THE Southern African Development Community (Sadc) has officially launched a new Business Council, an over-arching regional private sector platform aimed at increasing collaboration with the public sector and accelerating regional economic development and industrialisation.
The historic launch is one of the key outcomes of the 4th Annual Sadc Industrialisation Week Convention that was held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania last week (August 5-9).
Tanzanian President Dr John Magufuli officially opened the high level indaba, which was attended by Sadc executive secretary, Dr Stergomena Tax, industry and trade ministry representatives, captains of industry and commerce from the region, co-operating partners and academics.
The event ran under the theme; “A Conducive Environment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development, increased intra-regional trade, and job creation and was hosted in preparation for the 39th Session of Sadc Heads of States and Government Summit slated for later this week in Tanzania.
“Public and private sector were urged to work together. In this regard, the Sadc Business Council was launched as the over-arching regional private sector platform to interact with the public sector on matters of regional economic development and industrialisation,” reads part of the communique issued at the close of the meeting on Friday.
“The Sadc Business Council should advocate and partner with member states to improve the enabling and competitive business environment by engaging regional, national and local policy organs of Sadc to the extent that it impacts on regional economic development.”
Dr Tax is on record rallying Sadc member states to increase their industrial capacity to boost intra-regional trade by taking advantage of the huge market and common talent within the bloc.
“To realise the goals of the Sadc industrialisation strategy and take Sadc to a higher transformational growth and developmental trajectory, we need to significantly increase our industrial capacity by promoting manufacturing,” she said.
Earlier in his opening address, President Magufuli also expressed concern about a situation in which, “Africa produces what it does not consume and consumes what it does not produce”.
Other key topics were infrastructure development in Africa and regional value chains.
Discussions also focused on small to medium enterprises, local development, gender and youth, finance for infrastructure and industrialisation.
Eliminating barriers to trade and trade facilitation, research, innovation and technology development were also at the core.
The urgent desire to industrialise follows observations that the diverse natural resources, including all the key mineral endowments needed to industrialise, have so far not translated to robust industrialisation.
There is need, therefore, to achieve structural transformation from commodity-based economies and exporters of raw materials to economies anchored on manufacturing.
When compared to other regions in the world, intra-regional trade is low in Sadc and in Africa.
According to the communique, the value of intra-Sadc trade has remained low, at only 22 percent of total Sadc trade. Sadc should, therefore, prioritise intra-regional trade.
“Notable challenges of industrialisation include weak project preparation, absence of project preparation funds, dependence on short term financing, weak legal and regulatory frameworks, trade barriers and infrastructure shortcomings.
“The region must address infrastructure, shortcomings, mitigate trade barriers, promote regional innovation and research development to industrialise,” reads the communique.
In the same vein, member states were encouraged to play an active role in industrialisation beyond policy stability, including investment in research, development and innovation, which remains low in the region.
The gathering stressed the need to establish regional value chains as a priority by developing a coordinated system as well as increasing engagement with the private sector.