Avril 16, 2024

SADC holds a Retreat for Member States Focal Points for Trade in Services

The Directorate of Industrial Development and Trade (IDT) at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat convened a Retreat for Member States' Focal Points for Trade in Services, held from 25-27 March 2024 in Centurion, South Africa. The main objective of the Retreat was to provide a strategic and less formal forum, outside negotiating meetings, for delegates to visualise the future and how to position the region's services sector to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)market access opportunities. 

A total of 45 delegates, comprising the Member States' Focal Points for SADC Trade in Services (Ministries of Trade), selected trade experts and representatives of private-sector institutions attended the Retreat. At the regional level, private sector representatives included the SADC Business Council, the Federation of Clearing and Forwarding Agents of Sovereign Africa (FCFASA), the SADC Lawyers Association (SADLA), the Pan-African Federation of Accountants (PAFA), and the Southern Africa Federation of Engineering Organization (SAFEO). The European Union and the Government of Germany funded the Retreat through a Joint Action on Trade in Services implemented by the GIZ CESARE III Project. 

The meeting was to develop a 15-year Regional Strategy on Trade in Services and a 5-year Action Plan. During the Retreat, the delegates forged a shared understanding of the developments, strategies/approaches, opportunities, and challenges in negotiating and implementing regional trade in services liberalisation commitments. As crucial input into the Strategy and Action Plan, the delegates considered the findings and recommendations of the study on "How to Improve SADC Services Sector Competitiveness to Take Advantage of AfCFTA Market Access Opportunities". 

The study revealed that some of the SADC Member States' service sectors are relatively competitive compared to the rest of Africa. The SADC services sector is emerging as the region's leading source of income, and trade presents significant growth opportunities for all Member States. Africa's demand for financial, transport and logistics services, ICT, distribution, and other business services, including professional and support services, remains untapped. Despite this demand, travel (tourism) and transport services dominate SADC services export. SADC region trades services more with the rest of the world at 93% than it trades within (4.5%) or with other African countries (2.5%). 

To take advantage of the AfCFTA services market opportunities, the Retreat identified the need for Member States to diversify their services trade from travel and transport into modern services such as ICT, finance, insurance, and construction services. The diversification strategy must be supported by measures for improving the business environment through removing trade barriers, ensuring regulatory transparency, cooperation and promoting innovation and skills mobility. In line with the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan  (RISDP) 2020-2030 targets, Member States must increase energy and transport infrastructure investment, improve ICT and innovation adoption, and maintain stable macroeconomic policy. As the next steps, a SADC Trade in Services Strategy document and Action Plan will be developed and presented at a regional workshop scheduled for May 2024.