By Banthu Times 18/08/2013
The new SADC Chairperson Malawi President Dr Joyce Banda has vowed to make SADC work for the people saying the region is embroiled in many socio-economic ills and yet the regional body seem to have neglected the people.
“When people hear our voices and observe our actions, they see that in reality, sometimes we do not always work for them. Our actions suggest that the poor should care for the poor,” Dr Banda said in her acceptance speech after getting the mettle from outgoing chairperson Mozambican President Amanado Emilio Geubuza.
“These are the SADC citizens who pay taxes. These are SADC citizens who vote. These are our citizens and our neighbors. They work for us and we work for them”
The new SADC Chairperson’s remarks resonate with calls from NGOs and CSOs that SADC had deviated from its original ideals into a Presidents’ club.
This week the SADC Council for Non Governmental organization called for the transformation of SADC saying it needs to embrace democracy in its operations.
Banda takes the leadership when SADC will be implementing the first phase of the ambitious Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP) estimated at US$500 billion.
RIDMP among other things aims to deal with the region’s deficit in road, rail, ports, power, communication, water infrastructure and meteorology.
“As Chair of this great community, I hope to drive initiatives that bring SADC closer to the people for whom it works; a people centered SADC. In short – a SADC for the people and by the people,” Dr Banda said.
She said for the SADC region to achieve durable and long-lasting peace and stability there is need to start with the war against poverty.
The SADC noted that the economic downturn of recent years has highlighted the vulnerability of Africa’s economies to external shocks saying there is need to need to intensify efforts towards regional integration to build resilience against future shocks.
“Despite the recent and on-going benefits of the commodities boom, agriculture remains the engine of our long-term, sustainable growth.
I have therefore chosen as the theme for my term as Chair of SADC, to promote our regional integration agenda through a focus on “Agricultural Development and Agro-Industries: Key to Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction in SADC Region”. Dr Banda said.
She said it is time for people in SADC region manage agriculture as a business.
“We need to work harder to help our smallholder and commercial farmers build, grow and sustain their businesses, to feed ourselves and access new markets beyond our region,” the SADC Chairperson said.
She then expressed Malawi’s displeasure at the global advocacy campaigns against tobacco growing saying the campaigns were threatening economies and livelihoods of famers in the SADC region.
“It is against this background that Malawi would like to voice its serious concerns over legislation that is being enacted globally for the removal of tobacco additives and flavorings,” Dr Banda said.