SADC Legal Texts and Policy Documents


The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has been in existence since 1980, when it was formed as a loose alliance of nine majority-ruled states in Southern Africa known as the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), with the main aim of coordinating development projects in order to lessen economic dependence on the then apartheid South Africa. SADC’s legal status is that of an international organisation which has the legal capacity and power to ”enter into contract, acquire, own, dispose of movable or immovable property and to sue and be sued (Art. 3(1) of the SADC Treaty). As an international organisation it has conventional organs such as the Summit of Heads of State or Government, the Organ on Politics, Defense and Security Cooperation, the Council of Ministers, the Integrated Committee of Ministers, the Standing Committee of Officials, the Secretariat, the Tribunal, and SADC National Committees. The main policy making organ is the Summit of Heads of State or Government. The policies are implemented through decisions adopted by the Council of Ministers. For more information go to the SADC website.

Member states

SADC has 15 member states that include Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Madagascar (that was suspended in March 2009 after a coup d’état), Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

SADC Treaty

The Treaty is the constitutive document establishing SADC and the framework from which all subsequent instruments are derived. All the Protocols, Memoranda of Understanding, Charters and Declarations are subordinate to the Treaty, and derive their legitimacy from the Treaty.

SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP)

Politically, SADC adheres to an agenda that extends well beyond the target of achieving a free-trade area that was agreed upon by the member states in the SADC Trade Protocol. These ambitious targets are set out in the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan of 2003. Although it is not a legally binding agreement, it enjoys political legitimacy. This strategic plan plots an integration agenda that includes the target of a free-trade area by 2008, a customs union by 2010, a common market by 2015 and an economic union by 2018.

SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap

The SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap, 2015-2063, was approved by the Extra-Ordinary Summit in Harare, Zimbabwe, on 29 April 2015. The Strategy is premised on the conviction that regional integration will promote industrialization. It seeks to engender a major economic and technological transformation at the national and regional levels within the context of deeper regional integration. It also aims at accelerating the growth momentum and enhancing the comparative and competitive advantage of the economies of the region. It is envisioned that by 2063, the SADC region will be fully transformed and will be an important player in the continental and global landscape, premised on three growth phases.

SADC Protocol on Trade (including Annexes)

This protocol is arguably the most important legal instrument of SADC. It aims to enhance cross-border investment by liberalising intra-regional trade. The objective is the implementation of a SADC FTA; therefore the Protocol contains all the obligations member states need to observe in order for the regional arrangement to be compatible with WTO rules. SADC amended the Protocol in 2000, 2007, and 2008, clarifying aspects of Rules of Origin and safeguard measures and incorporating new annexes on settlement of disputes and trade in sugar.

Other Protocols

Protocols are legal instruments necessary for cooperation between member states and the implementation of the SADC Treaty. They contain sets of guidelines and recommendations aimed at realising specific objectives of SADC.

Regional Infrastructure Development Masterplan

Signed at the SADC Summit in August 2012, the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP) guides development in key infrastructure such as road, rail and ports, and also acts as a framework for planning and cooperation with development partners and the private sector. The master plan is in line with the African Union’s Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) and will constitute a key input into the Inter-Regional Infrastructure Master Plan and proposed tripartite Free Trade Area of SADC, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC).

SADC Declarations

Declarations are manifestos dealing with a more specific subject than a protocol. It sets out the intention and commitment of the member states to improve certain areas of cooperation.

SADC Memoranda of Understanding

These are preliminary legal documents describing an agreement between parties which will eventually lead to a protocol.

Regional Codes, Policies and Strategies

SADC Charters

Charters usually incorporate an institution or collective by specifying its principles, rights, privileges and responsibilities.

2014 SADC Summit – tralac submissions

Supporting the full participation of the ‘people of the region and their institutions’ in the process of regional integration, tralac prepared two contributions to the preparatory process and to the deliberations at the 34th SADC Summit held in August 2014 in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, under the theme “SADC Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region’s Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development through Value Addition and Beneficiation”:

SADC Success Stories

The ‘SADC Success Stories’ publication was launched on the sidelines of the 35th Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government in Gaborone, Botswana. The publication presents some of the notable achievements of regional integration in various sectors such as trade, transport, finance, tourism, energy, disaster management, water resources, peacekeeping training and political cooperation.

Country Tariff Phase-down Offers

This is the process by which tariffs are gradually reduced in order to achieve a certain threshold to liberalise substantially all trade in the region. Tariff phase-down offers are based on a variable geometry model, taking into account the asymmetrical level of development in member states.

Status updates

Updates on the status of SADC Member States’ signatures, ratifications and accessions to the SADC Treaty, Protocols and other legal instruments.

SADC-EU Economic Partnership Agreement

The EU concluded negotiations on an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) on 15 July 2014 with the SADC EPA Group comprising Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland. Angola has an option to join the agreement in future. This ended 10 years of negotiations and produced an Agreement that will replace the interim EPA signed by the EU and by Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland in June 2009. That agreement was never ratified

The other six members of the SADC region – the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Zambia and Zimbabwe – are negotiating Economic Partnership Agreements with the EU as part of other regional groups, namely Central Africa or Eastern and Southern Africa.

On 10 June 2016, the EU and six countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) signed an EPA, the first of its kind between the EU and an African region pursuing the objective of economic integration. The signature took place in Kasane, Botswana. Following the signature, the agreement will now be submitted for approval to the European Parliament, and for ratification in the 28 EU Member States according to national ratification procedures and in the Southern African countries.

While tralac endeavours to list current legal instruments, we cannot accept responsibility or liability for any inaccuracies or omissions. The negotiation, ratification, implementation and/or modification of these instruments is an ongoing process and not always well-reported or updated by the relevant authorities. See further tralac’s terms and conditions.