Partnering with the private sector will unlock avenues that southern African governments alone cannot attain, says President Jacob Zuma.
“The diversification of our economies and industrialisation will ultimately put the region on its rightful path as a global economic player,” said President Jacob Zuma, who is also the chair of the SADC regional bloc, on Tuesday.
Tshwane assumed the chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in August, with its tenure theme being ‘Partnering with the private sector in developing industry and regional value-chains’.
Through this theme, Tshwane seeks to build momentum and continuity in the collective aspiration towards regional sustainable economic development and industrialisation.
As such, it has identified key activities which will be the development of a high impact Annual Operation Plan, with targeted interventions and public policy tools to foster the development of regional value-chains in agro-processing, pharmaceuticals and mineral beneficiation.
Another issue the region needs to address is connectivity in information, technology, and communications. President Zuma said this must be addressed for the region to benefit from the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where industries are dominated by high-tech ICT.
In the SADC region — which consists of 15 countries with a population of 300 million people — only 16.3% of the population is using the internet, compared to a penetration of 47% globally.
The regional bloc is of the view that improved infrastructure can help to address socio-economic issues, ensure a better quality of life, boost regional economic integration, bridge the inequality gap and aid industrialisation efforts.
“Connectivity will ensure the attainment of the goals for regional economic integration, poverty alleviation and industrialisation,” President Zuma said.
The President was speaking at the second session of the South Africa-Zimbabwe Bi-National Commission (BNC) underway in Tshwane.
President Jacob Zuma is hosting his Zimbabwe counterpart Robert Mugabe, who is in the country for the session of the BNC. It is a forum where the two countries review their relations.
The two leaders used the session to exchange views on regional and global issues of mutual concern and development in the SADC region.
The session opened with a vow from the two countries to use their bilateral relations to push for the economic emancipation of their people.
While the task is not easy, the two neighbouring countries, which share cultural and historic links, are certain that their joint efforts through mechanisms such as the BNC will lead them there.
President Zuma said South Africa and Zimbabwe’s historical, fraternal and cultural bonds demand that they meet on a regular basis to strengthen and consolidate bilateral cooperation and partnership.
“We note with satisfaction the ever-growing cooperation between our two countries as evidenced by the existing 40 agreements and memoranda of understanding. These agreements are aimed at promoting political, economic and social cooperation.”
The agreements cover a wide range of areas including double taxation, justice, defence, transport, water, science and technology, health, migration, labour, economic and trade cooperation, and tourism.
The two countries have put in place monitoring mechanisms such as Mid-Term Reviews.
President Mugabe used his address to recall the historical relations that Zimbabwe and South Africa share. He said while one can “choose [their] friends, [they cannot choose their] neighbours. However, if Zimbabwe had a choice, they would “still have chosen South Africa”.
“When we come here, we know we are coming to our second home… We are one, one revolution, one struggle, one future.”
The senior statesman expressed his satisfaction on the programmes and projects undertaken by the BNC, as they secure a common future.
President Mugabe called for improved local business environments to attract investments and concerted efforts to promote cross-border investments.
“New investment opportunities should be opened in airports, railway and road systems. The respective private and public sectors should not miss out on the opportunities we are trying to facilitate.”
Zimbabwe is one of South Africa’s top five trading partners on the continent, with trade statistics showing annual growth.
In 2016, South Africa’s exports to Zimbabwe amounted to approximately R29.3 billion.
There are over 120 South African companies doing business in Zimbabwe in various sectors including mining, aviation, tourism, banking, property, retail, construction and the fast food sectors.