Panafrican News Agency

Zambia: President Lungu asks SADC leaders to address regional challenges

Lusaka, Zambia (PANA) – Zambian President Edgar Lungu has asked leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting in Gaborone, Botswana, to redouble efforts at harnessing strengths to collectively address the complex challenges confronting the region.

In his first address to the SADC summit since assuming office in January 2015, President Lungu said Monday that there is need to put the region on a firm path of accelerating economic growth, so as to meet the people's aspirations.

In his view, it is important to create a conducive business environment that promotes sustainable development and conditions in which the private sector and other economic players can thrive.

“We should therefore accelerate our integration efforts so as to accrue the expected benefits from our collective efforts,” President Lungu stated.

Despite the positive regional and global economic outlook, he regretted that countries in the region face new social, economic, political and security challenges.

The region, he said, was still grappling with several challenges such as high unemployment, particularly amongst the youth; adverse impact of climate change; energy shortage; skewed industrial development; low intra-regional trade; inadequate infrastructure; low productivity in agriculture and livestock; as well as in the education and health sectors.

He however noted that the challenges were not insurmountable and he was confident that through collective efforts, determination and hard work of the people, coupled with able and visionary leadership, the region shall overcome.

“My government remains fully committed to the implementation and realisation of all SADC protocols and programmes,” Lungu said, emphasising Zambia's firm belief that there can be no meaningful development in the absence of peace and stability in the region.

He welcomed all peace initiatives under the SADC organ on politics, defence and security cooperation and those taken jointly with the International Conference of the Great Lakes region toward the same goal.

“Our countries, if taken individually, do not provide attractive markets and destinations for investment. It is for this reason that we support the initiatives aimed at broadening our markets under the tripartite and continental free trade areas,” President Lungu stressed.

He acknowledged the tremendous strides made by SADC in several areas including trade, infrastructure development, peace and security, health, education and food security, pointing out that much more can still be achieved, if countries expend their energies in the implementation of key SADC initiatives.

Among these, he mentioned the front-loading industrialisation and market integration; the regional infrastructure development master plan and its energy projects; Dar es Salaam declaration on food security; and the regional poverty reduction framework.

The two-day summit is being held under the theme: 'Accelerating Industrialisation of SADC Economies Through Transformation of Natural Endowment and Improved Human Capital'.

-0- PANA MM/AR 17Aug2015