SADC Facts & Figures

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) was established as a development coordinating conference (SADCC) in 1980 and transformed into a development community in 1992. It is an inter-governmental organisation whose goal is to promote sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development through efficient productive systems, deeper co-operation and integration, good governance and durable peace and security among fifteen Southern African Member States.

The SADC socio-economic profile is presented here in empirical data of socio-economic indicators. Economic indicators described here are:

  • Gross Domestic Product
  • Tax Revenue
  • Inflation
  • Fiscal Balance
  • Government Debt
  • Trade (Import and Export)

SADC social indicators represented here are:

  • Life Expectancy
  • HIV Prevalence Rate
  • Labour market (Employment)
  • Gender (women seats in parliament).

Summary Facts and Figures

Indicator Information Indicator Data
Member States 16

Trade                                                   Total Import

                                                            Total Export

Year Established 1992 Average Government Debt (2015; % of GDP) 42.8%
Land Area 556 781 Km² Average Life Expectancy (2018) 61.0%
Total Population (2018) 345 Million Average HIV Prevalence  11.3%
GDP Annual Growth Rate (2018) 1.8 % Gender (proportion of seats held by women in parliament)-2018 23%
GDP (2018) USD $721.3 Billion GDP Contribution: Services (2015) 59.4%
Inflation (2018) 7.1 % GDP Contribution: Industry (2015) 20.3%
Fiscal Balance (2018) -3.1 % GDP Contribution: Agriculture (2015) 20.2%

Gross Domestic Product

The total aggregated SADC real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rates are presented in the table below.

Table 1: GDP growth rate 2007-2018 (Average SADC)

Year 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
GDP Rate 6.8 5.1 0.2 4.5 4.2 4.5 4.0 3.5 2.2 1.5 2.1

Source: SADC Selected Indicators 2018

Sector Contributors to GDP

For the SADC region, service sectors represent half of SADCs’ GDP in 2015 and thus are the main driver of regional growth. The table below shows sectors’ contribution to regional GDP.

Table 2: Sectoral contribution to GDP for SADC (2015)

Sector Services Industry Agriculture
%GDP Contribution 59.4 20.3 20.2

Source: SADC Statistics Yearbook 2016

Government Revenue

Government revenue as a percentage to GDP is shown in the next table:

Table 3: Government revenue, excluding grants as percentage of GDP for SADC

Year 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
% GDP 27.2 28.9 25.6 26.6 27.8 27.6 26.8 25.9 24.5 23.1 23.0 24.1

Source: International Monetary Fund, Regional Economic Outlook Database, September 2019


The average inflation rate for SADC is shown below. 

Table 4: Inflation rate for SADC (Average) 

Year 2007* 2008* 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Inflation Rate 8.9 13.4 10.8 7.0 7.5 8.7 6.4 5.3 5.4 9.2 10.1 7.1

Source: SADC Selected Indicators 2018/*Average without Zimbabwe

Fiscal Balance

The overall fiscal balance (including grants) is calculated as revenue minus total expenditure. The table below shows the SADC Fiscal balance from 2007 to 2018. 

Table 5: Overall Fiscal balance including grants (% of GDP) 

Year 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
% GDP   -1.2 -4.3 -2.7 -1.1 -1.8 -1.6 -2.4 -3.6 -4.2 -4.3 -3.1

Source: FIC Directorate SADC/From Member States, July 2019

Government Debt

Government Debt as a % of GDP remains almost stable in the last 3 years. SADC is well within its macroeconomic convergence target of 60% (see table below).

Table 6: Government debt (% of GDP)

Year 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
% GDP 28.5 30.4 36.5 34.1 34.9 35.7 38.5 41.7 48.0 52.8 52.4 56.1

Source: International Monetary Fund, Regional Economic Outlook Database, September 2019


SADC total trade has followed a similar pattern to total world trade. Total SADC trade almost quadrupled between 2000 and 2011 from US$ 91089.52 million in 2000 to US$ 353636.4 million in 2011, although there was a sharp decline of more than 25% in 2009 as a result of the global economic crisis.

Exports and Imports

Main intra SADC trade export items include petroleum oils, agricultural products, electricity and some clothing and textile products. Main export items to the rest of the world consist of predominantly export of resources (e.g. coal, ferrochromium, manganese ores, platinum, as well as precious metals and diamonds), resource intensive manufactured goods, mainly for the automotive industry, some clothing and textiles, and tobacco.

The highest share of total SADC exports over time is to the Asia Pacific Market, followed by the EU market. Trade within Africa is the smallest and of this the majority is intra SADC trade (See table below). 

Table 7: Overall direction of SADC Exports (2000-2010)

Regional Economic Community/Continent Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) European Union (EU) Rest of World Intra-SADC Rest of Africa
% Export 45 27 15 10 3

Source: IMF DOT

Total intra SADC imports have grown steadily over the past ten years, more than tripling in total. As with intra SADC exports, imports also experienced a significant fall in 2009 due to the global recession.

Table 8: Overall direction of SADC Imports (2000-2010)

Regional Economic Community/Continent Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) European Union (EU) Rest of World Rest of Africa
% Import 45 27 15 13

Source: IMF DOT

Life Expectancy

Although life expectancy has improved over the last ten years in all SADC member states except in South Africa, there are significant variations across the region. Mauritius and the Seychelles continue to have the highest life expectancy at 73 years, whereas the lowest life expectancy is found in Lesotho at only 46.7 years. The average life expectancy in SADC between 2000 and 2009 was 52.8. According to records life expectancy across Regional Economic Communities (RECs), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has the highest life expectancy, followed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and SADC.

HIV Prevalence Rate

Prevalence of HIV refers to the percentage of people ages 15-49 that are infected with HIV.

The rates are on a declining trend for the decade (2000 to 2009) under review, except for Swaziland where the rate has increased. At the regional level, SADC records the highest rates, followed by COMESA and East African Community (EAC). ECOWAS has the lowest prevalence rate only averaging 2 % in 2001-2009.

Labour Market and Employment

The Labour force participation rate measures the proportion of a country’s working-age population working or actively looking for work.  The lowest percentage of women participating in the work force is in Mauritius; South Africa and Namibia both have a relatively low percentage of working-age population, male and female, working or looking for work. The highest percentage of labour force participation for both female and male is found in Tanzania, (86% and 93% respectively)

Unemployment rates as a share of total labour force by gender are higher among females than males in all SADC countries. Unemployment among young women is especially high in South Africa, Namibia and Lesotho.


SADC aims to achieve its goals and objectives through mainstreaming of gender in all its programmes and enhancement of the role of women in development. In all SADC countries (where data available) bar Botswana, the percentage of women in national parliament has increased over the last decade. Women are underrepresented in paid employment (outside the agricultural sector). Looking at the proportion of males and females who are employers rather than employees, the proportion of females is lower than that of males in all SADC countries.