THE new Southern African Development Community (SADC) Chairman, President John Magufuli, yesterday urged Heads of State and Governments to address various challenges hindering economic development in the region so that they could be able to achieve the economic transformation objective.
In his maiden speech after assuming the SADC Chairmanship, President Magufuli said SADC was performing poorly economically compared to available resources and the population it had.
He said in 1992 SADC members decided to use the political achievement to advance socioeconomic development in transforming the region.
However, he said the region had not been able to achieve the economic growth objective and called for concerted efforts to move the agenda forward. "If there are no concerted efforts, it is obvious, it will take ages for this objective to be realised," he noted.
According to him, SADC had set the target of GDP growth to 7 per cent in 2018, but things did not turn out as expected. He said instead the regional GDP grew by only 3.1 per cent, which was also below the continental average of 3.5 per cent.
"Our target was to grow by 7 per cent, but instead we grew by only 3.1 per cent, which is even below the continental average," he stressed.
According to President Magufuli, the Eastern Africa region grew by 5.7 per cent, the Northern Africa region by 4.9 per cent and the Western Africa region grew by 3.3 per cent.
"We are generally not doing well compared to what we possess in terms of resources and the population," argued President Magufuli.
He noted that the region also recorded poor performance in both intra region and inter regional trade, saying in 2017 the SADC region, which comprises 16 countries had more than 327 million exported goods worth $143bn, while Mexico and Vietnam, which have the population of 132.5 million and 97.5 million people exported goods worth $403bn and $214bn respectively.
However, the new SADC chairman said lack of information among SADC countries was one of the main reasons for poor economic performance in the region. "We lack information in our respective countries.
In the few months I visited some countries, I realised that they were planning to import food from outside Africa, but at the same time Tanzania was struggling to sell 2.5 million tonnes of food," he explained.
President Magufuli said there were member countries that manufactured cars, produced sugar and oil, but still fellow member states imported such goods from abroad.
"Our countries import cars, fuel and sugar from abroad, but South Africa manufactures vehicles, Angola produces oil and Madagascar produces sugar," he added.
SADC Secretariat grilled The new Chairman also challenged the SADC Secretariat, saying the team had not been doing enough in poverty eradication and supporting member countries in developing their economies.
"If our secretariat would have performed efficiently, it would have found answers to the questions why for over 10 past years our GDP growth has been decreasing," he noted.
He explained that the last time SADC had recorded improved GDP was in 2008 when it grew by 5.7 per cent. “Since then the region has performed poorly in terms of GDP.”
He further explained that in 2009 it grew by 0.6 per cent, 2010 by 4 per cent, in 2011 it grew by 4 per cent, in 2012 it grew by 4.4 per cent, in 2013 it grew by 4.3 per cent and in 2014 it dropped to 3.4 per cent.
He added that in 2015 it recorded 2.2 per cent, in 2016 it dropped to 1.4 per cent, in 2017 it was 3 per cent and last year it grew by 3.1 per cent. "The secretariat must work hard to help us address these challenges.
For the past 10 years, the secretariat has not been able to help the region to improve the economy," he stressed.
Industrial sector President Magufuli said there was a need for the SADC region to move forward the industrial agenda. He said there was no single country in the world that had developed without industries.
According to President Magufuli, issues pertaining to industrialisation will be given priority during his tenure as SADC chairman.
"I urge SADC to adopt the industrialisation move for I believe this will enable our countries to move forward in all areas," he said.
The new chairman noted that Africa had been exporting raw materials and importing goods from abroad, saying such a situation affected the continent’s economic growth.
He said in 2017 Africa exported goods worth $417bn on which $143bn goods were from SADC countries. He noted further that in the same year, Africa had imported goods worth $534bn from outside the continent.
He said more than 60 per cent of exported goods from Africa were raw materials such as agricultural products, fuel and minerals.
"We need to understand that when we export raw materials, we export jobs as well," he noted.
He added: "I, therefore, commend the SADC Industrialisation Protocol. I believe this will move the region forward." ‘We are not poor’ The Tanzanian Head of State said the region was not poor since it was endowed with plenty of resources and fertile land. "I always tell people that my country is not poor and this, I believe, applies to all of you here.
Our countries are not poor because we have everything it takes to be rich," he stressed. President Magufuli asked SADC member countries to work together to ensure the resources were effectively utilised.
"If we work together peace and security will prevail in our region and we will have strong early warnings that will help us reduce natural disasters. We will also be able to create jobs for the youth," he added.
Tanzania’s commitment The Head of State said Tanzania was committed to SADC and that as the new chairman he would do everything in his capacity to move regional agendas forward. "I will do my best to walk in the footsteps of my successors.
I know it is difficult, but I will try with the grace of God," he noted. President Magufuli has assumed SADC from Namibian President, Dr Hage Geingob, whose term has expired.
Handing over the Chairmanship to President Magufuli, the Namibia President announced Kiswahili would be the fourth official language in the region.