Lusaka – The 26th meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for Senior Officials and Experts (ICSOE) of Southern Africa elects Lesotho as chair, Malawi as vice chair and South Africa as rapporteur to chair the Bureau. Delegates and participants from Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, representing the Ministries of Agriculture, Trade, Economic Development, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Industry and Trade, the 26th ICSOE participated. .
The Minister of Finance, Kingdom of Lesotho, Thabo Sofonea, officially opened the ICSOE and noted in his remarks that the new Bureau accepts responsibilities in a COVID-19 environment that has a negative impact on socio-economic issues in Southern Africa had. He said that although the current response to the pandemic was through emergency health and economic mitigation measures, fiscal consolidation and structural reforms were needed to restore external balance, maintain debt sustainability and stimulate inclusive growth in the medium term.
The Minister emphasized that the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho recognizes the important role that the private sector, especially micro, small and medium enterprises, has played in the recovery process aimed at achieving Sustainable Development Goals. In line with the theme of the meeting, “Policies and Strategies for Effective Private Sector Leading Growth and Job Creation in Southern Africa”, Lesotho has over the years placed the private sector at the center of economic development programs and strategies in National Strategic Development. Plan (NSDP). On international, continental and regional aspirations, the Honorable Minister noted that ‘the theme is also in line with the global and regional development frameworks that underpin the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), African Union Agenda 2063, SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030 and the SADC Vision 2050. “
In his capacity as special guest, Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had forced many countries to rapidly expand social safety nets to protect the vulnerable from the negative effects of the pandemic. protect. He recommended that the Zimbabwean government introduce a $ 2.4 billion food allowance to ZWL to meet the food needs of at least 1 million vulnerable individuals for eight months. This includes 200,000 owners of micro-enterprises whose businesses were disrupted by the closure. He further noted that the pandemic has forced the government to look more seriously at domestic solutions to address the requirements to deal with the outage.
Some of the local initiatives include: the launch on 2 April 2020 of the local and international humanitarian appeal for aid with a budget of US $ 1.8 billion for COVID-19 support in cooperation with the United Nations; implementation of the vulnerable support program for farmer inputs, which provides free agricultural inputs to its beneficiaries; last but not least, help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to quickly revive and recover their businesses from the effects of COVID-19 by the SME Development Corporation, the Women’s Bank and the Empower Bank enable small businesses to access working capital.
On behalf of the outgoing chairman, Eswatini’s Sibonginkhosi Christopher Mavuso, Promotion Officer, Ministry of Trade, Industry and Trade, praised ECA SRO-SA for providing technical assistance to member states to accelerate the housekeeping of local industrialization, despite the COVID requirements. 19 pandemic that reduced physical contact with member states. He also applauded the secretariat for facilitating the ICSOE Member States’ dialogue on private sector issues, including micro, small and medium enterprises.
Before the opening, Mr. Sizo Mhlanga, director of the ECA Sub-Regional Office for Southern Africa (SRO-SA), noted in his welcoming remarks that the pandemic had affected and thus accelerated the ability of some countries to meet debt obligations. the beginning of unsustainability of debt. He noted that the COVID-19 crisis had indeed highlighted the need to accelerate the building of productive capabilities and the implementation of national and regional industrial strategies, as well as to improve and strengthen the business environment to provide opportunities for Southern African private sector in the sub. region and the rest of the continent.
While including the observations of the negative effects of the pandemic on the local economy, including employment, government finances and other socio-economic development parameters, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in the Kingdom of Lesotho, Mr. Salvator Niyonzima, acknowledged the excellent efforts of the government as well as the development community to address the effects of the pandemic. He assured delegates of continued technical support to member nations of the United Nations family.
The representative of the COMESA Secretary-General, Ms. Providence Mavubi, director, industry and agriculture, called for continued strengthening of cooperation between member states, regional economic commissions (RECs) and development partners for ongoing regional efforts to implement inclusive industrial policies that engage the private sector in the citadel of local economic growth and job creation. She underlined the support of the COMESA industrialization policy, the local content policy and the micro, small and medium enterprise framework to anchor growth in the private sector.
The representative of African Union-SARO, me. Myranda Lutempo, senior policy officer, alluded to the need for all regional activities to be implemented at continental level to ensure sustainability. Mrs. Lutempo said the African Union Commission was promoting economic integration and private sector development through several key flagship projects under Agenda 2063. and sustainable job creation “.
The meeting concluded with a outcome document that presented recommendations and called on member states, United Nations and development partners to pool resources to strengthen the national and regional macroeconomic environment, create a platform for implementation of the AfCFTA in Southern Africa, to improve the role of the private sector and better rebuild to COVID-19.