The 35th Summit of Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government has come and gone.
Hundreds of high-level government officials from the 15 member states converged in Gaborone to deliberate on the state of the region, its challenges, and the way forward.
The weeklong meetings culminated in the Head of State and Government Summit from Monday to Tuesday.
Some of the delegates were visiting this country for the first time, and they will take their impressions with them back to their countries of origin. Our hope is many will return as tourists to plough into our coffers.
While it was an eye opening experience for us to host such a huge number of State leaders and high-level government officials, the event came at the worst time. Load shedding and water rationing seriously spoilt the party.
But the visitors could not have been worse off as they stayed in the best and well prepared hotels.
The good news for Botswana is that Monday marked the beginning of 12 months of SADC under President Ian Khama. Although somehow ceremonial, we celebrate with our President in his new position as chairperson of SADC.
In his acceptance speech, the President shared his observations about the slow implementation of projects and ideas agreed in gatherings.
“The people of Southern African would not judge us by the adoption of key strategic documents, but rather by the outcomes achieved, following implementation. I therefore call upon all of us to implement agreed priorities in these strategic plans in order to improve the well-being of our peoples,” he told the gathering.
He is right. This is the shortfall and characteristic of African gatherings. Government officials, technocrats, and politicians exchange ideas on a daily basis, agree on these ideas, but then implementation, if it ever happens, takes many years. The result of these delays impacts of the quality of life, stagnation of the economies of countries and regions, and ills such as unemployment, crime and poverty rise. Even ideals such as Africa 2063 and countries’ plans such as Botswana Vision 2016 become just.
The greatest obstacle to implementation is the ever-growing threat of corruption. This is one area that SADC should focus on if it were to succeed in its endeavours on economic growth, industrialisation and economic integration.
It is unfortunate that in its communiqué the 35th Summit did not mention a word on the fight against corruption. It is our hope that as the new chairperson, President Khama will utilise his influence to call for establishment of an anti-corruption centre that will be mandated to oversee projects and prevent any opportunities for corruption.
Having said that, we wish Mr President a healthy and successful year as chairperson of SADC.
“And Africa’s progress can also be seen in the institutions that bring us together today. When I first came to Sub-Saharan Africa as a President, I said that Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.“
- Barrack Obama