By Sylvester Kumwenda
Lilongwe, August 17, Mana: The outgoing Southern African Development Community (SADC) Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, has urged the SADC block to work hard in maintaining gains made in the past 40 years of the regional block’s existence.
She made the remarks on Tuesday in Lilongwe as she was concluding her eight-year tenure as SADC Executive Secretary during the 41st SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government.
“I am immensely grateful for the opportunity, and for the guidance and support that you rendered to me during my tenure.
“I am proud of what the region has achieved over the eight years under Your Excellency’s stewardship.
“For example, on the social and economic front, the region has made notable strides in terms of macro-economic convergence, industrialisation, SADC intra-trade, regional connectivity, access to energy, financial integration and inclusion, and mobile penetration,” she stated.
Tax explained that in the energy sector, during the period 2014 to 2020, commissioned power generation in the region increased by 19,738 Megawatts (MW) translating into 90 per cent of the targeted capacity of 22,000 MW.
She further said access to electricity at weighted average increased from 36 per cent in 2014/2015 to more than 50 per cent in 2020/2021.
According to the former SADC Executive Secretary, energy traded through bilateral agreements also increased from 4,761 Gigawatt-hours (GWh) in 2014/15 to 7,992 GWh in 2018/2019, but dropped slightly to 5,642 GWh in 2020/2021.
In the SADC Mobile Penetration, she said all SADC Member States now have established at least two cross-border terrestrial optical fibre links for regional and international transit traffic and that SADC Mobile Penetration has also increased.
Tax added that gains have also been made in areas of financial inclusion such that as of December, 2020, 68 per cent of adults in the region were financially included in both formal and informal financial products/services.
The outgoing SADC Executive Secretary, therefore, urged the block to capitalise on the gains made in order to further develop the region.
“We all need to be proud of the contributions we have made towards the advancement of SADC development and integration agenda and use the lessons to drive our organisation forward and to keep it relevant,” she said.
She, however, said the region has encountered various disasters of varying proportions like the El Niño-induced drought of 2016, the devastating Tropical Cyclones Idai, Chalane and Eloise between 2019 and 2020, and the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“Also, as the region remains generally stable, it is still facing some challenges in areas of unemployment, poverty, disasters, pandemics, acts of terrorism, violence and cyber security threats.
“We need to manage these collectively, remain alert and vigilant in addressing the challenges facing the region while strengthening mechanisms put in place to address such threats,” she said.
Tax also said it was befitting that SADC recognises efforts, sacrifices and contributions made by the SADC founding fathers.
“May I implore the member states to operationalise the mechanism which will ensure that the history and legacy of SADC and its founding fathers remain engraved in the history of the organisation and imparted to the generations to come,” she said.
On a different note, Tax took the opportunity to congratulate Republics of Seychelles, Zambia and Tanzania for their recent peaceful elections conducted recently and transitions made in their countries.
Tax took over as the Executive Secretary on 18th August 2013, 8 years ago in Lilongwe.
In his recorded video statement, African Union Chairperson, His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat, congratulated Malawi’s President, Dr Lazarus Chakwera, for assuming the leadership of SADC, outgoing Chairperson Filipe Nyusi and Tax for her 8 year service as the SADC Executive Secretary.
He said he was pleased to see that SADC’s efforts, including those in fighting COVID-19, are in consistence with the approach and vision of the African Union Commission.
“Our concerted efforts are, therefore, needed to accelerate the transformation of our economies in order to achieve a stronger, more resilient economic growth that creates opportunities for all segments of our population, especially for women and young people,” he said.