Johannesburg: South Africa is championing an ambitious integration and development agenda in Southern Africa in an attempt to advance what Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies describes as trade and customs cooperation within the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other regional trade organisations.
Central to pursuing this intraregional trade aspiration are a series of mechanisms to combine market integration and liberalisation efforts with physical cross-border infrastructure and spatial-development initiatives. Also envisaged is greater policy coordination to advance regional industrial value chains.
“Trade facilitation can be broadly construed as interventions that include the provision of hard and soft infrastructure to facilitate the movement of goods, services and people across borders, with Sacu remaining the anchor for wider integration in the region,” Davies explains.
This approach is also receiving support from the US Agency for International Development (USAid), which recently hosted the Southern African Trade Facilitation Conference, held in Johannesburg.
Trade programme manager Rick Gurley says that virtually every study on trade in sub-Saharan Africa identifies time and cost factors of exporting and importing as the most signifi-cant constraints to regional trade potential.
Limited progress has been made by SADC member States and Sacu partners to tackle the factors undermining trade-based growth, limiting product diversification and increasing the price of consumer goods, including of foodstuffs. However, far more would need to be done to realise the full potential of intraregional trade.
One high-profile effort currently under way is the Tripartite Free Trade Area (T-FTA), which seeks to facilitate greater trade and investment harmonisation across the three existing regional economic communities of the SADC, the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa and the East African Community.
- Extract from a lengthy analysis posted in Engineering Newe: the full article can be read here.