It is indeed an honour for me to address you for the first time as the President of the Republic of Botswana. I wish to take this opportunity to pledge my unwavering commitment to the SADC regional integration agenda. I am aware that tremendous progress has been made in the areas of trade, peace and security. In this respect, I am happy to note that one of the major achievements in the region include the development of a Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan focusing on the six (6) sectors of Energy, Water, Transport, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Tourism and Meteorology.
I am happy to inform you that in pursuit of these goals, Botswana is undertaking several infrastructure projects which have a regional dimension. This includes the construction of the Kazungula Bridge in collaboration with the Republic of Zambia, which will connect Botswana to the northern part of the SADC region; the Nata – Pandamatenga road and the Palapye-Martins Drift Road that connects Botswana to South Africa. Other future projects include the expansion of the Morupule Power Plant; as well as the Mosetse-Kazungula railway line for the transportation of goods to the northern part of the SADC region.
Another achievement worth noting, is the approval of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Road Map (2015-2063) as well as the Costed Action Plan for the implementation of the Strategy and Roadmap focusing on the first fifteen (15) years (2016-2030). I am also happy to note that currently, work is in progress to develop value chains for leather, soya beans, aquaculture, iron and steel, copper, cement, Antiretroviral Drugs, Malaria medicines and bed nets as well as the profiling of the regional agro-processing sector. These, I must say, are steps in the right direction towards the realization of our goal of regional economic transformation, which will facilitate the process of our industrialization. The implementation of the Strategy will transform our economies to be productive, efficient, diversified and competitive. It should be noted that some of the enablers of regional integration include; well-developed financial systems; adequate human capital; supporting infrastructure; and the necessary finances, among other things.
I am, however, aware that the SADC region is grappling with financial constraints and impediments to resource mobilization. I am informed that work is ongoing to develop a resource mobilization framework as well as other initiatives such as the creation of a fund to bridge the resource gap. It is for this reason that we must strengthen collaboration with regional and global development financing institutions, to fast-track infrastructure development in the region.
Opportunities also exist through Public Private Partnerships to further boost development financing in the SADC region. Therefore, it is my wish that the SADC region should effectively take advantage of these opportunities. You will agree with me that youth unemployment remains a serious challenge in the region. In our quest to pursue regional integration and enhance productivity and competitiveness of our economies, there is need to prioritize the empowerment and capacitation of the youth.
It is worth noting that peaceful and democratic elections continue to be held in the region, which is very commendable indeed. This is a clear sign of our unwavering commitment to achieve peace and political stability which are key to socio-economic development in the region. Let us remain committed to upholding democratic principles and let us also continue to provide the necessary support to Member States that are undertaking efforts to achieve durable peace and political stability for their peoples. Let me reiterate the fact that we must remain committed to the implementation of agreed SADC priorities and principles in order to improve the livelihoods of our people.
Finally, allow me to take this opportunity to commend the successive leadership of SADC for its visionary leadership and exceptional guidance to drive the organisation’s policies and programmes. I also wish to recognize the Secretariat for its work in facilitating the implementation of the aspirations of our people. With the guidance of the leadership of SADC, and with the support of our people, the region has the potential to become a highly successful economic community.
*MASISI WAS SPEAKING AT THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE 38TH ORDINARY SUMMIT OF SADC HEADS OF STATE AND GOVERNMENT IN WINDHOEK, NAMIBIA ON FRIDAY.