Former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, H.E. Benjamin William Mkapa has called upon members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other African states to resist the temptation to build walls and not bridges, in the continents quest to unite, speed up integration and the attainment of economic liberation.

The former President made these remarks during a keynote address at the Public Lecture on ‘Deepening Integration in SADC:Achievements, Challenges and Opportunities’ held on 15thAugust, 2019 at the Library Auditorium of the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The Lecture, jointly organised by SADC,Tanzania’sMinistry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation,UONGOZI Institute and University of Dar es Salaam, was one of the pre-events leading to the 39thSADC Summit hosted in Dar es Salaam.Leaders from the SADC, government, political parties, diplomatic missions, business, civil society and academia were in attendance.

Referencing theadage that “good fences make good neighbors”, former President Mkapa said that it is antithetical to the common destiny and common route we have chosen for ourselves.

“Unfortunately, over the recent years the reemergence of nationalism seems to be a global force we have to contend with. In spite of shared dynamics and integration furnished by globalisation, the throes of protectionism, isolationism and xenophobia are still with us, sadly even within the region”, he said.

Former President Mkapa went on to state that the region should not resign to such regressive forces as they are counterproductive to the vision and mission driving SADC.

He cautioned that nationalism does not emerge by itself but has to be promoted.

“It has its drivers, disparities and lack of opportunities,” he said and added, “To thrive it requires media, political, social, economic and cultural advocacy. These same actors can make a difference to censor and suppress it.”

According to former President Mkapa it is only by turning around and improving the social economic fortunes of the people that we can make a real difference.

“The lesson for our countries and SADC is that our diversities and fragilities will only be exacerbated by the small size and weaknesses of our markets. What we need is to tear down our walls. Our strength lies in our unity, and the choice is ours to make,” he emphasised.

One the distinguished panelists at the Lecture, Hon. Dr. Simba Makoni, former Executive Secretary of SADC, echoed former President Mkapa’s sentiments by stressing on self-reliance and the proper use of the region’s resources.

“The goal of SADC has always been economic liberation and a common future. However, SADC cannot be built on the resources of five people. It is not a matter of how much we have, as whatever little we have can be applied to our most important purposes,” he said.

Hon. Makoni stressed that “Self-reliance is key”. He expressed that self-reliance is pivotal not only for the governments and government institutions but also for the people.

“We need to ensure that our people participate in the journey towards a common future… we also need a continued engagement in SADC in order for the community to reach its full potential,” he stated.

Another panelist, Prof. Anthoni van Nieuwkerk, Security Studies Coordinator at the Wits School of Governance in South Africa, emphasised on the importance of peace and security towards a more prosperous integration.

“Indeed, the African Union and SADC have developed sophisticated policy frameworks and strategies to deal with democracy promotion and threats to security, such as African Peace Security Architecture (APSA), the African Governance Architecture (AGA) and Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ (SIPO),” noted Prof. Nieuwkerk.

He highlighted the relative peace that SADC enjoys in comparison with the rest of the continent, but cautioned that peace must be more than the absence of war. In his words, “Positive peace must include justice for all”.

Furthermore, the fourth panelist, Mr. Gilead Teri, Program Lead for Tanzania Investment Climate, World Bank Group in Tanzania, said that in order to enable the private sector to fulfil its integration role, four key aspects need to be addressed: Infrastructure, Skills/Quality of Employment, Finance, and Fairness.

“There is an infrastructure gap between $450 and $500 billion, our quality of labour in the region is also significantly low at three to five percent, and there is also not enough domestic revenues to finance our development projects. Competitively in terms of commerce, there is no fairness between partners within the region,” he highlighted.

Mr. Teri counseled that in order for the region to fund its development projects and provide credit and soft loans for businesses, it must move away from relying heavily on Foreign Direct Investment, improve domestic saving mechanisms as well as the quality of labour to match the demand of the private sector.

Also present, Hon. Netumo Nandi-Ndaitwah, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for International Relations and Cooperation of Namibia, said in polite yet firm tone that the time has come for us to tell one another the reality if we are to address the problems our people are facing in the SADC region.

“We must be realistic to what we have done and not yet done, because if we do not accept where we are weak, we will not be able to address our problems,”said Hon. Nandi-Ndaitwah, who was once stationed in Dar es Salaam for six years during Namibia’s independence struggle in the 1980’s.

Hon. Nandi-Ndaitwah concurred with former President Mkapa’s sentiments on reemergence of nationalism and integration. She therefore encouraged the reevaluation of the value chain in the SADC region in order to have balanced development for fairness and betterment of all members.

Sharing his contribution from the floor, Hon. Dr. Augustine Mahiga, Tanzanian Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, said that it is important to synchronise the various regional organisations in Africa (such as SADC, East African Community, Economic Community of West African StatesandCommon Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) so as to bring out the best of collective efforts put into integration.

Hon. Mahiga also gave emphasis on consistent political will, a people’s-based integration, and a need of a political body such as parliament, where people can participate, challenge and hold leaders accountable as means towards achieving the objectives of SADC.

Meanwhile, H.E. Dr. Stergomena Tax, Executive Secretary for SADC, called upon all regional stakeholders to rededicate their efforts to SADC and to the ideals of its founding fathers.

“Together we can facilitate SADC integration, unity and shared values for the prosperity and lasting peace for the region,” she concluded.