CGF Research Institute (Pty) Ltd

The Southern African Development Community (SADC)


A new economic environment emerged in the SADC region with the adoption of the Protocol on Trade in 1996 and its implementation which commenced in 2000. The Protocol on Trade commits SADC Member States to further liberalisation of intra-regional trade and the establishment of a Free Trade Area (FTA) within the SADC region. Practically, the aim of the Protocol on Trade is to increase trade without any impediments, by eliminating import and export duties, and tariff and non-tariff barriers to mention a few.


The Southern African Development Community is a Regional Economic Community (REC) and is noted as the building block for the African Economic Community under the Lagos Plan of Action and Abuja Treaty. The Member States of SADC have developed agreed programmes for the integration of their economies into viable single economic spaces that will enhance economies of scale in all sectors of their economies and foster speedier economic development.


The SADC and the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) are at different stages in the integration process, but the most prominent and topical are those relating to trade and customs affairs. COMESA launched a Free Trade Area in October 2000 and will launch its Customs Union in December 2008, while SADC has launched its Free Trade Area in August 2008 and plans to launch a Customs Union in 2010. There is intense discussion among the two RECs to persuade COMESA to delay its launch of the Customs Union until 2010 when SADC is ready.


The timeframes for achieving these milestones are obviously different and the essential elements for the Free Trade Areas and Customs Unions are not exactly identical. With this realisation, the Heads of States of COMESA and SADC decided that harmonisation was essential, not only in regional integration programmes relating to trade, but in all areas of integration common to the two RECs. COMESA and SADC mandated their Chairmen to revive efforts at harmonisation that were attempted in the early 1990s and this is the genesis of the current Tripartite Framework of Harmonisation of Regional Policies and programmes among COMESA, SADC and with the East African Community.


Whilst the SADC’s Free Trade Areas is the first key milestone towards the SADC’s pursuit of a common regional integration agenda, it also has other objectives which include:

    1. to achieve development & economic growth, alleviate poverty, enhance the standard and quality of life of the people in Southern Africa and support the socially disadvantaged through regional integration
    2. to evolve common political values, systems and institutions
    3. to promote and defend peace and security
    4. to promote self-sustaining development through collective self-reliance and the inter-dependence of Member States
    5. to achieve sustainable utilisation of natural resources and effective protection of the environment.


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