18 August 2014
Southern African leaders made renewed calls for regional economic integration and cross-border infrastructure development as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit got under way in Zimbabwe on Sunday.
SADC heads of state are meeting for their two-day summit in the resort town of Victoria Falls as slow economic growth and high rates of unemployment continue to affect the region.
The summit is emphasising economic growth and food production in a year that the African Union has dedicated to food security for the continent.
The beneficiation of minerals took centre stage on Sunday, with incoming SADC chairperson and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe saying the SADC’s goal to drive short- and long-term economic growth would be realised only if the region beneficiated its minerals.
“Our region has abundant resources, which resources, instead of being sold in raw form, at very low prices, must instead be exploited and beneficiated in order to add value and cost to those products which we eventually export,” Mugabe said.
“This process should assist us in our efforts to industrialise and, in turn, increase employment opportunities for our people.
“I am confident that in our discussions, we will lay a foundation for the necessary value addition of our natural resources. Our material resources are capable of playing a pivotal role in the development of all SADC member states.”
Having adopted its blueprint for infrastructure development at a summit in Maputo in August 2012, the SADC’s goal is to target the development of high-priority infrastructure projects such as rail and marine.
Also speaking at the summit, African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said Africa was the next growth frontier and a continent of endless possibility.
“Indeed we are able to navigate our social and economic challenges. We are defining our own agenda, and Africa will be seen as the place to invest and do business,” Dlamini Zuma said.
She also weighed in on the issue of beneficiation of the continent’s minerals, saying that exporting raw materials “means exporting the high-level jobs we should be creating.
“Africa is endowed with oil, gas, platinum, gold diamond, you name it, but with all that endowment most of African countries are still lacking economic progression and are behind by development standards.”
The two-day summit ends on Monday.