Malawian President Joyce Banda has set poverty alleviation as the top priority of her tenure as incoming chair of SADC, promising to champion policies and programmes to improve the agricultural and rural sectors.
Noting the linkage between poverty and political stability, Banda said the Southern African Development Community (SADC) should redouble efforts to reduce hunger in the region.
Promising to bring SADC “closer to the people”, Banda said she would target ending “the contemporary, deliberate and savage violence of poverty and underdevelopment” during the coming year.
“To win this war …we must promote inclusive politics. In this, we cannot afford to leave the youth behind. We cannot afford to leave women behind. We cannot afford to leave the poor to look after the poor,” Banda said in her acceptance speech during the 33rd SADC Ordinary Summit held in Lilongwe, Malawi on 17-18 August.
She said agriculture is the backbone of most economies in the region, yet little is being done to support the sector.
“Stimulating this sector would transform the livelihoods of our people and provide the foundation for the future development of our nations,” she said.
“We therefore, need to work harder to help our smallholder and commercial farmers to build, grow and sustain their businesses, to feed ourselves and access new markets beyond our region,” she said, noting that the theme for her tenure is “Agricultural Development and Agro-Industries: Key to Economic Growth and Poverty Eradication.”
Among other things, the incoming SADC chair promised to push for innovative agricultural policies and programmes in the region such as effective extension services and affordable inputs which have the capacity to promote rural development and boost food security.
She said any policies on agriculture and rural development should be aligned to other regional plans on infrastructure and industrial development as well as gender development.
“We sincerely hope that economic policy coordination in the SADC system will be harnessed in order not only to accelerate growth but also to reduce poverty, widen economic opportunities and enhance human development.”