Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Eisenhower Mkaka yesterday called on the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) Council of Ministers to work together in fostering industrialisation and fighting against Covid-19.
He was speaking after assuming the Sadc Ministerial Council chairmanship succeeding Mozambique’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Verónica Dlhovo.
While accepting the leadership, he said he takes over at a time the region and entire world is reeling with the effects of Covid-19 currently ravaging economies, hence the need to mobilise vaccines through Sadc regional production.
Mkaka said: “Let me acknowledge that the shortage of vaccines is across countries in the Sadc region. You might have heard that the World Health Organisation [WHO] announced plans to establish a Covid-19 production factory in South Africa.
“It is therefore the role of the incoming Sadc chairperson to ensure this is expedited and hastened to ensure all countries have easy access to the vaccines.”
He said amidst the pandemic, which has severely ravaged economies, Sadc witnessed regional integration being tested as member States resorted to putting in place stringent preventative measures to curb the spread of the pandemic.
Mkaka acknowledged that as a result of Covid-19, economic activities, including trade in goods and services, as well as free movement of people, have slowed down leading to significant job losses.
The minister said the Government of Malawi attaches great importance to the principles, ideals, values, goals and aspirations as encapsulated in the Sadc Treaty.
“We are committed to continue spearheading the implementation of programmes and projects derived from the Sadc Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) for 2020-2030 as guided by the Sadc Vision 2050,” Mkaka said.
He said he has a firm belief that Sadc has capacities and capabilities to surmount the current challenges and bounce back better and stronger on the road to regional prosperity.
Mkaka praised Dlhovo for raising the bar during her tenure and that the Government of Malawi is dedicated to sustaining the standards that she had set, hence Malawi is counting on the support of all member States.
In her statement, Dhlovo said despite the Covid-19 challenges, during her tenure of office, the Council managed to facilitate Covid-19 vaccines for member States including championing peace negotiations and deployment of troops in Mozambique to quell the conflict.
Outgoing Sadc executive secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax acknowledged that Covid-19 continues to ravage and overwhelm the already weak health systems.
She said the Covid-19 third wave has been ruthless with devastating effects, including, high case loads, and high death rates.
Tax said: “While Sadc member States have embarked on the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccines, vaccine roll remains quite low to confer herd immunity.
“This is attributed to the limited access to vaccines, insufficient vaccine infrastructure, inadequate preparation for vaccine rollout, and vaccine hesitancy”.
She reminded member States that the region is not yet out of the pandemic, hence called for the need to continue working together.
Tax acknowledged that local production of Covid-19 vaccines remains one of the concrete measures that will ensure sustainable availability of vaccines, health products and commodities, and as such strengthen regional health security.
Mozambique President Felipe Nyusi is expected to hand over the chairmanship of the 16-member states regional bloc to Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera.