Malawi President Joyce Banda hopes to drive initiatives that bring Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) closer to the people for whom it works.
Banda was speaking in Malawian capital, Lilongwe where she took over as chairperson of Sadc.
Speaking at the beginning of an Ordinary Meeting of Heads of State and Government, Banda promised to make Sadc a people-centred organisation.
Said Banda: “I strongly believe, as I am sure you do, that to achieve durable and long-lasting peace and stability in our countries and our region, we must start with the war against poverty. We must fight the war to end the contemporary, deliberate and savage violence of poverty and underdevelopment of our people, particularly those in our rural communities.
“To win this war, we must encourage political tolerance and the rule of law. We must promote inclusive politics. In this, we cannot afford to leave the youth behind. We cannot afford to leave women behind. We cannot afford to leave the poor to look after the poor. As chair of this great community, I hope to drive initiatives that bring Sadc closer to the people for whom it works; a people-centred Sadc. In short–a Sadc for the people and by the people.”
She said that during her tenure she will strengthen regional integration and peace in the Sadc region.
“Africa is a continent on the move. But the economic downturn of recent years has highlighted the vulnerability of our economies to external shocks. We need to intensify our efforts towards regional integration in every sense, reminding ourselves that as we strengthen the ties that bind us, we build our resilience against future shocks,” she said.
Banda, however, said despite the recent and on-going benefits of the commodities boom, agriculture remains the engine of our long-term sustainable growth.
“I have, therefore, chosen as the theme for my term as chair of Sadc, to promote our regional integration agenda through a focus on “Agricultural Development and Agro-Industries: Key to Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction in Sadc Region”, Banda said.
Speaking before handing over the Sadc badge to Banda, outgoing chairperson Almando Guebuza said there are still challenges facing the region and hoped the new leadership will help in leading the grouping to success.
Guebuza also indicated that during the Malawi meeting, leaders will elect a new executive secretary as Tomaz Salamao is stepping down after serving the grouping for the past eight years.
Sadc leaders have since hailed Zimbabwe for holding peaceful elections.
Sadc summit which began on August 10 ends tomorrow [Sunday August 18].