Your Excellency, Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa and Deputy Chairperson of SADC, Your Excellences heads of state and government, honourable minister’s,
Your Excellency Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax, Executive Secretary of SADC,
Excellencies members of the diplomatic corps and development partners,
Your Excellency, President of the African Development Bank,
Your Excellency Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission For Africa (Uneca),
Captains of the private sector,
Management and staff of the SADC Secretariat,
Members of the press,
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen;
I am humbled and seized with a deep sense of gratitude to stand before you on this auspicious and momentous occasion; the official opening of the 37th Ordinary Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government here in the Republic of South Africa.
Allow me from the outset, to express my utmost and sincere appreciation to the President, government and people of the Republic of South Africa for the warm welcome and excellent hospitality that has been extended to our delegations since our arrival.
The excellent facilities provided to us will no doubt enhance our deliberations to realise the objectives of our summit.
As we are gathered here, we are saddened by the loss we have suffered in one of the great sons of this region, the former president of Botswana, Dr. Ketumile Masire, who passed away recently.
On behalf of the region, we express our deepest condolences to you President Khama, the government and the people of the Republic of Botswana.
President Masire, even in his retirement, continued to be an instrument of peace in this region and indeed the whole of Africa.
Your loss is our loss and may his soul rest in peace. (May you all to rise to observe a minute of silence).
Your Excellencies, it was indeed a huge task for us over the past twelve months to lead our regional organization.
To chair the 15 member states of SADC comes with several responsibilities, which include providing leadership and guidance to facilitate implementation of the SADC agenda and programme, which have been set out for the region.
The chairmanship bestowed upon our kingdom gave us a sense of pride as a nation and we are grateful for the confidence in us shown by the SADC leaders. The support from all the member states has been very humbling indeed.
When assuming the task, we did so with great anxiety but Emaswati resolved to work together to make our term of office a great success.
Through the guidance and support of the Secretariat we are grateful that we have run our race and delivered tangible progress towards realising the key objectives of SADC.
Our organisation was established to improve the wellbeing of our people by providing a conducive environment that is peaceful, poverty-free, economically vibrant and full of employment opportunities for an educated and highly skilled people, to mention but a few. While we have achieved certain milestones, there is still a lot more work to be done.
During our tenure of office, we are grateful that SADC member states enabled us to vigorously promote industrial development which is significant for the economic growth of our region.
For industrialisation to flourish, requisite skills among our people are a necessity.
It is for this reason that the SADC Summit in 2017 took a deliberate decision to link the theme of the 36th SADC Summit to human resources and skills development in the region, by resolving to establish a SADC University of Transformation.
The university has a noble objective to promote specific skills among our population.
It will provide the much needed skills development and consequently employment to our people, thereby causing us to harvest the demographic dividend and at the same time, reduce poverty.
Technical vocational education and training (tvet) remains critical if we are to produce entrepreneurs not job seekers.
We want our people to enter the corporate world and create employment opportunities. We are pleased that summit will receive an update on the progress achieved thus far.
Energy investment forum
One of the challenges facing our region is the insufficient supply of energy which is a key catalyst for industrialisation.
We are pleased that we have been able to host the investment forum which was held in the kingdom last month. It played a pivotal role in bringing together the public and private sectors, as well as financial institutions, to put into action the 2016 summit theme; “resource mobilisation for investment in sustainable energy infrastructure for an inclusive SADC industrialisation and for the prosperity of the region”.
The number of energy and water projects which were showcased, the challenges that were identified and the solutions that were agreed upon, demonstrate the potential that the region has.
We have no doubt that the incoming chairperson will keep the momentum regarding our resolve to mobilise resources and finance our projects that will create a vibrant economic environment in our community.
Our regional integration can only be realized if there is full participation of the private sector in our programmes and projects as it is an engine for economic growth, hence partnering with it is essential.
The SADC regional development fund is important to our agenda. It is indeed a champion of economic transformation; competitiveness and regional integration.
Industrialisation, as a vehicle, is a very practical manner for the transformation of our economies in terms of employment and wealth creation; value addition and boosting value based exports.
Regional development fund
Sustainable financing of SADC projects and programmes remains critical if regional integration is to achieve what it was meant to.
I am glad to note that strategic and operational plans and are readily available at the secretariat and member state level, from which we can draw some regional projects.
These are; the SADC industrialisation strategy and roadmap 2015-2063; the regional infrastructure development master plan; the agriculture investment plan; and the Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ (SIPO).
With these at our disposal, we need to expedite our processes to bring into reality what we began regarding the agreed SADC Regional Development Fund.
In order for us to attain the objectives of the SADC common agenda, we have to ensure that, through agriculture and food security, there is strong implementation of a series of short and long term measures.
These are necessary to strengthen sectoral cooperation among member states in accordance with the regional agricultural policy.
We are grateful that a lot of work towards this has taken place. Key among these is the development of the Regional Agricultural Fund, for financing the implementation of the SADC agriculture programme. It is imperative that we produce enough food for our people.
One of the biggest threats to our food self-sustainability objectives is climate change and natural disasters.
Our region has suffered great losses brought about by elements such as the army worms and drought.
However, during my recent visit to the SADC Headquarters in Botswana I was impressed with the technological advancements made by the Secretariat in setting up an early warning unit for the benefit of the region.
It is through this facility, that is capable of analysing and disseminating information to member states timeously, that greater losses were averted.
Peace and security
We wish to thank the chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation and his team, for their good work in making sure that our region remains peaceful.
We also wish to express our appreciation to the Executive Secretary and her team for their hard work which made it possible for us to register the progress i have outlined.
Passing on the baton
This occasion is special in the sense that, as we are gathered here today to deliberate on the regions common agenda, we still uphold our long-held tradition of passing on the baton to the next leader who will chair our esteemed organisation over the next twelve months.
We are confident that South Africa under the leadership of President Zuma, will lead our organisation to greater heights. We are witness to his astute leadership which has uplifted the social and economic wellbeing of the people.
We have been impressed by the tremendous development that has taken place in this country. We look forward to the president sharing his leadership experiences that will go a long way in helping countries in the region to attain a developed status.
With everyone’s support, I have no doubt that the new chair will run with the vision of our founding fathers with even greater vigour.
I therefore call upon my fellow heads of state and government, to render the same support you gave to me and the kingdom of Eswatini during our tenure of office.
We pledge our unfettered and unwavering support to you President Zuma, the in-coming chair of SADC.
I know that you are poised to lead our regional community into our regional song, a rythym that speaks of equity, inclusive growth and prosperity for all.
As I conclude may I urge all of us to remain committed to the ideals and principles of the SADC Treaty.
May I also take this opportunity to congratulate all those who have been recognised today for their contribution to the SADC Agenda in various sectors.
Your role is well appreciated and we urge you to continue to play an active part in creating the SADC we want.
It is my singular honour and privilege to declare the 37th Ordinary Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government, officially opened and hand-over the baton to our incoming chairperson, namely President Zuma.
I thank you – may the Almighty God bless us all.