Industrialising SADC urged to tap into its youth dividend

SANF 18 no 29 – by Joseph Ngwawi in Windhoek, Namibia
Southern Africa should leverage the vast “knowledge dividend” that resides in its young people as the region moves towards building an economy anchored on industrial development.

These were the words of incoming Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministers chairperson Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah during the official opening of the Council of Ministers meeting underway in Windhoek.

Speaking in her inaugural address after accepting the Council of Ministers chair from South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Lindiwe Sisulu, Nandi-Ndaitwah said SADC needs to have “our own knowledge” if it is to achieve sustainable industrialisation and development.

“To that end, we must invest on our youth through education, skill training and motivate them to be innovative and entrepreneurs,” said Nandi-Ndaitwah, who is the Namibian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation.

According to the Revised SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan, the region has a very young population estimated at more than half the 327 million-plus people.

Nandi-Ndaitwah noted that the choice of the theme for the 38th SADC Summit was strategic in that during its tenure as SADC chairperson, Namibia would want to ensure that the region taps into the rich knowledge base represented by the young people.

The theme for the 38th SADC Summit is “Promoting Infrastructure Development and Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development”.

“In creating our own pool of knowledge, we will also ensure our region‘s effective participation in the global industrial value chain,” she said.

The SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap seeks to engender a major economic and technological transformation at the national and regional levels within the context of deeper regional integration.

The strategy and roadmap outlines several essential elements or prerequisites for industrialization. These include technological upgrading and innovation as enablers and creators of employment and competitiveness as well as recognition of possible impact of the emerging global technological evolution and trade patterns.

The primary focus of the strategy and roadmap is to facilitate structural transformation of the SADC region through industrialization, modernization, upgrading and closer regional integration.

In seeking to meet both its social and economic aspirations, SADC recognises the important role and contribution of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) in political, economic and social development of the region in order to, among others, facilitate industrial development, competitiveness, regional integration and cooperation.

As a result, promotion of STI is one of the broad strategic objectives of the SADC regional integration and cooperation agenda.

Areas of focus by the region include STI policy support and development, promotion of public private partnerships investment in STI and research and development infrastructure; development and promotion of research, innovation and technology transfer; promotion and awareness of STI, enhancing and strengthening the protection of intellectual property rights; and promotion of women and youth participation in science, engineering and technology.

Strategies for achieving these and other areas of focus are the domestication of the Protocol on Science, Technology and Innovation;  establishment of  collaborative regional research, development and innovation programmes in priority areas; setting up and strengthening regional centres of excellence as well as networks in priority areas of STI; and developing and strengthening regional STI capacities.

The crucial role of the youth in the SADC economic integration agenda is highlighted in the Costed Action Plan of the industrialisation strategy.

The action plan, which was approved by an Extraordinary SADC Summit held in Eswatini in March 2017, commits member states to work towards ensuring increased youth participation in industrial activities.

It proposes various measures that should be adopted by member states to empower the youth so that they participate in the industrialization process.

These include the development of youth entrepreneurship programmes in member states, with a focus on self-employment or small business start-ups that will support envisaged national and regional value chains in the agro-processing, mineral beneficiation, pharmaceuticals, other consumer goods, capital goods and services sectors.

The ultimate goal is to develop a SADC Youth Economic Empowerment Programme that will facilitate the participation of young in the industrialisation agenda of the region.

Nandi-Ndaitwah will lead the Council of Ministers during the coming year when she will be expected to hand over to a minister from the member state that will chair SADC from August 2019.

The Council of Ministers is responsible for supervising and monitoring the functions and development of SADC and ensuring that policies are properly implemented.