LUANDA, ANGOLA – SADC Member States have been urged to revive vocational training amid reports that preference for white-collar jobs by many of the region’s youth was denying it practical skills that can support integration through industrialization.
Dr Johansein Rutaihwa, a Senior Programme Officer in the areas of Industrialization and Competitiveness at the SADC Secretariat, made the call at the 43rd Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC Parliamentary Forum which took place in the Angolan capital Luanda last week.
Rutaihwa was the key speaker during a symposium organized to discuss the role of parliamentarians in deepening SADC economic integration through industrialization.
He said there was a disturbing phenomenon within the SADC region in which some member states appeared bent on outdoing each other in transforming their colleges and vocational training centers into degree-awarding universities.
“We have turned all the colleges into universities. We no longer get technicians. Now everyone is a graduate and wants to sit in an office to make decisions. No one can (unscrew) a nut. No one can fix anything in the mill. We need to go back to where we have come from and promote our technical and vocational centers,” he said to applause.
Rutaihwa argued that there was a disconnect between what the region’s universities were churning out and what industry needed in terms of human resources.
“We need to revamp the whole system and find out where we messed it up,” he told the audience, which included MPs and Speakers of Parliament from 12 of the 14 SADC PF member states.
Turning to industrialization in the SADC region, he explained that the Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap (2015-2063) was approved by the SADC Summit in April 2015. In March 2016, the SADC Council on Ministers approved an Action Plan to support its implementation.
He provided an economic overview covering the period 2016 to 2018 and said real gross domestic product remained subdued at a growth rate of 1.9 percent increase in 2017 compared to a growth increase of 1.4 percent in 2016.
“Only the United Republic of Tanzania recorded real GDP growth rates above the regional target of seven percent,” he said.
“All member states except for the DRC recorded positive growth in per capita GDP in 2017, an improvement from only five member states (Botswana, DRC, Mauritius, Seychelles and Tanzania) recording positive growth in 2016.”
The inflation rate had generally slowed down in the SADC region but remained high in some member states where double digits still prevailed. He attributed price fluctuations in some member states to weather-related factors and weak exchange rates.
The manufacturing sector, touted as the engine of growth towards industrialization, grew by 2.6 percent in 2016 compared to 1.5 percent the previous year. Under this sector, significant growth rates had been recorded by Angola (6.9%), DRC (8.6%) and Tanzania (7.8%) in 2016. Seychelles registered a decline in this sector of 1.3 percent during the same period.
“The share of the manufacturing sector overall GDP in the SADC region has been steadily declining since 2007 from 13.6 percent and reached its lowest point of 10.6 percent in 2013,” he said.
With respect to ease of doing business, Rutaihwa said over half of SADC member states had fallen in ranking, while some showed signs of steady improvement.
In terms of implementation, Rutaihwa informed the MPs that a Directorate of Industrial Development and Trade had been established at the SADC Secretariat to coordinate implementation.
“The Action Plan … has been rolled out in eight member states and assistance in determining the national indicative public coordination costs was provided to seven member states.”
Development of a SADC Protocol on Industry to provide a legal framework for cooperation on industrial development among SADC member states had begun while a Regional Mining vision was in place.
Rutaihwa said profiling of the region’s pharmaceutical and mineral sectors was done during the 2015/16 financial year and value chains with potential for development identified.
“Operationalization of the SADC Pooled Procurement Strategy (SPPS) has begun by setting up the SADC Data Base on Essential Medicines, and the Republic of Tanzania has been nominated to host it,” he revealed.
With respect to monitoring SADC Protocols, Rutaihwa said an online monitoring and evaluation system had been developed to facilitate compliance and results monitoring. A study to develop a Private Sector Engagement Mechanism (PSEM) had been undertaken.
Turning to the role of parliament, Rutaihwa said efforts were underway to encourage SADC member states to understand and mainstream the regional industrialization strategy in their national policies and practices.
“What appears to be missing in the process of formulating, adopting and implementing the new regional industrialization strategy and roadmap is the explicitly stated role of Southern Africa’s national parliaments,” he said.
His reading was that there was lack of emphasis on the importance of the involvement of national institutions including parliaments; yet their active involvement was critical.
“Increasingly, national policies are guided by regional, continental and international pacts such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, national domestication remains the purview of national parliaments.”
He recommended that parliaments oversee the alignments of national policies to regional and international policies ratification of protocols and their implementation.
“Much of the SADC policies have so far been a concern of the executive with little, if any, involvement of