PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu has urged the Southern African region to operate on a firm path of accelerating economic growth in order to meet the aspirations of the people.
Mr Lungu said it was important to create a conducive business environment that promotes sustainable development and conditions in which the private sector and other economic players could thrive.
He was speaking in his maiden speech at the two- day 35th Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government summit at the Gaborone International Conference Centre (GICC).
The President said it was imperative to acknowledge the realities of the world and renew a common resolve to sustain the core principles and objectives of SADC.
Mr Lungu said SADC member states faces challenges such as high unemployment, particularly among the youth, adverse impact of climate change, energy shortage and skewed industrial development.
Other challenges were low intra-regional trade, inadequate infrastructure, low productivity in agriculture and livestock as well as in the education and health sectors.
“These are, however not insurmountable. I am confident that through our concerted and collective efforts, determination and hard work of our people coupled with able and visionary leadership, we shall overcome,” he said.
Mr Lungu said despite the positive regional and global economic outlook, SADC countries face new social, economic, political and security challenges that could have an adverse impact on the region.
Mr Lungu said if taken individually, member states do not provide attractive markets and destinations for investment.
He said it was for that reason that initiatives aimed at broadening markets under the tripartite and continental free trade areas were supported.
President Lungu said Zambia, therefore, remains fully committed to the implementation and realisation of all SADC protocols and programmes.
He expressed delighted that SADC was on the right track building upon past achievements to mould a better future for the people.
“I appreciate that our regional organization has made tremendous strides in several areas including trade, infrastructure development, peace and security, health education and food security,”he said.
He said other commendable regional programmes being implemented include the construction of the Kazungula Bridge over the Zambezi River.
And Outgoing SADC Chairperson Robert Mugabe, who is also Zimbabwe’s President has handed over the SADC Chairmanship to Incoming Lt. Gen Seretse Khama lan Khama, President of Botswana.
ZANIS reports that Mr. Mugabe who stressed the need and importance of preserving the values on which the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was established advised the member states to treasure this as founders sacrificed immensely.
Mr Mugabe who gave a brief history background to the formation in recognition of President Kenneth Kaunda, Sir Seretse Khama, among others, described SADC as the most powerful and stable regional grouping in Africa.
“The formation of SADC has not come on a silver platter but with so much struggle just to ensure peace was put in place as a vital ingredient of economic development, “he narrated.
Mr. Mugabe also added that during the year under his tenure, a number of achievements were scored in various areas, among them health, food security, education and infrastructure development.
Others are the successful launch of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA), in June, this year.
The TFTA is an integrated market comprising Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The purpose of this trade agreement is to pave way for smooth movement of goods and services thereby addressing the trade imbalance.
On Peace and Security, President Mugabe urged the Summit to continue assisting member states such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in an effort to finding a lasting solution in that country.
Mr. Mugabe who received a round of applause, thanked the support of the member states for his successful performance.
And the Incoming SADC Chairperson Lt. Gen Seretse Khama lan Khama in his acceptance speech assured the member states that he will continue from where the former Chair has left to double up the performance in an effort to sustain the vision of the regional grouping.
Lt. Gen. Khama thanked Mr. Mugabe for his wise counsel and commitment to strengthening the mechanisms in place.
Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, Namibia’s Hage Geingob, Mozambique’s Filipe Nyusi and Lesotho’s Pakalitha Mosisili are in attendance at the Summit.
While Angola, Malawi, Mauritius, Tanzania and DRC being represented by their Ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.