Vital for entrepreneurs to grab SADC industrialisation opportunities

By Phumla Williams

The 39th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that ended in Tanzania on 18 August, shaped up to be one of the most important for the region.

The SADC Summit held under the theme, “A Conducive Business Environment for Inclu­sive and Sustainable Industrial Development” deliberated on a wide range of issues, including implementation of the region’s operational plans and priority programmes such as industriali­sation, trade, infrastructure de­velopment, as well as the estab­lishment of a regional parliament and consolidation of peace and security.

During the Summit, Presi­dent John Magufuli of Tanzania took over the chairmanship of SADC from his Namibian coun­terpart, President Hage Geingob.

There were also discussions on the status of the implementa­tion of the SADC Industrialisa­tion Strategy and Roadmap. In­dustrialisation remains the key to unlock economic growth and ensure jobs for our region. The SADC Summit is a platform to work towards greater regional in­tegration and unlocking regional value chains which are key to the industrialisation strategy.

It is therefore essential that we work towards the industriali­sation of regional and continental economies. By working together we can grow our economies and create much needed jobs.

It goes without saying that regional integration is the key to Africa’s prosperity. Efforts are underway to accelerate the implementation of the SADC-COMESA-EAC Free Trade Area, which will enhance intra Africa trade and accelerate the achievement of the Continental Free Trade Area.

By harnessing the combined might of the SADC nations we can further boost intra-Africa trade through greater market integration, cross-border infra­structure development, and pol­icy coordination.

SADC leaders have long since realised that regional part­nerships are at the heart of good industrial policy. However, the region and governments cannot do it alone. It is imperative that the private sector plays a greater role in the implementation of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap.

A key focus of the SADC strategy is to develop targeted and selected industrial policies that create conditions that will enable higher rates of investment by both the public and private sector into economic infrastruc­ture, which in turn will enable crucial sectors of the economy, particularly value-adding manu­facturing, to grow.

Infrastructure is vital for intra-regional and international trade and is central to the goals of poverty eradication and regional integration in southern Africa. Regional infrastructure develop­ment creates larger markets and greater economic opportunities. Without infrastructure nothing is possible; the development of infrastructure is critical for pro­moting and sustaining regional economic development, trade and investment.

This focus goes hand in hand with the development of skills, which will assist the region in developing innovation-led, knowledge based economies. Throughout the world nations are preparing for the Fourth In­dustrial Revolution, commonly known as 4IR.

In SADC we have to remain ahead of the curve for the reality is that 4IR is changing the way we live, work and relate to each other. The region must tap into the benefits of 4IR to address our socio economic challenges. We dare not fail in this regard because then we will create a divide between those with access to technology and the rest.

The brave new world that was once thought only as science fiction is upon us. How we inte­grate the region, our people and our economies in the era of 4IR is critical. It is up to us to lever­age the potential of this powerful sector. ICT technology and ap­plications are pertinent to address our socio-economic issues in Af­rica, ensure improved quality of life and creation of wealth.

As part of a powerful region­al block we have the potential to share resources and the com­bined energy of all our people. By harnessing the potential of 4IR we can design ICT infra­structure that allows more Afri­can people access to the huge va­riety of information, services and technologies offered by business, government and local communi­ties.

Opportunities abound on our continent and the region is well placed to reap a rich harvest. The SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap has been given a further boost with the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which creates a single continental mar­ket for goods and services for 1.2 billion people in Africa.

It offers an opportunity to ac­celerate intra-Africa trade, grow local businesses, create jobs and increase infrastructure develop­ment on the continent. The Af­rican free trade agreement has the potential to act as a catalyst for Southern African economies and will benefit entrepreneurs, including medium to small busi­nesses. AfCFTA will provide new export opportunities for Southern African products and services as member countries are expected to conduct trade with each other without tariffs or other hindrances.

We call on SADC entre­preneurs take up opportunities created by a single market of goods and services for 1.2 billion people to develop our economy, create jobs and fight poverty in our region.

Phumla Williams is the Acting Director-General at GCIS



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