Regional integration in SADC: retreating or forging ahead?
Regional economic integration remains a viable development strategy for Africa, a continent characterised by small economies and markets. Integration of these markets can facilitate efficiencies in production, investment and trade, thus enhancing development outcomes. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has adopted a development integration approach which seeks to address production, infrastructure and efficiency barriers to growth and development. In the area of trade and economic liberalisation, the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) articulates the roadmap for SADC integration through the establishment of a free trade area (FTA) by 2008, a customs union in 2010, a common market in 2015, a monetary union in 2016, and an economic union with a single currency in 2018.
2012 marks two important milestones in SADC – the completion of member states' tariff phase-down schedules to reach a status of an effective free trade area and the current review of the RISDP. This paper provides a status of trade integration in SADC, highlighting achievements, challenges and constraints. Understanding constraints facing this process can provide insights as to whether the region should forge ahead with its approach to economic integration or retreat and evaluate the process with a view to define what could be its immediate priorities. The current review of the RISDP should provide an opportunity to appraise and inform the process moving forward, particularly the region's advancement towards its envisaged integration milestones.
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