Business licensing, customs regulations, procedures and bureaucracy have been cited as some of key challenges slowing the integration of countries in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc).
According to a South African Institute of International Affairs report prepared by Catherine Makokera, Geoffrey Chapman and Lesley Wentworth titled Making Key Business Constraints in Sadc cited poverty as one of the challenges facing the region.
“It is difficult to conduct business in the majority of Sadc nations for a variety of reasons which contribute to a regional economic climate that is not conducive to investment or to development in general,” the report said.
But the report also said regional integration offered enormous potential for widening investment scope, increasing trade opportunities between and among countries in the region and in the ability to move factors of production across borders.
They said priority intervention areas for sectoral co-operation and integration towards achievement of a free trade area entailed trade/economic liberalisation and development, sustainable food security, human and social development.
The report said appropriate sectoral diversification, value addition and beneficiation were important to poverty reduction.
Infrastructure support for regional integration, corruption, fluctuations in exchange rates, economic and regulatory policy uncertainty were also cited.
Business Unity South Africa trade policy executive Gus Mandigora said there was need for Sadc countries to do more if regional integration was to take off.
He said lack of implementation of most agreed policies within the region was a major stumbling block.
“Sadc agreements are rarely implemented and rules rarely enforced. The idea of integration is good, but I think there is still a long way to go,” he said.
Sadc plans to have a common market by 2015, a monetary Union by 2016 and a single currency by 2018.
In 2008, Sadc officially launched a free trade area with a view to transforming trading environment in the region.
The launch marked an important milestone in the road towards regional economic integration.