By Khulile Thwala
The President of the Republic of Seychelles, Wavel Ramkalawan, has called for concerted efforts among members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to harness the potential of tourism, blue economy, and wildlife as drivers of economic growth, regional integration and development.
President Ramkalawan made the call recently when he received a courtesy call from the Executive Secretary of SADC, Elias M. Magosi at the State House in the Seychelles Capital of Victoria, Mahe Island.
The president stressed the importance of putting issues of environment, climate change, maritime security, and blue economy among the key priorities of the SADC regional development agenda, as the people of Seychelles, like other Island nations, depend on the ocean resources for their sustenance and livelihood.
On this note, the President called for regional preparedness against disasters emanating from climate change which, in the case of Seychelles, affect the tourism and fisheries sectors, two of the key pillars and contributors to Seychelle’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employment and foreign exchange.
The president assured the SADC Executive Secretary that Seychelles will always be a committed partner for SADC’s values and vision for the benefit of the citizens.
As part of this commitment, the President expressed the readiness of the Government of Seychelles to share its experiences with other countries and the positive lessons and strides the country has made in the areas of governance, democracy, the rule of law and basic protection of human rights, including protecting the rights of people with albinism and the girl child.
On the transformation of the SADC Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF), the President expressed his long-time belief and desire to see the SADC PF transformed into the SADC Parliament.
He said, as a former member of the SADC PF and its Chairperson of the Democracy, Governance and Human Rights Standing Committee between 2018 and 2020, he believes the transformation will enhance the level of engagement of Members of Parliament of the SADC region.
On his part, H.E. Magosi briefed the President on the political and security situation in the SADC region, particularly SADC’s ongoing efforts to address the security situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the regional response to combat terrorism and violent extremism in the northern part of Mozambique through the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM).
On regional projects and programmes, H.E. Magosi pledged the Secretariat’s support to assist the Republic of Seychelles to undertake high-impact projects that are strategically aligned to the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030 and the SADC Vision 2050, taking into account the country’s comparative advantage.
To realise this, the Executive Secretary underscored the urgent need for Member States to sign and ratify the Agreement on the Operationalisation of the SADC Regional Development Fund (RDF), a mechanism for sustainable self-financing of SADC regional projects and programmes.
Magosi commended President Ramkalawan for his exemplary leadership in the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, by becoming the first African Head of State to take the COVID vaccine, leading to the opening of the borders and the rebound of the tourism sector which was adversely affected by COVID 19 due to travel restrictions.
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The SADC Executive Secretary applauded Seychelles for being one of Africa’s models and champions of peace and good governance manifested in the Seychelle’s positive rankings on the Transparency International Corruption Index, Mo Ibrahim Good Governance Index and the orderly and peaceful transfer of power in October 2020 which saw the first transfer of power from one party to another since 1977.
During the Courtesy Call, the Executive Secretary took the opportunity to present to H.E. President Ramkalawan the Hashim Mbita Publication titled; Southern African Liberation Struggles, which contains a comprehensive record of liberation struggles for Southern African states.
Earlier on February 23, 2023, the SADC Executive Secretary held discussions with Seychelles Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism, Sylvestre Radegonde and the Speaker of the National Assembly and President of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, Roger Mancienne. Both the Minister and the Speaker pledged their support to the implementation of the SADC regional agenda.
The Executive Secretary has so far paid Courtesy Calls on the SADC Heads of State and Government of Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.