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It is Malawi’s time

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TO CHAIR SADC ORGAN ON POLITICS—Ramaphosa

President Lazarus Chakwera on Tuesday delivered his acceptance speech as chairperson of the Southern African Development Community at the official opening of the 41st Ordinary Summit of Sadc Heads of State and Government. We publish an abridged version of the speech.

  • Your Excellencies Heads of State and Government;
  • Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, Sadc Executive Secretary;
  • All protocols observed.

Eight years ago, Her Excellency Dr Joyce Mtila Banda, former president of the Republic of Malawi, had the honour of assuming the rotating chairship of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) from His Excellency Armando Emilio Guebuza, the then president of the Republic of Mozambique.

By God’s providence, I am honoured and humbled today to take over the mantle of leadership of Sadc from my dear brother His Excellency Felipe Jacinto Nyusi, President of the Republic of Mozambique, and outgoing chairperson of Sadc, following a very productive tenure of office.

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On behalf of the government and the people of the Republic of Malawi, and on my own behalf, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to my dear brother President Nyusi, the government and the people of the Republic of Mozambique, for your leadership in the launch of two key documents for the region: Sadc Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan 2020- 2030 and Sadc Vision 2050 as well as the establishment of the Sadc Humanitarian and Emergency Operations Centre. We will put these instruments to full and good use.

Malawi’s assumption of Sadc chairship comes in the context of the Covid pandemic and efforts to stop it in its tracks and restore social order.

However, the inequalities and disparities in accessing Covid vaccines are seriously hindering efforts to save the lives of millions in Sadc and must be tackled head-on. I, therefore, want to make a larger point to the rest of the global community.

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The inequalities and disparities we are seeing in the distribution and production of Covid vaccines are symptomatic of an old geopolitical framework that is no longer working, no longer sustainable and no longer acceptable.

I am referring to a framework that regards the world as an animal farm in which some nations are more equal than others.

I am referring to a framework that regards some nationalities as more special than others.

I am referring to a framework that regards some human lives as more worthy of saving than others.

Our message to nations that promote and perpetuate this framework is simple: You are using a tired and failed formula. African countries are full members of the global community, period!

As such, for the sake of the dignity of all human beings everywhere, we, as Africans, have a moral duty to refuse to be treated as second-class citizens.

We, as Africans, have a moral duty to refuse second-class status in the rules of engagement for participating in the global economy.

So, the time has come for us to work together to put the ratified African Free Trade Area to full use until the economic rules that disadvantage our nations are rewritten.

We, as Africans, have a moral duty to refuse second-class status in the restrictions we accept from outsiders for managing our own finances and resources.

So, the time has come for us to stand together in insisting that our Bretton Woods Institutions reconfigure the terms and conditions they have imposed on us for decades, leaving us in deeper poverty than they found us.

We, as Africans, have a moral duty to refuse second-class status in our participation in United Nations (UN) decisions that affect the peace, stability and sustainability of our world.

So, the time has come for us to insist that Africa must have at least one permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

And now, as the world faces this global health crisis that has killed millions, torpedoed economies and disrupted social order, we, as Africans, have a moral duty to reject second-class status in the distribution and production of Covid vaccines, vaccines invented and manufactured in labs where some of the scientists doing such work are Africans.

So, the time has come for us to insist that a vaccine that preserves and sustains a person’s basic right to life belongs to all nations, no matter who discovered it.

I repeat:Treating African nations and nationals as second-class members of the global community is no longer acceptable. We do not accept it. We will not accept it.

We cannot accept it. At a regional level like Sadc, this means recognising that our truest friends in this world are not those who are satisfied to see us continue in our poverty so that they can sustain their messianic complex as our benefactors and liberators.

No! Our truest friends in this world are those who work side by side with us on increasing our productive capacities and turning our economies into engines for sustainable growth.

I am, therefore, honoured to launch Malawi’s proposed theme for 2021 to 2022 Sadc chairship, which is: ‘Bolstering Productive Capacities in the Face of Covid Pandemic for Sustained, Inclusive, Economic and Industrial Transformation’.

It is our considered view that the Sadc we want is untenable without levelling the playing field on the Covid pandemic, revitalising the agricultural sector, enhancing value-addition, facilitating trade and simplifying rules of origin.

The African Continental Free Trade Area has availed Sadc the opportunity to become the breadbasket and export basket of Africa.

But we must seize the moment. We must fully implement the Sadc Industrialisation Strategy and Road-map, the Sadc Regional Agriculture Policy and the Sadc Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan, among others.

In line with the new Sadc theme, the Government of Malawi is implementing Malawi 2063, a vision focused on three drivers towards middle-income status for our economy: agricultural productivity and commercialisation, industrialisation and urbanisation.

In this regard, one of Malawi’s flagship projects is the Shire Valley Transformation Programme for the period 2018 to 2031 valued at $563 million.

Its aim is increasing agricultural productivity and commercialisation for targeted households in the Shire Valley and to improve the sustainable management and utilisation of natural resources.

The true potential of this project lies in the opportunities for private sector participation from member states with the wherewithal for value-addition chains towards industrialisation.

Such initiatives also benefit greatly from the Annual Sadc Industrialisation Week, which facilitates business linkages and promotes trade opportunities between member states.

These are the tools for regional integration I promise to push for during my tenure as chair because the time has come to turn our talk on regional integration into our walk.

That is why Malawi will ensure that the fifth Sadc Industrialisation Week is held here sometime this coming November to make this year’s theme a reality.

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, at this juncture, allow me to pay my profound tribute to my dear brother His Excellency Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana, and outgoing chairperson of Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation for the commendable progress achieved in consolidating democratic principles of transparency and the rule of law, peace and security in the region during his term of office.

Building on that work, we have no choice but to apply ourselves to sustaining the gains made to date, considering how critical this is to other multi-lateral agreements like 2063 African Union Agenda, 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014-24.

In assuming the Sadc chairmanship, Malawi commits to ensuring that we push our regional goals as we represent Southern African Group at African Union Peace and Security Council, UN Human Rights Council and provide leadership at UN Least Developed Countries. .

Excellencies, let me also take this opportunity to congratulate His Excellency Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa, and the incoming chairperson of Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation.

I commit to work closely with Your Excellency to ensure sustained peace and security in the region.

In conclusion, I give you all three assurances: I assure you of my government’s commitment to the ideals, values and principles of Sadc; I assure you of my best efforts to steer the implementation of Sadc Regional Integration Agenda; and, lastly, I assure you of my enthusiasm to serve you by conducting the affairs of Sadc with the determination required of your chairperson, an honour I hereby accept with great humility and joy.

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