African Regional Integration

A significant feature of the Department’s international engagement involves work to support African regional economic integration and development. This work is in line with continental objectives and strategies set out by the African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). The Department gives particular attention to integration and development work in Southern Africa through the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). In advancing integration in both SACU and SADC, it is increasingly clear that trade integration must be complemented with more determined efforts to build diversified production capacity in the region. This is essential if the opportunities that arise from more open regional markets are to be shared equitably. In SACU, the Department’s approach would aim to transform the customs union from an organisation held together by a common external tariff and revenue sharing formula into a vehicle for deeper integration, through coordinated economic development strategies. The Department would also seek to ensure that SACU is an anchor for deeper integration in SADC and engages the rest of the world as a unified trading bloc. In SADC, the focus will be on consolidating the achievement of the free trade area, and working to extend African integration through pursuit of the Tripartite SADC-EAC-COMESA FTA negotiations. The Department will continue to engage with the EU to ensure that Economic Partnership Agreements support and not disrupt – integration in Southern Africa.

Work in Africa is also underpinned by a strong bilateral country agenda. The Department pursues a systematic methodology that includes strategic and technical missions that identify precise areas of cooperation with partner countries. These generally include cooperation to promote infrastructure development, trade and investment and offers technical assistance particularly for institutional and policy building. This work will continue on the basis of stronger involvement and coordination with South African business that will ensure a broad based engagement in African development activities. Work on infrastructure development in Southern Africa, particularly through the spatial development initiative (SDIs) is a key priority. The success achieved in deepening and extending SDIs in the region has laid the basis for extending the programme across Africa in support of NEPAD objectives (such as the North-South Corridor).


The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) was established in 1910 as a Customs Union Agreement between the Union of South Africa and the High Commission Territories of Bechuanaland, Basutoland and Swaziland. In 1969, with the independence of Botswana and Lesotho in 1966 and Swaziland in 1968, a new SACU Agreement was concluded with the Republic of South Africa. Namibia gained its independence from South Africa in 1990 to become the de-jure fifth member of the Customs Union. In 1994 SACU Members renegotiated the 1969 SACU Agreement. The negotiations were concluded and a new 2002 SACU Agreement came into force in 2004.

Among other developments, the 2002 SACU Agreement provides for democratic decision-making processes; establishes a professional and independent Secretariat responsible for the administration of the Union as well as institutions of a technical and decision-making nature in order to regulate the functioning of the Union. The objectives of the Union include, among others, the facilitation of cross-border movement of goods, the promotion of fair competition, and the equitable sharing of customs and excise revenue raised by all Member States within the Union. SACU established a Secretariat in 2004 and is hosted in Namibia.

The Department?s responsibility is to ensure South Africa meets its legal obligations, contributes to developing a vision for deeper integration in SACU with particular focus on building capacity on regional industrial and competition policy, and the development of policies and procedures to inform the establishment of effective institutions with appropriate decision making procedures that do not undermine the South African economic policy. The Department also seeks to ensure SACU can be a nucleus for deeper integration at the SADC level and contributes to the continental integration agenda.

The link to the SACU website is


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. The founding Member States are: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

SADCC was formed in Lusaka, Zambia on April 1, 1980, following the adoption of the Lusaka Declaration – Southern Africa: Towards Economic Liberation.

The transformation of the organisational from a Coordinating Conference into a Development Community (SADC) took place on August 7, 1992 in Windhoek, Namibia when the Declaration and Treaty was signed at the Summit of Heads of State and Government, thereby giving the organisation a legal character.

SADC was established under Article 2 of the SADC treaty by SADCC Member States represented by their respective Heads of State and Government or duly authorised representatives to spearhead economic integration of Southern Africa.

The current priority is to consolidate the SADC free trade agreement. This work programme seeks to facilitate the accession of Member States that are not yet participating in the SADC FTA; fully implement the FTA; focus on trade facilitation; address non-tariff barriers; simplify Rules of Origin; harmonise regional standards and technical regulations; and implement harmonised regional customs documentation and procedures.

The link to the SADC website is, where you can obtain a copy of the SADC Agreement and tariff data, as well as statistics on a variety of indicators in the annual SADC Statistics Yearbook, found at


The Department strives to contribute to realising the objectives of the, promote NEPAD in various forums and ensure greater involvement and coordination between the private sector, the NEPAD Secretariat and Civil Society, particularly in highlighting opportunities for investment in NEPAD projects and facilitating engagement on the Africa multilateral partnerships on the basis of identified NEPAD priorities.

The link to the NEPAD website is

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