The region has to turn the Covid-19 pandemic into an opportunity for bolstering industrialisation and intra-regional trade.
This emerged from a virtual meeting held by the SADC Council of Ministers on Friday.
Member states are currently promoting the manufacture of health materials such as face masks, sanitisers and ventilators.
Ministers from Zanzibar, Angola, Botswana, South Africa, Mauritius, Malawi, Comoros, Seychelles, DRC, Mozambique, Tanzania, Namibia, Lesotho Madagascar and Zimbabwe took part in the meeting.
Zimbabwe was represented by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Sibusiso Moyo, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube, Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza and other senior Government officials.
In an interview with The Sunday Mail, Dr Moyo said the meeting, which began in the morning and ended in the evening, knuckled down on the industrialisation and regional intra-trade roadmaps.
“This was a SADC annual meeting which is following up on the decisions taken by the Council of Ministers sometime in April; and particularly on the management and common approach in dealing with Covid-19 as a region and the issue of the budget of the secretariat,” he said.
“It also touched on industrialisation and trade inclusivity issues so that these issues can be ramped up, whether during the Covid-19, which will be within an environment of a new normal, or post Covid-19, where we must reinvigorate our industrialisation and trade as a region and as a continent.”
In his remarks at the opening of the meeting, chairperson of the SADC Council of Ministers Professor Palamagamba John Kabudi said the Covid-19 pandemic provided an opportunity to boost intra-regional trade, which currently stands at less than 20 percent.
Enhanced inter-regional trade is expected to ultimately create jobs and boost the region’s economy.
“We should now convert our industries to produce more PPEs so that we are able to share and sell PPEs made in South Africa, made in Tanzania, Made in Namibia, Made in Botswana and Made in Lesotho. We should be able to buy and sell sanitisers Made in Tanzania and Mauritius, since the latter has a lot of sugar and they produce a lot of alcohol.
“So let us turn this challenge into an opportunity of emboldening our industrialisation and intra-trade in the region.
“In challenging times like this, this bloc should increase the cooperation among countries, to rip benefits from our integration.”
Professor Kabudi, who is also Tanzania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, implored SADC countries to address challenges in the implementation of regional guidelines on harmonisation and facilitation of cross-border transport operations.
“Reports on the disruption of cross-border transport, congestion at border posts and increase time and cost of transportation of goods pose a challenge to all of us,” he said.
“As a bloc, we have an urgent need for fast tracking the harmonisation and synchronisation among Member States in order to ease congestion at border posts.”
In her remarks, SADC executive secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax commended SADC countries for taking necessary measures to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The disease had brought multiple challenges and responsibilities that required extra-ordinary and innovative approaches to doing business, she said.