Professor of economics Ronald Mangani says the Sothern African Development Community (Sadc) is in ‘perpetual crisis’ that needs to be resolved if member States, including Malawi, are to achieve the much-desired regional integration.
The University of Malawi economist said this on Saturday in Lilongwe at a Feminist Macroeconomics Alliance Regional Dialogue.
The dialogue session is a side event at the ongoing 41st Ordinary Summit of Sadc Heads of State and Government Malawi that is hosting. It was held under the theme Covid-19, Development Financing, Regional Integration and Industrialisation Agenda that Works for Women and Girls.
Mangani, who served as Secretary to the Treasury between 2014 and 2017, dared the 16-member trade bloc that achieving industrialisation and economic transformation remains an illusion unless governments devise policies to protect their infant industries.
He said countries in the region are currently mere primary producers and exporters of raw products.
Mangani also took a swipe at Sadc, blaming it for formulating a litany of protocols that are not yielding tangible results.
He said: “We talk and talk but when it comes to implementation, zero. It’s not a Malawi characteristic, but the whole region… Do you think we are ready to industrialise? No.”
The economist said the regional grouping is being held back due to several factors, including overdependence on primary products.
“There is declining levels of investment in the manufacturing sectors, low value addition to primary products, rapid population growth, and weak institutions, among other challenges,” Mangani said.
In her reaction, Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare Patricia Kaliati welcomed the economist’s insights.
“However, most of the suggestions would not happen overnight as development is a long-term phenomenon,” she said.
Speaking earlier on behalf of UN Women (Malawi), country representative Clara Anyangwe and programme specialist responsible for gender based governance at UN Women (Malawi) Victor Maulidi said current economic systems, policies and practice are rife with persistent structural barriers that women face as a result of economic models that exacerbate inequalities and unfairly redistributed resources and wealth.
Comprising 16 member States, Sadc was formed in 1980 as the Southern African Development Coordinating Conference (Sadcc). It transformed or rebranded to Sadc in August 1992.
Its mission is to promote sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development through efficient, productive systems, deeper cooperation and integration, good governance and durable peace and security to make the region a competitive and effective player in international relations and the global economy at large.
The summit is expected to take stock of progress made in promoting and deepening regional integration.