperson in 2003 was the main speaker and other speakers included former SADC executive secretary Dr Simba Makoni, Professor Anthoni Van Nieuwkerk from Wits University in South Africa and Gilead Terry represented the private sector.
The four-hour lecture was good enough for GIZ and EU to set the tone for SADC in Tanzania.
The event was carried live on AZAM TV but at the same time it received massive publicity in the SADC region to an extent that the word regional integration became sort of a household name in Tanzania.
Even at Julius Nyerere International Airport, the word SADC was somehow a good passport for people to be allowed entry into the country.
People attended the lecture were accorded a rare opportunity to ask questions which were ably answered by the panelists and the current executive secretary Dr Stergomena Tax was at hand to clarify certain matters and give assurances from a SADC perspective.
Dr Tax assured the gathering that SADC would not hesitate to implement the recommendations that came up during the public lecture.
Mkapa left office 14 years ago but from his articulation, he proved that he has just retired from office and not tired to elaborate SADC issues.
The Tanzanians entrenched the spirit of togetherness and support for the common good which they inherited from their founding president Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.
But former president Mkapa could not dissect the topic without reminding the people about the mission of the regional body.
“In order to put our conversation in perspective, it is best to start by reminding ourselves of the Mission and Vision of SADC. The Mission Statement is ‘to promote sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development through efficient, productive systems, deeper, deeper cooperation and integration, good governance, and durable peace and security, so that the region emerges as a competitive and effective player in international relations and the world economy.”
The SADC Vision envisages the building of region in which there will be a high degree of harmonisation and rationalisation, to enable the pooling of resources to achieve collective self-reliance in order to improve the living standards of the people of the region.
“The vision of SADC is one of a Common Future, a future within a regional community that will ensure economic well-being, improvement of the standards of living and quality of life, freedom and social justice and peace and security for the people of Southern Africa,” he stated.
“I can state boldly and proudly that in terms of peace and stability, the region has done very well. Where [there national crises have emerged] SADC leaders, together, explicitly or implicitly, have hastened to come up and offer counsel and urged restoration of constitutional and political reconciliation. I am thinking of the Kingdom of Lesotho in the 1980s and Madagascar and the Comoros in the new century. We can state unequivocally that of the regional groupings in Africa, the SADC is the most stable and peaceful, regionally and at national level,” he said.
On the economic front, former president Mkapa said SADC had agreed on projects and programme for
This led to adoption of a Regional Indicative
Strategic Development, a Regional Infrastructure Master Plan, for all infrastructure projects, a Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Strategy and Acton Plan, and an Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap.
As the SADC Summit’s curtains close, Tanzanians are left with every hope that the hosting of the event will provide both short and long term benefits for this country.
James Limbu, a Tanzanian, said the hosting of the SADC summit after 16 years was a blessing to the country and raised a lot of hope for the people.
President Edgar Lungu attended the SADC summit.
It is hoped that EU and GIZ would continue organising public lectures regarding SADC in various countries to broaden people’s understanding of this regional body.