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Khama bids SADC chair farewell

IAN KHAMA
Khama has passed the baton onto King Mswati III
I feel honoured as I stand here this morning to deliver the official Opening Remarks on the Occasion of the 36th Summit of Heads of State and Government of SADC.

During my tenure as Chairman, I was concerned that the region continued to experience deteriorating access to water and energy supply, food insecurity, inherent poverty and escalation of poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. The situation was further exacerbated by the severe drought and the El Nino effect during the last season, bringing about major hardships to our people, communities and industrialists. It was against this background, that I convened three key thematic workshops which included High Level Ministerial Workshops on Food Security and Poverty Eradication; Enhanced Access to Energy and Water; and Anti - poaching and the Illegal Trade in Wildlife.

I am pleased to advise that the report on the outcomes of these workshops has been presented to Council and will be presented to Summit for consideration.

In relation to regional economic performance, available data provided mainly by Member States indicate that the overall economic performance for the region in 2015 showed marginal growth. While external factors have largely contributed to the current unsatisfactory performance of the region, internally, many economies of the region remain undiversified and as such they are unable to absorb shocks, including falling commodity prices. The fall in international oil prices and climate change factors including drought and floods have also affected economic performance of Member States to a varying extent.

Regional average Real GDP continued to slowdown averaging 2.8% in 2015 compared to 3.3% in 2014. Only DRC and Tanzania recorded real GDP growth rates above the regional target of seven percent. Economic growth in the SADC region for 2016 is expected to be at  the same level of 2015. Performance of the external sector was unsatisfactory in 2015. This was largely on account of declining commodity prices on the international market. In addition, export volumes declined, generally because of low demand due to weak global economic recovery, whilst import volumes increased marginally.

The region’s cereal demand and supply analysis shows that the region recorded an overall cereal deficit of 9.3 million tonnes for 2016/17 marketing year and that only one country, Zambia recorded a cereal surplus. Currently, about 40.0 million people in the region are food insecure. It is therefore critical that the region should rise to the occasion and institute the necessary mitigation and recovery measures.

In light of the above, I wrote letters to all SADC Heads of State and Government on the declaration of drought. I also launched a Humanitarian Appeal to close a US$ 2.4 billion gap for the SADC region on July 26, 2016, and I am confident that with the support of our partners, we can overcome this challenge. I am also pleased to note that the region is united in coordinating the systems and institutional requirements for an effective importation and distribution programme of food and non-food commodities. I therefore wish to call upon our International Cooperating Partners to continue to support SADC in this endeavour and to render the necessary humanitarian and material support to meet the requirements of the region.

Climate change as we all know is a reality that we need to face. In a strategic context, the region has developed the “SADC Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan” which I wish to encourage Member States to adopt and domesticate for collective implementation. The region also associates itself with the outcomes of the “Paris Agreement”  adopted in 2015, as a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. It is encouraging that following the adoption, some Member States have proceeded to sign the Paris Agreement. I therefore wish to call upon all Member States to ratify this statute, so that our collective efforts

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to protect the planet can bear fruit and sustain the generations to come. However, there still remains a critical period of 2020, which is the deadline for the global mechanism for operationalisation of the Agreement.

The regional and national programmes to address the HIV and AIDS scourge continue to yield positive results. I therefore appeal to all Member States to remain steadfast with the implementation of the Action Plan attendant to the Maseru Declaration on HIV and AIDS. The region has overwhelmingly benefited from the ongoing interventions supported by the Global Fund in this area.

On the political, defence and security cooperation side, the peoples of the Republic of Seychelles, and the United Republic of Tanzania, held successful elections since the last Summit held in August, 2015. May I take this opportunity, to congratulate the people of the Republic of Seychelles and President James Michel, as well as the people of the United Republic of Tanzania, and President  John Magufuli, for the credible elections and their victories. Related to elections I opened the Electoral Commissions Forum for SADC countries whose mandate is to ensure the management of elections is improved.  I am encouraged by their mandate and will to enhance democracy through the conduct of credible elections in the region.

Whilst in the most part the general elections in SADC countries were free and fair, there were however incidents of pre-elections violence that even resulted in loss of life. Therefore there is still need to build on tolerance in the political arena. In the same vein, elsewhere in the SADC region we also recorded unrest and protests about postponement of elections, and others involving concerns about economic hardships. We also noted with great concern continuing hostilities by rebels. So we should as SADC take heed of some of these events as early warning of potential instability and take steps to offer our services in an attempt to ward off any deterioration of these situations.

SADC has continued with mediation efforts in the Kingdom of Lesotho. I convened the Double Troika Summit twice in January and June 2016 to assess progress made since the August 2015 Summit in Gaborone, Botswana. The Double Troika Summit on Lesotho decided on the need for the country to prepare a time-bound roadmap and implement SADC Decisions expeditiously. The Double Troika further approved the operationalisation of the Oversight Committee. A progress report will be presented to this Summit meeting.

On the continental front, although the process of electing the new Chairperson of the African Union was not concluded in July 2016, we applaud the region for uniting around the candidature of Hon. Dr. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Republic of Botswana. I wish to recognise your continued support for our candidate until the next round of elections set for January 2017, in Addis Ababa.

As I conclude my remarks, let me express my gratitude on behalf of the Government and People of Botswana for having been honoured and trusted in leading this body for the last 12 months. In discharging our mandate, we were humbled by your overwhelming support, which made our task an easy one.

Moving forward, there is no doubt that collectivity in implementation of our programmes is the only option as it brings a win win situation to all of us and that the vestiges of individuality can no longer further our interests.

*President Khama was addressing the SADC Heads of State Summit in Swaziland on Tuesday in his farewell speech before handing over the chairmanship. His speech has been edited for space



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