THE Southern African Development Community (SADC) yesterday declared Kiswahili its fourth official language after English, French and Portuguese.
Outgoing Chairman of the regional bloc and Namibian President, Dr Hage Geingob, declared it before he handed over the Chairmanship to Tanzanian President John Magufuli.
"As outgoing Chairman I announce it so that he (the new chairman) doesn't have the trouble to announce it. Kiswahili is going to be the official language of SADC," President Geingob said during the opening session of the 39th Ordinary Summit of SADC Heads of State.
The news came after the ministers from member states had deliberated on the language as one of the official tools of communication in the SADC region.
The Council of Ministers on Wednesday this week proposed Kiswahili to be among the languages of SADC meetings.
In his speech, Dr Geingob said: "It gives me great pleasure to pass the baton to the incoming chairperson, His Excellency and my dear brother, Dr John Joseph Pombe Magufuli.
I believe that given his wisdom and dedication to the acceleration of development and welfare of the citizens of our region and continent, he will advance our regional integration agenda to higher heights."
Speaking on the achievements the region had so far made, he said democracy had continued maturing in the region, as demonstrated by the fact that some member countries had successfully held peaceful elections.
"Join me in congratulating their Excellencies Felix Tshisekedi of DRC, Andry Rajoelina of the Republic of Madagascar, Prof Perter Mutharika of Malawi, Azali Assoumani of the Union of Comoros and Cyril Ramaphosa of the Republic of South Africa," he stated.
On the other hand, Dr Geingob said one of the challenges facing the Southern African countries was climate change. Between January and April 2019, the region faced several cyclones, namely, Tropical Cyclone Desmond, Enawo, Idai and Kenneth.
"As a result of these events, we witnessed extensive flooding in Comoros, Mozambique, Tanzania, Madagascar, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Heavy rain also affected Kwazulu Natal in South Africa," he said.
The cyclones killed over 1,000 people and about 3,000 others were injured. It also damaged economic infrastructure, education and health facilities and destroyed over 800,000 hectares of farms as well as crops and seed stocks.
Over 3.3 million people were affected and required immediate humanitarian assistance, including food, shelter, clothing, water, sanitation and medical supplies.
In response to these disasters, the SADC region took several measures, including making disaster risk reduction a regional priority, as it is clear that natural disasters can have a significant negative impact on economies and people.