Promoting intra-regional trade remains a fundamental objective Sadc and there is need to strengthen efforts on the free movement of people and not only opening markets for the movement of goods, says the new Sadc Chair, Malawi President Joyce Banda.
Speaking during the official opening of the Sadc summit in Lilongwe, President Banda said the region cannot talk of regional integration if people are not free to move within the Sadc region.
“May we be encouraged by our brothers and sisters in West Africa, who have demonstrated that the free movement of people can deepen and broaden regional integration,” said Banda.
She also pointed out the need to fast-track the implementation of the new Sadc Industrialisation Policy Framework, the Sadc Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan and the Sadc Trade Facilitation Instruments.
According to the new Sadc chair these policies complement the on-going work of the Sadc Protocols on Trade, Trade in Services and Finance and Investment and will”accelerate our regional integration agenda and our integration into the continental and global economies.”
Outlining her theme for her term as Sadc Chair, Banda emphasized the need to promote their regional integration agenda through a focus on Agricultural Develpement and Agro-Industries as a key to economic growth and poverty reduction in the Sadc region.
“I have chosen this theme for two reasons. Firstly, because it builds on and compliments the work of the outgoing Chair His Excellency President Armando Emilio Guebuza on development corridors as vehicles for Sadc regional integration.
“Secondly, for much of our region, agriculture is the largest employer, the largest component of Growth Domestic Product and the biggest generator of foreign exchange. Stimulating this sector, by encouraging diversification, commercialisation and value addition, will encourage broad based inclusive growth,” said Banda adding it would transform people’s livelihoods.
The Sadc chair said the region needs to work harder to help small-holder and commercial farmers build and sustain their businesses. She also made special mention of Malawi’s tobacco farmers where global advocacy campaigns threaten their ability to earn a living.
“Tobacco is an important product to the economies of most of Sadc member states. 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 flavourings. This has an adverse and dire impact on growing of burley tobacco in the region by both small-scale and large tobacco farmers,” said Banda.
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