WELCOME MESSAGE ON THE OCCASION OF THE 41ST ORDINARY SUMMIT OF THE HEADS OF STATE AND GOVERNMENT: 17TH – 18TH AUGUST, 2021
On behalf of the Government and People of the Republic of Malawi, I wish to extend my warm welcome to you, my fellow leaders and citizens of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), to Malawi, the “Warm Heart of Africa,” for the 41st SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government, being held under the theme,Bolstering Productive Capacities in the Face of COVID-19 Pandemic for Inclusive, Sustainable, Economic and Industrial Transformation.
Malawi is hosting the Summit at a very critical time when the region continues to experience the ravaging impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic. This is evidenced by a slow down and in some cases, a halt of economic activities, resulting in a considerable decline in economic growth, job losses in all Member States, as gains in priority sectors of tourism, manufacturing, aviation and others, are completely wiped out. In additional, the pandemic has adversely affected the social life of Members States citizens and disrupted social services including education. Without swift socio-economic measures, the region’s sufferings will escalate and the livelihoods of the citizenry will be jeopardized. This will reverse the gains of four decades of regional integration in our community.
It is, however, encouraging to note that most Member States continue to implement rigorous measures, both at national and regional levels, aimed at halting the spread and mitigating the impact of the virus. Member States are commended for investing more resources to strengthen public health systems and introducing social protection programs in order to cushion the citizens from the effects of loss of income and livelihoods, particularly, due to lockdowns imposed in response to the pandemic. This should bolster our confidence in the region’s continued endeavours to recover from the devastating impacts of the pandemic.
As the spread of the virus continues to abate, coupled with the roll out of the vaccination campaign, albeit severe supply constraints, the region requires a robust economic recovery plan with deliberate policy interventions to facilitate a quick rebound and further, assist small economies to build their productive capacities to compete favourably in intra-regional trade, through existing instruments such as the SADC Free Trade Area (FTA). More critically, the well-equipped economies in the region should enable us, as a region, to accrue a fair share of trade in large markets such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Our active participation in the AfCFTA is a huge step forward for Africa, demonstrating to the world, our commitment to lift around 68 million people out of moderate poverty and make African countries more competitive and productive. The challenge before us, therefore, during this Summit, is to inspire the region with pragmatic solutions to avert sufferings brought by the pandemic.
We are all united and share the common belief, as espoused by the founding Fathers of SADC that, the success of any nation is rooted in its ability to engage and build competitive advantage in trade. Hence, trade within the region remains an imminent factor for promotion and expansion of economic growth in fighting pervasive poverty. As such, efforts to expand trade in the region must be far reaching and garner the full support of all the regional leaders.
It is also paramount for us to maintain the drive to create a conducive environment for Member States to diversify their industrial base, promote value addition and build necessary infrastructure to accelerate our integration agenda. The key driver to these processes remains the full implementation of the Regional Indicative Development Plan (RISDP), the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap, and other pertinent blueprints, which will ensure sustainable and equitable economic growth for the region.
Cognizant of the significance of industrialization in accelerating regional integration, this year’s theme underscores the need for the Member States to bolster existing productive capacities and enhance their utilization in order to address trade and development challenges faced by our economies. It further provides an opportunity for SADC to build new capacities exposed and availed by the pandemic. This, therefore, calls for the region’s rigorous investment in research and development in order to come up with innovative and modern technologies, which are fundamental in placing our economies collectively on a sustainable development trajectory. It is time that centres of excellency in the region played their role.
In order to safeguard the milestones achieved over the years, I am appealing to you, my fellow leaders, to continue working together to preserve peace and stability, without which our integration aspirations will remain unattainable. We should not pay a blind eye to the prevalence of armed conflicts and the threat of terrorism in some parts of the region, which is an affront to the sacrifice of our founding Fathers who struggled to liberate us from imperialism and set a solid foundation for economic prosperity. This calls for concerted efforts to counter any form of violence and terrorism that poses a threat to our integration aspirations. In confronting and resolving these conflicts, we should remain united.
In conclusion, my fellow leaders and citizens of SADC, the 41st SADC Summit provides us with yet another important opportunity to renew our commitment and demonstrate high political will, in order to encourage increased cooperation among Member States and re-strategize on how the region can develop its industrial base and infrastructure network necessary to accelerate the regional integration agenda.
Once again, I reiterate my profound pleasure to welcome you to the 41st SADC Summit and we are confident that the resolutions of this important platform will stimulate the region’s desire to entrench the integration agenda and achieve socio-economic development in order to address a myriad challenges faced by our citizens.
It is our hope that you will have a wonderful stay and explore the beautiful nature of the Warm Heart of Africa, as you enjoy the warmth of the People of Malawi.
God Bless You All.
Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF MALAWI