Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe on Sunday urged southern Africa to move away from “over-reliance” on foreign aid at a two-day summit being held in Zimbabwe.
The 90-year-old leader spoke Sunday after taking the chairmanship of the 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) from Malawi President Joyce Banda.
Mugabe, who will lead SADC for the next 12 months, said southern Africa must use its natural resources such as minerals and land. The region has the world’s largest platinum deposits and supplies of other valuable commodities such as diamonds and gold.
"Our continued over-reliance on the generosity and goodwill of our cooperating partners tends to compromise our ownership and sustainability of our SADC programs. How can we proudly claim SADC to be own organization when close to 60 percent of the programs are externally funded?" he asked.
Finished vs raw goods
Mugabe also called on countries to drive growth by exporting more finished goods instead of raw materials.
Southern Africa must "wean itself from exporting raw materials and create value chains that will lead to the exportation of finished products," he said.
"Our region has abundant resources, which instead of being sold in raw form at very low prices must be exploited and beneficiated to add value to the products which we export," Mugabe said.
The summit, which ends Monday, is being held under a theme of "economic transformation," which leaders say can be achieved by using the region's vast natural resources.
On Friday, rights groups called on SADC leaders to include issues of human rights abuses in the region on their meeting’s agenda.
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, but a series of economic crises, flawed elections and brutal crackdowns have brought U.N. sanctions and turned the former revolutionary into a Western pariah.
He was the only leader from southern Africa not invited to attend a major U.S.-African summit in Washington earlier this month, which included about 45 of the continent's heads of state.