The meeting for institutional partners for the Southern Africa Business Forum (SABF) was held in Gaborone Botswana at the SADC Head office on the 23 September 2016. SABF is a private sector-led platform for engaging the SADC Secretariat and SADC Member States in creating an enabling business environment in the region in order to enhance regional industrialisation. The SABF partners who attended the meeting with the SADC Secretariat are the NEPAD Business Foundation, Southern Africa Trust, Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit, and European Union.
The institutional partners for the Southern Africa Business Forum met to complete the debriefing of the first-ever Industrialization Week and the second SABF conference which were both held in Swaziland in August 2016, as well as discuss other notable activities. The meeting was co-chaired by the Dr. Thembinkosi Mhlongo, the SADC Deputy Executive Secretary responsible for Regional Integration and Ms. Lynette Chen, the Chief Executive Officer NEPAD Business Foundation.
In his welcoming remarks, Dr. Mhlongo, said that this meeting is imminent in developing industries and boosting trade within the SADC region and that SABF is mainly responsible for addressing industrialization and regional economic integration issues in the region. He also mentioned that SABF enhances dialogue between private sector and member state engagement (Public-Private Dialogue -PPD) and to see how the PPD is unfolding and creating an open space for the private sector to be involved in discussion. When given the platform, Ms. Chen explained that the role of SABF was to facilitate interactions and discussions between private sector and policy makers in the targeted Working Group areas of pharmaceuticals, agri-processing, mineral development, infrastructure (transportation, water, energy, ICT) and non-tariff barriers and trade facilitation.
The meeting also reviewed the organisation and logistics for industrialisation week which took place in the margins of the 2016 SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government in Swaziland in August 2016. During the Industrialisation Week in Swaziland, it was noted that there was good participation and input from private sector on structuring of projects on SADC NEPAD PIDA acceleration. The SABF conference which was also held in Swaziland, was attended by 240 delegates with 160 from private companies and was a success.
Ms. Chen noted that there were a number of SABF activities lined up in the near future such as the workshop of the private sector and senior officials tentatively scheduled for November 2016 to provide input on the Action Plan for the SADC Industrialization Strategy. She also noted that the Ministers of transport and ICT meeting is also scheduled in October 2016 and is intended for the approval of SADC priority infrastructure projects; while in February/March 2017, the Ministerial Task Force Responsible for Regional Economic Integration which meet to finalise the Action Plan on the Industrialization Strategy for submission to Council and the Extra Ordinary Summit.
The meeting also discussed proposals on how to fund the SABF in a sustainable manner. In this context, SABF and the Secretariat will be working with the relevant stakeholders to mobilise support for the 3rd SABF and the second Industrialization Week that will be held in South Africa in 2017. The meeting agreed that it was important to engage all the concerned parties and partners in order to drive the ambitious concept note of the SABF.