I would like to congratulate His Majesty, King Mswati III, of the Kingdom of Swaziland, as the newly elected Chairperson of our development community. I have no doubt, Your Majesty, that under your able leadership our development community will ascend to greater heights as we are striving to achieve our common developmental objectives.
I would also like to thank His Excellency, Lt-Gen. Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama the President of Botswana for his able and fore-sighted leadership in leading our development community during the past year.
I would like to thank the Ministerial Task Force on Regional Economic Integration for the excellent and well-researched report on regional economic integration. The report correctly highlights the following pertinent issues that we must consider in our regional economic integration strategy: industrial development and market integration; infrastructure development in support of industrialisation and market integration; financing for industrialisation; special programmes in support of industrialisation; trade facilitation; and tripartite and continental integration.
On industrial development and market integration, I would like to thank and commend His Excellency Dr Gabriel Robert Mugabe for championing the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Action Plan during his tenure as Chairman of SADC. Without industrialisation all the lofty ideals, including eradication of poverty and the creation of descent sustainable jobs for our citizens, that we subscribe to under various forums, be it under SADC, the Africa Union or the United Nations, are not possible. There is no single country or region that has developed and reached a higher standard of living without having industrialised. As long as we, as a region, continue to export raw unprocessed goods and continue to import final consumer goods that we do not produce, it will be difficult to create jobs for our citizens and further reduce poverty levels.
Key to success in industrialising our region will be partnerships. Here I have in mind the following partnerships: partnership must be equal and transparent. Partnership must foster trust. Partnership in exchanging ideas and expertise, by setting up regional centres of excellence, and in this connection I would like to commend His Majesty the King of the Kingdom of Swaziland for proposing the SADC university and scholarships to students from all regional members. Partnership in facilitating cross-border movement of goods and services, and, most importantly, of our people. We need to move faster in enabling our citizens to move freely in the region and eventually in the continent.
That is why I just recently abolished visa requirement for issuance of visas at airports, and eventual abolishment. For most Europeans, visas are free but we are harassed when we go to even our closest friends. We should not hate ourselves, when Europeans do not need visas.
Partnership in developing cross-border and even region-wide common infrastructure and partnership, including with our international development partners in financing our industrialisation agenda.
In Namibia, we refer to the notion of partnership as the spirit of “Harambee”. We can succeed only if all of us pull together in the same direction. In other words, the notion of partnership, just like in the formative years of our development community, must be embedded in the execution of our industrial strategy.
For a start, we must focus on low-hanging fruits or projects that we can pull off with relative ease. In this regard, I strongly support the promotion of value addition in the mineral sector and pharmaceuticals, as suggested by the ministerial task force. Both these sectors are also prioritised in Namibia’s growth at home strategy, which is the implementation roadmap for our industrial policy.
I would, however, like to add that the promotion of value addition in the agricultural sector and blue economy should equally be prioritised, as these are the two sectors from where most of the people in our region derive their livelihood. These are also two sectors with huge potential for job creation and poverty eradication.
One approach to overcome the financing constraint of rapid industrialisation will be to focus on projects that can generate their own revenue streams. Given the challenges that we experience in the region, with regard to HIV/AIDS, TB and other communicable diseases, the development of a regional pharmaceutical industry is beyond any doubt a project that should be able to finance itself. However, we will have to attune our procurement policies to deliberately purchase locally produced pharmaceutical products to give this industry a head start.
With the increasing opening of air and seaways, the development of certain logistics infrastructure should also be able to generate its own cash returns and therefore be bankable with little or no government support. I do not see the reason why airport and port development should be financed by scarce government resources while, if properly structured, there is private capital in search for these types of projects.
Electricity generation and distribution thereof is yet another sector that should flourish if opened up to private sector participation. This will ease the burden on our governments of having to solely develop and finance this critically enabling sector. Moreover, I believe that if we come to together as a region, and with a strong focus on renewable energy, we should be able to raise funding for electricity generation, through various international funding initiatives, including Powercom of the USA, and accessing the green climate fund.
It goes beyond saying that if we would like to industrialise as a region then we must improve on the overall competitiveness of the region. Here each country must do its part by improving the business environment and reducing the transaction costs of opening up and running business enterprises. SADC has made enormous progress in standardising procedures and systems in the region, but we must do more to facilitate and streamline border procedures, where there are still some bottlenecks that make us uncompetitive as individual countries and as a region. Here I am referring to non-tariff barriers, human attitudes and other obstacles.
I would like to conclude by latching on some of the ideas presented by Carlos Lopes yesterday. We need to improve our statistical capacity to better capture economic activities in our countries, as underestimation of economic activities has negative implications for debt sustainability. As most of our economies are now graduating to middle-income status, we must question the GDP per capita notion that informs such classification, as it has some inherent weaknesses in capturing overall development. Finally, we must improve domestic resource mobilisation by broadening our tax bases and strengthening our tax collection systems. By the same token, we must urge developed nations to do more to curb illicit capital flows that rob the region and continent of much-needed capital for development.
• This is an edited excerpt from the ‘talking points’ of President Hage Geingob when he addressed the 36th SADC Summit of Heads of States and Government in Lozitha, Swaziland, on 30–31 August 2016.