Development in Southern Africa has traditionally occurred along routes that connect areas of industry with areas of trade. From industrial sites, raw materials pass along highways, railways, canals, and pipelines to ports for export, while finished products travel back through the same corridors. As a result, Infrastructure has been concentrated along these routes.
With the rapid development occurring in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, these geographic corridors are growing in importance, as they enable other sectors to maximise their productivity. However, infrastructural bottlenecks along these corridors – poor roads and bridges, confusing border logistics, and complex customs procedures – often hamper operations of these other industries.
SADC recognises that these transport corridors require special attention. Therefore, in its Protocol on Transport, Communication and Meteorology, it calls for the creation of Corridor Planning Committees to focus on specific strategies for development along the region’s key corridors.
Corridor Planning Committees and Spatial Development Initiatives
These Corridor Planning Committees are cross-border entities comprised of both public and private stakeholders from transport and infrastructure authorities, customs authorities, trade and industry bodies, and users of the development corridors. These Committees are charged with determining specific requirements of their respective corridor and overseeing plans for their development.
Following from initial successes in South Africa, developments throughout SADC have followed the Spatial Development Initiative model. This model serves as an integrated planning tool for promoting development in regions that exhibit strong growth potential; it offers systems through which the public sector crafts conditions attractive to private investment and public-private partnerships, rather than heavy government intervention.
The Maputo Development Corridor
While South Africa has struck 11 Spatial Development Initiatives, the Maputo Development Corridor succeeded most noticeably. This corridor, which restores the historic trade route between the landlocked provinces of Gauteng and Mpumalanga in South Africa to the port of Maputo in Mozambique, has drawn extensive investment into the sub-region. Initial upgrades to basic infrastructure proved profitable, which in turn spurred further public and private investment into transport and communications infrastructure. In addition, industrial infrastructure projects such as the BHP Billiton Mozal aluminium smelter have set up in Maputo, creating jobs and fostering further Economic Development.
Since this success, SADC has applied a similar methodology to other potential development corridors. While the Maputo Development Corridor still attracts investment, the 2012 Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan also highlighted two other corridors as high priority: the North-South Corridor and the Dar-es-Salaam Corridor. Along with other medium-priority corridors in the region, such as the Beira and Nacala Multimodal Corridor, these two corridors offer the greatest potential for growth as key hubs for development in the future.
While transportation corridors rely on “hard” infrastructure, such as roads, railways, and marine waterways, the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan determined that only 25% of transport delays occur due to physical infrastructure problems. Rather, 75% of delays stem from poor facilitation of existing infrastructure. In particular, complicated border procedures and customs regulations cause transport interruptions of up to 24 hours, which significantly harms trade in the region; these inefficient operations were estimated to have cost regional businesses US $50 million in 1996, stifling the region’s ability to compete on a global scale.
For this reason, SADC is committed to reducing such non-tarff barriers to trade, particularly in the form of disparate border practices. In its Protocol on Trade, SADC recommends the harmonisation of customs practices throughout the region in order to prevent excessive delays at borders and to allow the region’s trade to flourish. While all Member States have complied with a region-wide free trade agreement, only Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland have thus far signed into the Southern African Customs Union.