3. To the extent that this situation negatively impacts on our development objectives and goals as individual countries and as a region, it calls for acceleration of implementation of agreed programmes and initiatives at all levels. Regrettably, huge resources will be required to respond to these unfortunate developments.
4. Coming to the business of the day, Honourable Ministers, this meeting provides an opportunity for us to receive progress reports on the implementation of plans for the Financial Year 2015/16; and to review implementation of previous Council and Summit Decisions as well as to consider the focus areas and the Budget for 2016/17.
5. The convening of this meeting is appropriate as it comes, in just about a year after the adoption by our Heads of States and Government, of the SADC Regional Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063, which puts emphasis on industrial development and related infrastructure and services to support industrialisation.
6. Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish to remind you of the theme of the 35th SADC Ordinary Summit held here in Gaborone in August 2015 - “Accelerating Industrialisation of SADC Economies Through Transformation of Natural Endowment and Improved Human Capital.”
7. I am therefore pleased to note that following the Summit meeting, the Ministers of Trade met in November 2015, to follow up on some of the outstanding issues regarding the industrialisation of our region, and so Council looks forward to receiving updates on the development of the costed Action Plan for the implementation of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap.
8. We expect to receive a report on the implementation of the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (Revised RISDP) 2015-2020 is on course. The region also continues to pursue the implementation of the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan, adopted in 2012, which outlines and identifies the priority infrastructure projects to facilitate regional integration and trade.
9. The importance of regional integration to SADC cannot be overemphasised. Our long history of cooperation as a region has brought our economies closer together, in many respects. The stable political and macroeconomic environment as well as cooperation in many other areas such as water, transport and tourism make us unique in the region. It is therefore necessary that we strive to preserve this profile.
10. Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe you will agree with me that the region needs significant resources and investment for the successful implementation of our programmes. We are confident that SADC will continue to make attempts to mobilise resources for the priority projects to be implemented to ensure successful cooperation and regional integration.
11. To fully capitalise on the potential of the private sector, it is necessary that SADC creates an enabling environment for private sector initiatives, trade and finance for sustainable investments and employment creation. A strong commitment is also required from the private sector to promote investment in areas where market gaps exist.
12. Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, promoting sustainable and inclusive economic growth is vital for promoting long term economic development as well as addressing the demographic challenges that we are currently facing. Such challenges include the impacts of climate change and migration. It is therefore important that we create larger domestic markets through industrialisation and economic diversification and provide new economic opportunities.
13. As we consider the Agenda before us, I urge Council to give strategic direction in order to facilitate implementation of all the outstanding issues. I am sure that with your cooperation, we will be able to achieve this goal.
14. At this stage, I wish to thank and commend the Senior Officials and the SADC Secretariat for a job well done in preparing the working documents to be used by the Honourable Ministers at this meeting.
15. May I also take this opportunity to inform you that Botswana will be celebrating its 50th anniversary of Independence this year on the 30th September 2016. I therefore call upon the SADC community to rejoice with us during this golden jubilee.
16. Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, this concludes my opening remarks and I wish the Council fruitful deliberations.
17. I thank you.