TANZ ANIA is once again, as it alw ays does, opening its doors. Th is time th e door is opened for th e 39th Sou th ern African Development Commu nity (SADC), Summit sch edu led for Dar es Salaam in a w eek’s time.
Th e cu rrent intensity and continu ed preparations for th is annu al reg ional su mmit is pleasing. We w elcome all to ou r peacef u l cou ntry.
I can see th e cou ntry is ready for SADC because from w h at h as already been done, it is clear th at Tanzania is now keeping th e kettle boiling, ready for h eads of state and g ov ernments of th e SADC and oth er participants.
Th is is a u niq u e su mmit f or Tanzania and th e reg ion. Indeed exclu siv e becau se th e cou ntry is also determined to once again take a leadersh ip role in adv ancing reg ional integ ration w h en it assu mes th e ch air of SADC at th is su mmit.
Bu t all th at being said, th is ev ent, in ou r v iew and as a h u mble reminder to SADC members, shou ld, as th e commu nity g ist su g g ests, focu s on people. I call it a peoples’ su mmit for v ariou s reasons, and I w ill ex plain.
Well, as a reminder to my reader, I w ish to u rg e ou r leaders to bear in mind th eir peoples’ needs because th is reg ional co-operation and integ ration in Sou th ern Africa h ad people as a special focu s rig h t at th e beginning.
We learn from history th at SADC ow es its origin to h istorical, economic, political, social and cu ltu ral factors th at h av e created strong bonds of solidarity and u nity among th e people of Sou th ern Africa.
In reality, its orig inal v ision, in th e context of dev elopment, w as also concerned abou t people. From th e time of Mwalimu and his colleag u es, SADC development’s eff ects w as meant to touch peoples’ w ay of lif e.
Truly a peoples’ su mmit becau se th e prev iou s leaders knew th at th e said w ay of lif e w as influ enced by th eir conceptions of th e g ood life. A lif e determined by th eir cu ltu res. In oth er w ords, it inv olv es th e v alu es, principles and beliefs of members of SADC.
I hope and pray th at th is su mmit too sh all be a peoples’ su mmit. Yes, it should be a peoples’ su mmit. In fact it is our leaders who h ave made th is SADC meeting people centred in all th ey do.
And because of th at th ey h av e enabled th e commu nity to g row to a point th at reg ional su ccess stories and positiv e resu lts w e w itness today are bu t a reality for Africa and th e w orld.
I can see they are still committed to the su ccess of th e reg ion becau se th ey probably know w h at Mark Tw ain once reminded th em.
He said, g reat people are th ose w h o make others feel th at th ey, too, can become great.
And it is leaders themselv es w h o can pu t lig h t in ou r people, becau se as Elisabeth Kubler-Ross w ou ld argu e, people are like stained glass w indow s, th ey sparkle and sh ine w h en th e su n is ou t, bu t w h en darkness sets in, th eir tru e beau ty is rev ealed only if th ere is a lig h t f rom w ith in. Ou r people need development lig h t.
Obviously, no one can sw eep u nder th e carpet all th e w onderfu l SADC success stories ch aracterised by ou r leaders’ commitment in demonstrating their v ision of unity made viv id th rou g h th e tang ible benefits of w orking together.
No w onder th e reg ion h as now transformed into a coh esiv e community, determined to deliv er a better standard of liv ing f or th e people of th e reg ion. Certainly, th e Dar su mmit sh ou ld once ag ain be condu cted w ith people in mind.
Not many w ou ld notice th e peoples’ focu s natu re of th e su mmit, h ow ev er, let u s ch erish th e prog ress in th e reg ion w h ich is ev idenced in th e speed of most countries in ensu ring th at th ey enjoy, as most do now , th e ou tcome of integ rating th emselves into th e w orld economy.
Cu rrent state of the u nion su g g ests th at th ey did so th rou g h trade and investment, th ereby enjoying h ig h - er economic grow th , an improv ement in many key social indicators and th e standard of liv ing of th eir people.
Let th e 39th su mmit continu e th e spirit of h onou ring th e people of th e sou th ern reg ion. We are in th e new reg ion, a reg ion w ith h opes of a new people centred approach to w elfare. In all the discu ssions at th e 39th su mmit, let all participants pu t people in th e centre of reg ional development, for SADC sense of direction h as been to seek to f acilitate transformation in communities across th e sou th - ern reg ion.
Anoth er dimension of ou r call for th e Dar su mmit to be a peoples’ su mmit is unfortu nately not about SADC su ccesses and triu mphs, bu t rath er th e ch alleng es th at th e reg ion still stru g g les w ith .
I am th inking of people becau se th ey are key to th e ongoing new reconstru ction.
Th e ch alleng es w e w ish to bring to th e 39th SADC meeting can only be addressed if th e w ork th at SADC w ill continu e to do sh ou ld focu s on facilitating improv ements, ag ain, in th e w elfare of th e people of th e entire re ion.
o to mention a few of th e ch alleng es, I am of th e opinion th at as ou r leaders knock at th e Dar door, th ey sh ou ld remember th at as conseq u ences of economic, technical, env ironmental, social, political and exog enou s factors, poverty in th e reg ion remains particu larly acu te among th e people.
Likew ise, even thou g h eff orts to address HIV and AIDS are bearing f ru its, still th e reg ion faces a sev ere HIV and AIDS epidemic, and the cu rrent extent of th e pandemic has aff ected virtu ally ev ery aspect of th e liv es of th e people.
When it comes to agricu ltu re, a major player in th e reg ional economy, contribu ting abou t 35 percent to its g ross domestic produ ct w h ere 7 0 percent of its people depend on it for food, income and employment, the ch alleng es related to improv ing food av ailability, access and nu trition cannot be ignored.
Eq u ally important to ou r proposal is th e need for ou r peoples’ h ealth . Th is w e say becau se it is clear th at improv ing th e h ealth statu s of th e people in th e reg ion w ill directly resu lt in increased produ ction and produ ctiv ity.
And th is h as connection w ith th e sh eer need to address lack of adeq u ate social capital in order to accelerate th e implementation of th e ch erish ed SADC industrialisation strateg y and roadmap 2015-206 3.
So as w e celebrate th e su ccess in th e reg ion, let u s j oin h ands and make the 39th su mmit in Dar a peoples’ su mmit. For me, th is is only a polite reminder to all w h o w ill g ath er in Dar.
I th erefore call u pon fellow people of Sou th ern Africa reg ion to ch erish and ensu re th at a v ision of a sh ared fu - tu re, a fu tu re w ith in a reg ional community is achiev ed. Th is can be done w ell if people remain the motivation, attention and focu s of SADC! Ch eers!
- T he author, D r A lfred S ebahene, P hD is A g. H ead of D epartment of C orruption S tudies, L ec turer, R esearc her, C onsultant, S oc ial and P ublic L ife E thic s A nalyst at St J ohn’s U niversity of Tanzania, D odoma. E mail address: arsebahene2@ yahoo.c o.uk , M obile: 0 7 6 7 2 3 3 9 9 7 .