Southern Africa regional integration can be promoted through a strong Agricultural sector, the incoming chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Joyce Banda has said.
Banda who is also the President of Malawi made the above statement when accepting the chairmanship of SADC on Saturday at the 2013 SADC Summit of Heads of States and Government in Lilongwe,.
Malawi, she noted will focus on Agriculture development during her tenure.
Speaking from the Bingu International Conference Centre(BICC) the new chairperson said: “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 Ago-Industries: Key to Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction in SADC Region.”
Her change of focus is informed by the fact that agriculture remains the engine of “our long-term sustainable growth.”Banda explained, adding that “ Agriculture is the largest employer, the largest component of Growth Domestic Product and the biggest generator of foreign exchange.
“Stimulating this sector, by encouraging diversification, commercialization and value addition, will encourage broad based inclusive growth,” she said.
The SADC’s first woman president told delegates at the summit that it was time for member countries to start managing agriculture as a business.
“Because our farmers must cope with adverse weather conditions, climate change, poor infrastructure and access to markets, we need to develop more innovative approaches to agriculture.
We also need new partnerships from private sector to drive agriculture in this region,” said Banda to the ululation of the people.
Meanwhile, Banda urged SADC to consider allowing free movement of people in the region.
“While we have taken steps to open our markets for the movement of goods, I believe we need to strengthen our efforts on the free movement of people.
We cannot meaningfully talk of regional integration if our people are not actually free to move within the region,” Banda said.