What is REIS?
In March 2013, the SADC Secretariat and the European Union (EU) signed a Contribution Agreement (CA) to usher in yet another programme to support regional economic integration in SADC, the “Regional Economic Integration Support Programme (REIS)”. This is a four-year Programme, implemented by the Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment (TIFI) Directorate and financed to the tune of €19.6 million under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF).
The main objective of the REIS programme is to support economic growth and poverty alleviation in SADC through various interventions in some selected areas of regional economic integration, including investment; cross-border payments; tax coordination; technical barriers to trade and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures; trade in services and the EU – SADC Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).
Improving the Investment Climate
The REIS Programme promotes investment in SADC by supporting measures aimed at improving the investment climate and doing business environment in the region. This is in order to attract both regional and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
Key interventions to improve the investment climate are mainly through:
- Supporting the implementation of elements of the SADC Regional Action Programme for Investment (RAPI), which include the development and implementation of the Investment Policy Framework (IPF) so that Member States can implement regulatory reforms and benchmark themselves against best practices;
- Providing a platform through the Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) forum to facilitate peer to peer learning opportunities among the SADC IPAs in areas of excellence;
- Facilitating the development and maintenance of the SADC Investment Regime Database as a transparent regional investment information platform for potential investors; and
- Through the SADC Model Bilateral Investment Treaty Template, assist Member States to review the current content of their investment treaties in the light of regional development goals for sustainable development.
Facilitating Cross-Border Payments
The REIS Programme supports the modernization and harmonization of payments and clearing systems; both domestically and regionally in order to achieve increased safety of payments and faster settlement and payment processes. Modernization of the payment and clearance systems will also lead to simplified processing of payment transactions; thereby leading to safe, secure and cost-effective way of making payments; domestically and across borders within SADC. Key interventions to modernise the systems include:
- Facilitating the adoption of domestic Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) by all SADC Member States;
- Facilitating the implementation of a SADC Integrated Regional Electronic Settlement System (SIRESS);
- Harmonising the regional legal and regulatory frameworks to facilitate regional clearing and settlement; and
- Reducing the costs of workers remittances within the SADC region.
Since the implementation of cross border clearing and settlement systems requires combined oversight arrangements, the REIS Programme supports the oversight role of the payment systems by strengthening the oversight arrangements, legal and regulatory framework.
Promoting a Level Playing Field for Tax Systems
The REIS Programme facilitates coordination between the Member States on tax issues to enhance the business environment and promote investment, whilst growing domestic revenues to reduce external dependencies and to provide alternatives to customs duties. Key interventions supported by REIS include:
- Supporting a common approach to tax incentives to avoid harmful tax competition between Member States, whilst encouraging sustainable investment and avoiding unnecessary revenue given away;
- Promoting the use of tax agreements to provide certainty with regards to which jurisdiction collects the tax, avoid the double taxation of investors as well as to provide for information exchange between Member States to protect their revenues from tax avoidance and evasion; and
- Supporting the coordination of the Value Added Tax (VAT) and excise tax regimes in the SADC region, to avoid creating opportunities for smuggling and fraud and to provide standardisation for businesses operating in different Member States.
Further support provided by REIS is in the areas of improving the SADC Tax Database as a tool for investors, capacity building for tax officials to raise standards in line with international best practice and implementing a tax dispute resolution mechanism.
Reducing Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT)
Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) are a key impediment to trade in SADC and between SADC and other regions of the world. TBTs arise as a result of exporters failing to meet legitimate technical requirements of importing countries, and importing countries imposing unnecessary standards and conditions for imported goods. The REIS Programme assists in addressing these problems by supporting the implementation of the TBT Annex to the SADC Protocol on Trade. The support is aimed at assisting Member States to harmonise their standards and technical regulations based on international standards. This will enhance regional and international trade opportunities for SADC Member States; thereby creating more employment, economic growth and reducing poverty levels. Key interventions supported by REIS include:
- Studies to establish the standards and technical regulations that are creating barriers to trade in the region;
- Awareness raising campaigns on Standards, Quality Assurance, Accreditation and Metrology (SQAM) in order to increase the uptake of conformity assessment services by the public and private sectors;
- Development of a strategy to prepare Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs) for accreditation; and
- Training lead & technical assessors to provide accreditation services.
Promoting Safer Markets for Agricultural Commodities and Agro-Processed Goods - Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures
Agriculture plays a pivotal role in SADC with agricultural products and agro-processed goods being key export commodities for the Member States. Lack of compliance with Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures is however a major problem that undermines trade and as a result, significant potential trade revenue is lost. In order to address this problem, the REIS Programme supports the implementation of the SPS Annex to the SADC Protocol on Trade. The aim of the support is to increase the number of traded agricultural commodities and agro-processed goods that are compliant with the international SPS standards. Key interventions supported include:
- Harmonisation of SADC SPS measures, based on international standards;
- Creating awareness among farmers and exporters in SADC on SPS measures relevant to products traded within SADC, the Tripartite Region, Africa and internationally.
Promoting Intra-SADC Trade-in Services
Member States are negotiating in order to liberalize Trade in Services in the region. These are a series of rounds of bilateral negotiations, in which Member States meet on a one-to-one basis to discuss the requests they have made and the offers that have been submitted to all SADC Member States.
The REIS Programme supports the SADC Secretariat in its mandate to coordinate and provide secretarial support for the negotiations and for monitoring their progress. The main intervention supported is the facilitation of the Member States’ participation at the Trade Negotiation Forum (TNF-Services) meetings. Target groups for the support are Technical Officials, Committee of Senior Officials (CSO), representatives from the private sector and TIFI officials.
Facilitating Market Access to the EU - Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs)
Some SADC Member States (Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland) are currently negotiating EPAs with the EU under the SADC EPA Configuration. A successful conclusion of the negotiations on goods and services chapters will facilitate enhanced market access to the EU. To achieve this, the REIS Programme supports the participation of SADC EPA negotiators and the private sector in the negotiations. The REIS Programme also provides capacity building for effective participation of relevant stakeholders in the negotiations and eventual implementation of the Agreement. In addition, the programme will undertake capacity building to enhance availability of quality data on trade, especially with respect to trade in services.
Upon conclusion of the negotiations, focus will be on monitoring implementation and support to the various implementation structures.