State Vice-President Saulos Chilima has suggested that Southern African Development Community (Sadc) member states should consider intensifying digital industrialisation, touting it as the panacea to economic development challenges.
He said the establishment of Sadc regional centres of excellence in digital technology would go a long way in expediting the realisation of regional financial self-reliance.
He made the remarks in a keynote address at the Sadc Public Lecture session, held under the theme ‘Promoting Digitalisation for Revival of the Sadc Industrialisation Agenda in the Covid Era’, in Lilongwe yesterday.
“Sadc should set a centre, or centres, of excellence in digital technology to revitalise regional industrial development,” he said.
He called on the private sector to join the noble task.
Chilima disclosed that internet speed was, in most land-linked countries, slow within the region, necessitating the need to put in place regional policies on cross-border connectivity.
He cited Malawi, Angola and eSwatini as some of the countries where it takes one hour to download 5GB of data.
The Vice President added that land-linked countries such as Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe faced costs in expanding their telecommunication networks to an undersea cable.
“A regional approach to facilitate cross-border connectivity will thus be essential to improve speed, affordability and overall digital inclusion in land-linked countries,” he suggested.
In his lecture, Chilima called on the community to set up a special fund that would advance the development of digital technology and strengthen human capacity in the use of technology.
He also stressed the need for the region to transform from a predominantly importing and consuming one to a predominantly producing and exporting region.
Chilima identified industrialisation as one of the tools for achieving this goal.
Sadc Deputy Executive Secretary Thembinkosi Mhlongo expressed gratitude to Chilima for taking his time to prepare and deliver the keynote address
Mhlongo also touched on the need to ensure that there was peace in the region for development to be enhanced.
He further extended gratitude to the National Planning Commission (NPC) for taking part in organising the lecture.
NPC Director General Thomas Munthali said the summit had come at the right time, just a year after Malawi launched its Malawi 2063 Agenda.
“Government is usually constrained in terms of resources,” he said.
Malawi is hosting the 41st Sadc Summit, which started on August 9 and will end on August 19.
Some of the top government officials present at the event were Foreign Affairs Minister Eisenhower Mkaka, Information Minister Gospel Kazako, Gender Minister Patricia Kaliati and Education Minister Agnes NyaLonje.