President Lazarus Chakwera Tuesday assumed the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) chairpersonship from Mozambique President Felipe Nyusi and hit the ground running by cautioning developed countries against what he described as Covid vaccine discrimination.
In his acceptance speech in Lilongwe, where the summit is being held at Bingu International Convention Centre, Chakwera said inequalities and disparities in accessing Covid vaccines were hindering efforts to save lives in the Sadc region, adding that the challenges have to be addressed.
Chakwera’s remarks have come at a time the Sadc region continues to be hit hard by the Covid pandemic, recording hundreds of deaths.
The new Sadc chief said inequalities and disparities being witnessed in the distribution and production of Covid vaccines were 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,” Chakwera said.
He said, for the sake of respect for the dignity of all people, Africans had a moral duty to refuse to be treated as second-class citizens.
The Malawi leader said time had come for Africans to work together to put the ratified African Free Trade Area to full use until economic rules that disadvantage African 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 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,” Chakwera said.
He said Sadc and Africa, at large, had to insist that a vaccine that 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,” he said.
Outgoing Sadc chairperson Nyusi pledged to support Malawi throughout its tenure at the helm of the regional body.
African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said Sadc efforts in fighting the Covid pandemic were in line with efforts of the AU.
Mahamat said Africa had only managed to vaccinate a small number of its population due to lack of capacity to produce its vaccines.
On her part, outgoing Sadc Executive Secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax said intra-Sadc trade fluctuated from 21.6 percent in 2016, slowing down to 20.0 percent in 2017, to 19.3 percent in 2018.
Tax said, to address this, measures were put in place, notably through the Sadc Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015-63, the Sadc Regional Mining Vision (RMV) and Action Plan 2019, which were approved in 2015 and 2019, respectively.
Regional leaders that graced the summit include Nyusi, South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa, Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi, Tanzania President Samia Suluhu Hassan, the Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi and Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina.
Others are Namibia Vice President Nangolo Mbumba and Lesotho Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu.
Apart from issues of peace and security, Sadc advances regional integration on issues of trade, food security, climate change management, health and gender.
The summit is being held under the theme ‘Bolstering Productive Capacities in the Face of Covid Pandemic for Inclusive, Sustainable, Economic and Industrial Transformation’.
The summit is expected to end today, when the leaders will sign a communiqué on issues agreed.