Why the youth see SADC as talk-shop

At the dawn of the week, all 15 member states convened in Gaborone, Botswana for their usual ordinary summit.

Of course what lay on the set of discussions whet the minds of economic brain, journalists and the general public. From Robert Mugabe handing over Chairperson role to Botswana President Ian Khama – to reviewing the progress towards achieving the objectives of the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) of 2015 -2020.

Unfortunately, for the young person in Southern Africa, this is seen as yet another conference where problems are cited and countries tell comforting tales of how their countries are developing when it comes to gender equality and poverty eradication.

Over the years we have seen a trend of exponential GDP growth over booming economies, yet the economic growth is not entirely reflective of poverty scales decreasing. May it be due to our own lack of intra Africa trade?

SADC a community that hubs 277 million people still faces a rise in poverty levels and battles reducing unemployment, while statistics are showing a growth in the regions economic trade.

Statistics show that total SADC trade from the year 2000 to 2011 went from USD 91 089.52 million to 353 656.4 million, with major exports going to the Asian Pacific Economic Coorporation (APEC) 45%, 27% to the European Union, 10% within SADC and 3% to the rest of Africa. In a lump sum, the world receives 87% of SADC exports while we only garner 13% of our own toil.

When it comes to imports, it is the same story – we only import 13% of Africa’s commodities while 45% of our imports from APEC, and 27% from the EU. This is of course something Nambian President Dr Geingob wants to alter.

At the conference, he noted that there is a need for broad-based economic development, and it lies within the need to reduce our dependency on official aid and safeguard our economic resources without regard to how meagre our financial resources may be. He noted that it is inappropriate for the levels of poverty in a naturally endowed region to be high, especially when most of the region enjoyed peace and developed democratic institutions.

“Many of our people lack basic needs. This is painful for a region abundant in natural resources. Our people do not eat natural resources. Our people do not eat democracy. Our people do not eat good constitutions,” he said. Further stating that an exportation of raw materials in an exportation of jobs.

Although the president only assumed office in March this year, young people have become numb to such ideals as at every conference economic development is only fixated upon GDP growth, natural resource potential and infrastructural development in industries where local companies play a little role.

This also falls on the lack of knowledge of the RISDP – a blueprint created by SADC at a plan of action in achieving economic development – simply because we played a little role in compiling said blueprint and have a lost of interest and trust within their presidents to lead our Southern Community out of this hole of unemployment we seem to be stuck in.

With such in mind, how then can we be able to move from this rut of poor communication? We need to shift the one-dimensional dialogue of economic development in natural resource industries to creating room for economic potential in youth influenced industries – we need discussions, but dialogue in youth voice, more real youth participation. Most importantly, we need a bill of rights – economical rights that all nations within the community adhere to, where economic development is also scaled not only on import and trade growth but the quality of life of the SADC citizens.