From political liberalisation to economic empowerment

sadc-GovernmentZA-flickrJacob Zuma, President of South Africa at the SADC Summit held last month in Zimbabwe. (Image source: GovernmentZA/Flickr) From its genesis in 1980, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has blossomed into a robust regional economic bloc that is helping Africa gain prosperity and economic growth

SADC started as Frontline States whose objective was political liberation of Southern Africa. It was preceded by the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), which was formed in Lusaka, Zambia, in 1980. Eventually, the organisation went on to work on promoting sustainable and economic growth in Southern Africa.

The 34th SADC Summit met in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe from 17-18 August 2014. The theme of the summit was ’SADC Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region’s Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development through Beneficiation and Value Addition’.

Information obtained from the regional economic community (REC) indicated that while it managed to launch the Free Trade Area (FTA) as planned in 2008, other economic programmes have been missed, including the Customs Union which was expected to be established in 2010.

The region had also set a target to launch a common market by 2015, monetary union by 2016 and eventually adopt a single currency by 2018. Indications are that these targets are unlikely to be met. The SADC was expected to make an evaluation on how it is progressing on these regional milestones in order to determine the next step. The member states are still focused on consolidating and implementing the FTA.

Under the FTA, an estimated 85 per cent tariff on all goods was achieved by most member states in 2008, while maximum liberalisation was finally reached in 2012 when tariffs on sensitive products were removed.

All SADC countries, with the exception of Angola, DR Congo and Seychelles, are members of the FTA.

According to Boitumelu Gofhamodimo, director of trade, finance, industry and investment (TIFI) of SADC, the Seychelles was now ready to join the FTA after its offer to remove tariffs on goods to promote the smooth movement of goods and services across the region. Angola and the DR Congo are also expected to join the FTA soon after requesting time to rebuild their economies following decades of armed conflict.

Figures released by the director show that intra-SADC trade has gradually increased since 2000. ”Although not so big, regional trade has increased from US$13.8bn in 2000 to US$58bn in 2012,’’ said Gofhamodimo. She pointed out that if all the 15 member states are included, intra-regional trade had increased from US$14bn in 2000 to US$66bn in 2012.

South Africa is the largest trading partner in the region, with exports to the region being estimated at 40 per cent of the total intra-regional trade. Other major exporting countries are Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

 

Nawa Mutumweno

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