SACU competing with SADC as economic community?


In my last article, ‘Spotlight on Sacu-Sadc relations’, I pointed out five key points in the Sacu-Sadc relations.
Firstly; the process of regional integration has never been Sacu’s objective. Secondly, Sacu can be used as a model for southern African regional integration. Thirdly, there are structural challenges in using Sacu as a model for regional integration.
Fourthly, there are obstacles to Sacu’s expansion or admission of other Sadc and even Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) countries as members. Fifthly, are there opportunities for Sacu’s expansion or admission of other Sadc or even Comesa countries as members?
In October last year, we interviewed Sacu officials in our research fieldwork on its place in southern Africa’s regional integration agenda in Namibia. Sacu officials did not point out opportunities available to them to expand or admit other Sacu and even Comesa countries as members.
They provided structural challenges in using Sacu as a model for southern African regional integration. Some Namibian representatives states the fact that Sacu members are highly integrated and that some Sadc member-states face profound challenges as do the implied opportunities available to Sacu to serve as the driver of regional integration.
This position is challenged by the fact that if other Sadc countries were admitted into Sacu as members, the organisation would inherit these challenges. This means, among others, that these are not real opportunities for SACU’s expansion and admission of other Sadc and Comesa countries as members.
President Hifikepunye Pohamba and President Seretse Khama Ian Khama of Botswana in their Sacu centenary celebration addresses on 22 April 2010 in Windhoek, answered this question.
Their position was that Sacu members as southern African countries should contribute towards the achievement of regional integration through Sadc, not Sacu.
Stating that Sacu is “a sub-group within Sadc” and that “every Sacu member-state also belongs to Sadc,” Pohamba maintained: “The integration within Sacu is important for the wider regional integration under the auspices of Sadc. In this context, the integration strategy for Sacu would also have positive contribution to the broader economic integration in the Sadc region.”
Khama concurred saying: “As we implement the ideals of Sacu, we must also take into account our membership to and objectives of Sadc as we move forward in our regional integration initiatives. This is because it is only through working together as a team in the wider Sadc context that we can ensure smooth regional integration in southern Africa.”
Central to addresses of Pohamba and Khama is that Sacu is not a regional economic community advancing southern African regional integration. The fact that all Sacu countries are Sadc members means that Sacu is “a sub-group within Sadc” and that the integration of its members is complementary to southern African regional integration led by Sadc. The position articulated by Pohamba and Khama is important for several key reasons. The integration of Sacu members is not southern African regional integration.
The issue of Sacu being a “sub-group within Sadc” is against the position that Sacu is the regional organisation.
Sacu’s contribution to regional integration on the basis of it being a customs union is highly appreciated. It cannot seriously be rejected by those who are genuinely for integration. The position articulated by Pohamba is important, particularly given the fact that he spoke on behalf of Sacu’s heads of state and governments on the relationship between Sacu and Sadc. He made it clear that what he meant on this issue is what they had discussed and agreed upon.
Among the declared objectives of its mission, Sacu was to “serve as an engine for regional integration and development, industrial and economic diversification, the expansion of intra-regional trade and investment and global competitiveness” and to “serve as a building block of an ever closer community among the peoples of southern Africa.”
This does not mean that Sacu is already an economic community advancing into a regional integration but it should move towards economic community for it to achieve declared objectives of its mission.
At their meeting on 16 July 2010 in Pretoria, South Africa, the Sacu heads of state affirmed that they had “directed” the Council of Ministers to “promote win-win solutions” to problems faced by Sacu; to “conclude the establishment of institutions”; and to strengthen “the capacity” in the Sacu “Secretariat.”
Sacu’s heads of state at this meeting also directed the Council of Ministers, among others, to: ensure that all work on industrial policy, competition policy, unfair trade practices and other priority commitments on the Sacu Agreement are being implemented; develop a Sacu trade and tariff policy and trade strategy that supports industrialisation in Sacu; develop deliberate initiatives to promote intra-Sacu trade; explore the possibility of a review of the 2002 Sacu Agreement; and consider the sharing of Sacu Revenue.
They also directed its Council of Ministers to define “a roadmap for moving towards an Economic Community and Monetary Union” and to position it “at the centre of the regional economic integration agenda.”
The decision for Sacu to be an economic community would have implications for Sadc particularly in its regional integration agenda. It is possible that some individuals including Sadc member countries, which are not Sacu members would regard this task as an attempt to supplant Sadc.
The apartheid South Africa attempted to expand Sacu through admission of some regional countries as a policy objective to consolidate its domination in the region. But that should never have happened and should not happen as it would mean that Sacu would not challenge Sadc by competing with it in advancing regional integration.
Despite this position, having Sacu as an economic community would have implications on Sadc in its regional integration agenda.
If Sacu members are really for regional integration, why do they not substantiate their theoretical position in practice within Sadc? Why do they need to transform Sacu into an economic community to do what they can do as Sadc members?