By Moses Magadza
Mahe, Seychelles — The President of the Republic of Seychelles, Danny Faure, and the Speaker of the National Assembly of Seychelles, Patrick Pillay, have expressed their support for long-running efforts to transform the SADC Parliamentary Forum into a SADC Regional Parliament, while also calling for more investment in African youth.
The two leaders spoke at the official opening of the 41st Plenary Assembly Session of the Forum, which got underway here on Monday. More than half of the cabinet and the leader of the opposition of Seychelles, Wavel Ramkalawan, joined the president for the official opening ceremony.
“The recognition we can give to the SADC Parliamentary Forum for its contribution in advancing the region’s democracy, governance, peace and development agenda is to earnestly consider its quest for transformation into a regional parliament,” the president said.
He said Africa is in the middle of a process of massive transformation and is home to many of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies. Additionally, the continent has rich natural resources, a young population and scope for growth, with many companies and countries turning to Africa’s promise.
“It is a continent of hope with immense potential,” he said.
But the president said in spite of its vast potential, Africa continues to face many developmental challenges.
“In the context of globalization, regional integration is imperative for Africa. But effective implementation of regional frameworks will only take root in healthy and democratic environments where economic management is transparent and accountable. Building this kind of political and economic security requires that we think and act regionally and continentally in the spirit of solidarity and shared commitment,” stated President Faure.
He said to prosper in a globalized economy, member states needed to act as organized regions to improve the quality of lives of their people “including the reinforcement of the values of democracy and good governance”.
He urged SADC member states to ensure the meaningful participation of the people and institutions of the region to achieve an effective and transparent regional integration process.
“Parliament is the embodiment of representative democracy and its untapped potential to deepen SADC’s regional integration should be appreciated and recognised.”
The president added: “The setting up of a SADC Regional Parliament will build more stable foundations for peace and security and better promote the implementation of policies, democratic standards and best practices, resulting in greater political stability, more sustainable economic development and increased regional integration.”
His view is that a SADC Regional Parliament would provide a platform for leaders, governments and the people of southern Africa to share best practices and developments in governance and socio-economic advancements.
Earlier, Speaker Pillay said Seychelles was “lengthily discussing” the transformation of SADC-PF into a SADC Regional Parliament in line with its founding objectives.
“I see the (president) taking copious notes. Perhaps Seychelles may consider – small as we may be – if we get funding we could, like Namibia has done (hosting the SADC PF Secretariat), consider hosting you (a SADC Regional Parliament). I know it is a bold statement, but we are an ambitious small nation,” he said to applause.
The theme of the 41st Plenary Assembly Session is: ‘Harnessing the demographic dividend in SADC through investments in youth.’
President Faure said the theme was in line with the commemoration of the African Union’s 54th anniversary and the organization’s Vision 2063. The adoption of this vision, he said, “is a colossal milestone” towards inclusive development and the empowerment of the people.
“The theme provides us with the opportunity to continue valorizing our youth with more vigour and dynamism. The involvement of youth in the development of our continent and indeed in southern Africa will mean more inclusive participation and development. Our youth are an extraordinary asset to our region.”
Speaking at the same occasion, SADC PF President Fernando Da Piedade Dos Santos, MP, who is also Speaker of the National Assembly of Angola, called for more investment in young people.
“The high population growth rates in most of our countries have resulted in the number of youth and children to be higher than that of the adults. As a result, the number of those who need to be supported and cared for is higher than those who are independent and have to take care of them. Consequently, the youth are feeling left out and as politicians who value each and every vote, we should consider this theme earnestly,” he said.
Malawian lawmaker Dr Jessie Kabwila who is the chairperson of the Regional Women’s Parliamentary Caucus advocated the inclusion and prioritisation of young women, as well as for clear policies backed by implementation to eradicate teenage and unplanned pregnancy.
She said SADC PF should think about how it can provide oversight as the region invests in the demographic dividend.
“The problems of corruption, patronage, greed, the practice of governing for personal aggrandisement, and power run by a few to the detriment of many cannot be a formula for harnessing the demographic dividend. We need to remember that corruption retards and destroys.”
SADC Secretary General Dr Esau Chiviya said the Forum exists to promote the principles of human rights, democracy, peace and security, regional integration, human and social development, economic governance and gender equality through collective responsibility within the SADC region.
Chiviya added that SADC PF advocates, also, the harmonization, ratification, domestication and implementation of SADC protocols, treaties and other decisions at national level, while strengthening the implementation capacity of SADC by involving parliamentarians in the affairs of SADC.
Delegates to this plenary include Speakers or their representatives and members of parliament from 12 of the 14 SADC PF member states. Lesotho and Tanzania are not represented due to pressing national commitments. The Plenary is expected to adopt the Made Declaration, which captures recommendations from the first ever Women’s Parliament that took place in Seychelles last week.
* Moses Magadza is communications and advocacy specialist at SADC PF.