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SACU should maximize the opportunity being presented by the emerging global developments and accelerate the implementation of the SACU industrialisation programme – Summit

SACU should maximize the opportunity being presented by the emerging global developments and accelerate the implementation of the SACU industrialisation programme – Summit

SACU should maximize the opportunity being presented by the emerging global developments and accelerate the implementation of the SACU industrialization program – Summit

The 7th Summit of the Heads of State or Government of the Member States of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) held this week in Botswana reflected on the current global developments including the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, Russia-Ukraine conflict, and the COVID-19 pandemic, a statement released Friday said.

HE Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, President of Botswana chaired the Summit, which was attended by Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa; Dr. Moeketsi Majoro, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho; the Senator Themba Nhlanganiso Masuku, Deputy Prime Minister of the
Kingdom of Eswatini; and Iipumbu Shiimi, Minister of Finance of Namibia on behalf of HE Dr. Hage Geingob.

In relation to the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12), the Summit noted that important deals critical to the region were concluded.

These include: (i) an agreement that enables the production and supply of COVID-19 vaccines without the patent holders’ authorization; (ii) the discipline on Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported fishing that will protect the territorial waters of the SACU countries; (iii) food security measures to mitigate against the increase in food prices and food shortages; (iv) the E-commerce Work Programme aimed at setting a deadline for the moratorium on customs duties to secure support for digital industrialization for
SACU and other African countries; and (v) the WTO reforms that provide an opportunity to put forward additional policy space to promote African industrialization.

The Summit, therefore, applauded the African Ministers for the decisive role they played to ensure that the WTO reaches a historical deal in particular, on the TRIPS waiver that would enable Africa to manufacture its own vaccines.

According to the statement the Summit also reflected on the current Russia-Ukraine conflict, which if not resolved peacefully through dialogue and negotiation, can further affect the region.

“This will result in inflation surges, especially on food and fuel prices, and thus dimming the growth prospects of the already fragile economies. In light of these global developments, and the easing of COVID-19-related restrictions in the region and globally, the Summit undertook to remain resolute in implementing recovery programs that assist in rebuilding economic resilience; building on work already being done on analyzing the impact of COVID-19 to bring SACU economies back on a
sustainable economic growth trajectory, including by prioritizing investments in edible oils and other agricultural value chain development as a matter of urgency,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, the Summit, therefore, agreed that SACU should maximize the opportunity being presented by the emerging global developments and accelerate the implementation of the SACU industrialization program which will result in increased production capacity to reduce the reliance on imports, especially on food and fertilizer.

The Summit further agreed on the need to build greater internal reliance on industrial development and public financing to support growth.

The Summit noted the SACU Vision on Industrialisation which seeks “to build a diversified, competitive, sustainable and equitable industrial base that supports structural transformation and the economic integration of the SACU region”.

According to the statement, the Summit endorsed the Work Programme and Priorities as follows: (i)
Industrialization through the development of regional value chains, investment attraction, and export promotion; (ii) Regional Financing Mechanism; (iii) Trade Facilitation and Logistics as well as the (iv) implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The Summit considered a Progress Report from the Council of Ministers on the implementation of the SACU Work Programme, which the Council of Ministers adopted at their 4th Ministerial Retreat held on 21 September 2020.

Furthermore, the Summit endorsed the priority sectors as Agro-processing specifically Leather and Leather Products, Meat and Meat Products, Fruits and Vegetables; Textiles and Clothing, Pharmaceuticals, Cosmetics, and Essential Oils, Automotives, and Mineral beneficiation. The Summit further directed the Council to prioritize fertilizers, agro-chemicals, and seed production as part of the ongoing work on Agro-processing to deal with the existential challenges the region is faced with regard to food security.

The Summit noted that a regional SACU Investment Roundtable was convened on 12-13 April 2022, in Gaborone, Botswana. The Investment Roundtable showcased investment opportunities in the agreed priority sectors across the SACU region in each Member State by the respective national Investment Promotion Agencies, featuring 36 investment projects. Additionally, the Roundtable featured Business-to- Business engagements with the promoters of investment projects.

The Summit also noted the SACU Trade Facilitation and Logistics Programme as a framework for collaboration in SACU, and that an Operational Plan is being developed to facilitate its implementation. This will include a detailed outline of projects, initiatives, and programs to be implemented.

The Programme is underpinned by the following six pillars:
(a) Customs Cooperation;
(b) Border Coordination;
(c) Behind the Border Measures;
(d) Transport and Logistics;
(e) Support to negotiations and the implementation of Trade Agreements; and
(f) Cross-cutting policy imperatives.

The Summit reaffirmed SACU’s commitment to the AfCFTA and the importance of concluding SACU’s tariff offer to the AfCFTA. The Summit further emphasized the imperative of advancing industrialization in SACU and fast-track work on the development of regional value chains to take advantage of the African market and beyond. This requires a systematic approach and practical steps to deepen the region’s industrial base.

The Summit commended the Council and the Secretariat for the development of the five-year SACU Strategic Plan (2022 – 2027) that was approved by the SACU Council of Ministers on 2 June 2022.

Further to that the Summit further noted that the term of office for the Executive Secretary of SACU, Ms. Paulina Elago will end in October 2022. The Heads of States or governments applauded and commended Ms. Elago for her leadership and achievements while at the helm of the Secretariat since April 2014 and wished her success in her future endeavors.

The Kingdom of Eswatini will assume the Chair of SACU, effective from 15 July 2022 to 14 July 2023, taking over from Botswana.


 

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