LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-Vice President Salous Chilima who is also Economic Planning minister and public sector reforms on Thursday delivered a thought provoking public lecture to high level Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) delegates who are attending the 41th SADC summit in Lilongwe.
Chilima delivered the lecture under the theme ‘Promoting Digitalisation for Revival of the SADC Industrialisation Agenda in the COVID 19 Era’.
Chilima started his powerful lecture by welcoming the SADC delegates to Malawi and told them to be at home.
” You are all welcome. Be at home. Take time to sample the food and places and enjoy Malawi the fullest,” he urged the delegates.
He said accelerating digitalisation will be game changer for the SADC region towards a digital economy in the face of Covid-19 pandemic which he said has disrupted trade and economies.
The Malawi Veep said there was urgent need for serious investment and budgets in the SADC region that support ICT as a transition to digital economies.
Chilima challenged SADC member states to swiftly adopt online marketing for the tourism and other industries and the use of internet and mobile money platforms to create employment.
He said the public lecture was timely due to effects of Covid-19 pandemic in the region and will help SADC deal with the structural bottlenecks the region are facing.
Chilima said digitalisation is key in spurring industrialization in the SADC region, more now with the disruptions caused by COvid-19, saying the pandemic has increased challenges industrialisation is facing.
The Malawi leader said the challenges emanate not from the disease itself but domestic and global responses to the pandemic such as lock downs.
He stressed that the pandemic has brought about devastating effects on both the private and public sectors across the regions.
The Vice President, however, said the pandemic has also provided opportunity for innovations to thrive in member states,
Chilima pointed out that the state of Industrialisation in Africa, in terms of level of industrialisation, has improved five fold since 1990 but it is becoming less competitive when compared to other sectors and other regions globally.
He bemoaned that Southern Africa is increasingly becoming consuming region that producing.
Chilima then outlined six tips and recommendations for SADC to implement in its digitilisation drive.
He said SADC should, as a matter of urgency, invest in digital platforms for a solid and sound foundation for a digital economy such as expansion of broad band coverage so that more people access cheap internet.
The Malawi Veep also said SADC should focus on energy availability and skills development as well as invest in research and technology for development.
Chilima further urged SADC to implement regional digistalisation reforms to facilitate a digital economy and revolution in the region.
He concluded by urging SADC that digitilization should not be an event but a sustained way of doing business for member states to connect to the global digital economy.
” We need to establish special funds to spur digitilization as well as revisiting curricula in our schools to include digitilization as core subjects,” he said.
Earlier, SADC Deputy Executive Secretary Thembinkosi Mhlongo expressed gratitude to Chilima for taking time to prepare and deliver the key note address and the National Planning Commission for partnering SADC secretariat in organising the lecture.
Mhlongo said the lectures are meant to give knowledge and information to the public and help create awareness of SADC.
He said the this year’s lecture is timely as SADC suffers effects of Covid-19 pandemic and urged member states to invest heavily in digital skills.
The SADC summit delegates followed the lecture physically and virtually.