SABDF - Continental socio-economic integration is a multi-sectoral effort

Dr Srimal Fernando, Diplomatic Society's Inter Regional Advisor meeting with Theuns Wessels and Jabu Mabobo of the Southern African Business Forum during his visit to South Africa in October 2018

6 July 2021

Jambo Africa Online’s Publisher, SAUL MOLOBI, profiles the Southern African Business Development Forum (SABDF) that rallies the business community to drive regional economic integration.

The Southern African Business Development Forum (SABDF) is a not-for-profit which initially had its headquarters at the CSIR complex in Pretoria, South-Africa. Due to it signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the government of Zambia on 16 October 2019, the organisation made an informed decision to relocate its headquarters to Lusaka. This has also led to the registration of the SABDF as a corporate citizen in the country too.

Although mindful of Southern African Development Community (SADC) being headquartered in Gaborone, Botswana, the SABDF was attracted by not only the Zambian government’s responsiveness to its programmes, but also convenience arising from the strategic location of Zambia which is at the heartland of southern African. This is a huge opportunity for seamless regional inter-trade since Zambia is neighbours eight SADC member states.

Jabu Mabobo, the founding Executive Director of the SABDF, posited: “We’re working towards Africa’s integration which is premised on a strong regional integration. We’re a key stakeholder in the strategic mix since SADC is the continent’s key regional hub region with the most sophisticated economy. The region supports its member states in stimulating economic development and increasing their economic growth through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and Rural Development-led expansions which enable subsistence and smallholder farmers to take advantage of the market opportunities presented by continental integration.

“So we serve as a regional platform for business and development agencies to collaborate on trade; open market access; and enhance the development of human capital to drive the continent’s economic growth. This will indeed reverse the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality across Africa.”

The SABDF also plays a critical advocacy role in influencing authorities to develop investor-friendly policies and regulatory environment. This will translate in both the public and private sectors supporting the marginalised and emerging businesses in order to impact micro, small and medium enterprises across all the economic sectors – particularly in the agriculture and agro-processing industries. Food security has to be the cardinal multi-sectoral strategic objective. As such SABDF endeavours to address policy issues, support countries to create enabling environment, peer-to-peer review and advocacy for best practices.”

To redress the socio-economic challenges faced by Africa, the regional business body has identified four pillars which it will strategically focus on – and these are transport (covering road, rail and air); ICT; energy; and, water & sanitation. “These sectors are the main drivers of regional integration and inter-connectivity,” said Jabu matter-of-factly. “Rendering support to the SADC member states in achieving a fair level of competence in these four pillars is therefore deemed central to our institution.” The institution has thus forged a formal bilateral agreement with government of Zambia.

“We’re privileged that Zambia has bestowed upon us the kind of recognition that many organisations yearn for,” Jabu said with a tinge of pride. “Our MoU is signed between SABDF and the Government of Zambia through its second highest office, the Office of the Vice President.”

Through the signed MoU, SABDF is also responsible for piloting out the development of Agri Hubs in Zambia.

Valuing impactful strategic partnerships, the SABDF has forged structured relationships with a number of organisations which are specialists in their fields, some of which include the following:
• Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) for development, effective analysis and review of policies in facilitating the smooth rollout of the programme;
• National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) for market access opportunities;
• ICCO Corporation, a Netherlands-based NGO for GAP Certification; end-to-end value chain production; and international market linkages;
• Matson World (plant nutritionists with products that enhance quality crop;
• Silver Solutions (fertiliser specialists)
• AFGRI Group Holdings (for farming equipment and storage facilities to curb post-harvest losses.

“One of the key imperatives we seek to achieve by this programme is enhancing trade and market access for accelerated agriculture transformation,” asserted Jabu.

During the SABDF’s participation and interaction at the 15th CAADP Partnership Platform meeting which was held in Nairobi from 11 to 14 June 2019 under the theme: “Enhancing Trade and Market Access for Accelerated Agriculture Transformation,” the following areas that need urgent attention in order to fast track the successful rollout of CAADP’s objectives were identified by the houses of traditional leaders:
• CAADP being discussed in isolation of Traditional Leaders and
Infrastructure Development that has a direct impact on Rural Development;
• Most of the farmers targeted for developmental support are in the rural areas with very poor infrastructure and under the constituency of traditional leaders;
• The dire need to make agriculture fashionable amongst the youth through mobilization of technology (4IR) by developing exchange programmes for exposure and learning purposes. More often, youth in the rural areas do not get the opportunities their counterparts are exposed to in the urban areas. This leads to rural to urban and international immigration;
• Security issues.
• The alignment of regional trade, custom, health and safety, and international standardisation (ISO);
• Strategic alignment and cooperation between the Departments of Land and Royal Houses for issuance of title deeds to villagers.

“Bearing in mind that they are the traditional leaders are the custodians of land where rural development is to take place,” advised Jabu, “we have to ensure they are part of all deliberations on rural policy development and implementation. We were inspired by such arguments that the SABDF has resolved to sign partnership agreements with royal houses.”

Utilising the land under the jurisdiction of the Royal Houses for subsistence farming and for training particularly of the youth and women. This will help to you achieve the following:
• Develop the underutilised rural land into productive farming land;
• Develop infrastructure required in agriculture for value addition to the farm produce, i.e. transport (roads, rail and air); ICT; energy; and, water & sanitation. This will increase the value of rural land;
• Train youth that are not interested in traditional farming in agricultural marketing, coding, bookkeeping and also offer training the trainer programmes for broadening of our reach;
• Develop and boost Agri-Tourism;
• Manage the corporate social investment (CSI) programmes of the many malls that are built in these areas for more skills development and supply chain agreements – e.g. who supplies the agricultural commodities sold at these malls and their food courts?
• SABDF and partners to assist in market linkages and securing off-takes for agricultural produce to ensure the sustainability of these farmers;
• SABDF to drive alignment of all farming activities with the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) objectives;
• SABDF to drive exchange training and development programmes for unemployed youth in the rural and peri rural areas with the rest of the SADC member states to curb exodus from rural to urban and international destinations.

Through our partnership with the government of Zambia, we seek to provide the people of Zambia, in particular the 93 resettlement schemes that have combined 850 000 hectors, with access to Value Chain Farming methods, Agribusiness Development, access to markets and access to finance.