Political, economic and social commentators have given mixed reactions on whether Malawi has benefitted from the chairmanship of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc).
President Lazarus Chakwera is today expected to hand over the Sadc mantle to Democratic Republic of Congo leader Felix Tshisekedi during the 42nd Ordinary Sadc Summit of Heads of State and Government in Kinshasa.
Speaking at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe Tuesday, Chakwera insisted that Malawi has benefitted immensely from its being chairperson of Sadc.
“The concentration over the past year has been the whole of Sadc coming here, helping us in various ways, issues of development, and issues of infrastructure,” Chakwera said.
The President added that the meetings have centred towards more integration, more industrialisation, more resilience as well as more security and peace for the region.
Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences (Mubas) Associate Professor of Economics Betchani Tchereni said over the past 12 months Malawi has chaired Sadc, the country has had a lot of visitors from the rest of Sadc and beyond for different engagements.
According to Tchereni, the inflow of delegates helped the country’s tourism sector to be busy as the visitors used hotels, food and vehicles.
“Our government officials did not make so many trips on Sadc-related engagements, which means we saved some money both on the budgetary and foreign currency fronts,” Tchereni said.
But Human Rights Defenders Coalition Chairperson, Gift Trapence, said Malawi has not gained much from the Sadc chairmanship.
Trapence said the country needs to push for more agreements that can bolster Malawian traders, especially at a time when the local economy is not working.
On his part, Centre for Research and Consultancy Director Milward Tobias said there are no specific benefits that can be attributed to the chairmanship.
“[Of course], when a country is chairing, all ministerial and technical meetings take place in the chairing country, so accommodation business might have gained. Besides that, I cannot think of anything spectacular,” Tobias said.
He added that the level of benefit is thwarted by the weak manufacturing sector and lack of tourist attractions in Lilongwe.
“If a country like South Africa is chairing, you expect delegates to return home with bags full of merchandise. Here we cannot sell a pair of shoes or a suit that is made in Malawi because we do not make them,” Tobias said.
Political analyst, George Phiri, said people use different tools to assess the performance of an individual or organisation, adding that the degree of emphasis on the performance also differs from one person to another.
According to Phiri, if the President says Malawi has benefited immensely, the degree of that performance depends on the tools used and what he expected to achieve.
“As for me, we haven’t achieved much. What we have achieved in my assessment includes, first, the use of Mozambique’s seaports of Beira and Nacala for Malawi’s import and export; second, the reduction of tension and conflict between Mozambique’s soldiers and their opponents has reduced cross-border migration into Malawi,” Phiri said.
He added that Malawi’s chairmanships have been a lost opportunity as the region failed to take advantage of the war between Russia and Ukraine to boost its production capacities.
Chakwera took over the Sadc chairmanship from Mozambique President Felipe Nyusi on August 17 last year during the 41st Sadc Heads of State and Government Summit held in Lilongwe.