South Africa: Free trade area established in Southern Africa

18 August 2008

Sandton, South Africa, 18 Aug – The leaders of the member-states of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) have approved the Free Trade Area (FTA), a step considered to be crucial in the process of regional integration, which is scheduled to be concluded in 2018 by the monetary union process.

The free trade agreement includes Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

SADC country leaders meeting in Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa also signed an amendment to the constitutional treaty to allow for the role of assistant executive secretary for Regional Integration.

The SADC FTA, which is hoped to become one of the biggest in Africa, cover over 230 million consumers, is not seen as an end in itself, but rather a strategy to improve the lives of the region’s populations, through the many advantages its implementation is intended to bring.

The launch of the FTA is described as an historical act in the regional integration process which will contribute to the rapid industrialisation of the region, by increasing business opportunities, creating jobs, increasing investment and expanding the market.

Based on the gradual removal of trade barriers, the FTA is the culmination of a process that began with the signing of the SADC Trade Protocol in 1996. It is inspired by the classic principles of comparative advantages, which in this case advocate that member countries should produce and export goods with a comparative advantage, importing good from the region’s countries that they are unable to efficiently produce themselves.

Currently only three countries have not begun implementing the FTA – Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Malawi.

The first two requested a moratorium due to the conflicts that they recently faced, whilst Malawi cannot be part of the system as it has yet to do away with 85 percent of its customs taxes, which is a requirement for any country to take part in the FTA.

The summit was also marked by the return of the Seychelles, a small archipelago in the Indian Ocean which decided to move out of the SADC immediately after it joined in 2000 for economic reasons. (macauhub)