The Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU) is the oldest existing customs union in the world. It was established in 1910 pursuant to a Customs Union Agreement between the then Union of South Africa and the High Commission Territories of Bechuanaland (now Botswana), Basutoland (now Lesotho), and Swaziland. With the advent of independence for these territories, the agreement was updated on 11 December 1969. It was relaunched as the SACU with the signing of an agreement between the Republic of South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. The updated union officially entered into force on 1 March 1970. After Namibia’s independence from South Africa in 1990, it joined SACU as its fifth member.
This trade brief analyses bilateral trade among SACU countries using UNCOMTRADE Trade Map data from 2010 to 2015 at HS4 level, and is expressed in United States Dollars. The direct data is extrapolated for both top 10 exports and imports in goods, sources and their destinations using statistical and graphical illustrations. The analysis tries to understand if SACU countries trade among themselves, despite being a single customs territory with the Rest of the World.
Intra-SACU trade has been marginally growing since 2010, with South Africa dominating the intra-regional trade, both in terms of absolute values and percentage shares. Exports from South Africa are mainly petroleum oils (not crude), diamonds, trucks and motor vehicles, electrical energy, and maize, while imports are mainly odoriferous mixtures as raw materials for industry, diamonds, sugar, clothing and textiles. Bilateral trade among BLNS countries is small, and is mainly between Botswana and Namibia in agricultural commodities. Exports in livestock meat products are substantial. These BLNS countries import over 80% of their imports from South Africa, and 100% in the case of Lesotho. Essentially, BLNS countries are markets for South Africa’s exports.
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