Lusaka, Zambia – A group of media practitioners and their networks from Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe participated in a Regional Media Training on SADC Regional Integration on the 15th of May 2023 in Lusaka, Zambia.
The training was organized by CUTS International (Lusaka) in collaboration with the SADC Secretariat and the Sustainable Development Goals Center for Africa (SDGC/A).
The aim of the training was to equip the media with the skills and knowledge to effectively report on the opportunities and challenges of regional integration in Southern Africa and to enhance their role in advancing regional development and cooperation.
The training covered various aspects of the SADC Vision 2050 and Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan 2020-2030 (RISDP), which is a long-term and medium-term plan that envisions a peaceful, inclusive, competitive, middle- to high-income industrialized region, where all citizens enjoy sustainable economic well-being, justice, and freedom.
The training also discussed the SADC industrialization strategy, which is a roadmap for transforming the region’s economy from being resource-based to being productive and diversified, with a strong focus on value addition, technology,, and innovation.
Another issue that was explored was the SADC Free Trade Area, which is a trade arrangement that allows for duty-free trade among SADC Member States, with the aim of enhancing market integration and competitiveness
The role of media in supporting the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in the region was also highlighted.
The SDGs are a set of 17 global goals that address various social, economic, and environmental challenges, while the AfCFTA is a trade agreement that aims to create a single market for goods and services across Africa.
One of the highlights of the training was a keynote speech by Mr. Wazha Omphile, Project Management Officer at the SADC Secretariat, who shared his vision of accelerating the implementation of programs that aim to increase the volume of trade among Member States and thereby improve the livelihoods of the citizens of the community.
Omphile highlighted the challenges and gaps that affect the pace of regional integration and industrialization and how the SADC Secretariat is engaging member states and non-state actors to address them.
He stressed the importance of partnerships with the media to inform and engage citizens on SADC programs and opportunities and recognized the media as a key partner in raising awareness and fostering participation in SADC processes.
Another session that drew attention was Media Support in Monitoring and Advocacy SADC Processes by Dr. Ambrose Rwaheru Aheisibwe, Programmes Director at SDGC/A.
He explained why media advocacy is important for SADC regional integration and how media platforms can enable stakeholders such as policymakers and non-state actors to communicate the benefits, opportunities, and challenges of SADC processes.
He shared some innovative communication strategies that can build public awareness and inspire people to take direct action to support SADC processes.
Aheisibwe emphasized how the media can amplify the voices of marginalized groups and foster dialogue and accountability.
One of the participants, a journalist from Zimbabwe, said she was honored to be part of the training and expressed her appreciation for the insights she gained from the experts and fellow participants.
She said she learnt a lot about the SADC regional integration agenda and how it relates to the SDGs and AfCFTA adding she hoped to contribute to the discussion on how media can promote regional cooperation and development through her work.
The training was part of a series of activities under a project titled “Strengthening Media Capacity for Enhanced Reporting on Regional Integration in Southern Africa”.
The project aims to enhance media capacity to report on regional integration issues, facilitate dialogue between media and policymakers, and create platforms for sharing best practices and experiences among media practitioners in Southern Africa.