Business Day, 29 October 2002, SADC needs a clear agenda on poverty'

Group's goals must be defined well'

GABORONE Poverty and sustainable development were inextricably linked, said Botswana's President Festus Mogae as he opened the 2002 Southern African Development Community (SADC) consultative conference here yesterday.

"Poverty is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today," he said.

"The good thing about this meeting is that we are all in agreement as we start. The challenge is to translate our goals into concrete improvements in the general living standards of our people and the sustainable reduction of poverty."

The conference is the annual meeting between the 14 member states of SADC and their international development partners.

Mogae has asked for more funding to fight HIV/AIDS, which was reversing development; and to make good on promises to provide money to fight famine in southern Africa.

If the SADC's development agenda was formulated to show what members' priorities were, it would be easier for the co-operating partners to respond.

"Our development agenda must clearly show how we intend to move towards halving the number of our people living under extreme poverty by 2015," Mogae said.

Peace, stability and the HIV/AIDS epidemic continued to be major issues.

Referring to famine in the region, Mogae said: "The number of people affected by the food crisis is estimated to rise to 14,4-million by March 2003.

"Although the worst affected countries are Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Angola and the Congo, the remaining countries of the region will be equally affected if the drought continues into next year, especially semi-arid Botswana and Namibia.

"Four months after the launch of the United Nations-SADC humanitarian appeal, $256,5m, or 42% of the $611m required has been secured, mostly for food aid.

The agricultural recovery programme has only received 28% of what is required. The health sector has received 14% of the required $48,2m. More must be done," Mogae said.

Although famine-stricken, some SADC member states will not accept genetically modified foods as part of aid packages.

Saying he had no concerns about genetically modified food "I eat what is served to me" Mogae said the SADC was aware of the urgent need to pronounce a clear policy on the issue. Sapa