Fast-Tracking the SADC Integration Agenda to Unlock Regional Collaboration Gains along Growth Corridors in Southern Africa
Despite more than two decades of economic integration efforts, levels of spatial development inequality remain high within the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Owing to persistent delays in the implementation of the SADC integration agenda, infrastructure connectivity is still overly inefficient, while cumbersome customs also continue to impede the free movement of goods and services. This hampers the growth potential of planned spatial development initiatives in the region. This research has two main goals: to identify the main structural and socioeconomic factors that explain the slow integration process and to explore how the development of regional growth corridors within SADC could help ease existing connectivity bottlenecks and unlock the dynamic gains of closer intra-regional collaboration. This study contributes to the literature on special economic zones (SEZ) by exploring the role of territorial collaboration between metropolitan clusters and rural areas connected by transport corridors in overcoming the structural challenges that hamper the emergence of dynamic growth corridors. Our findings indicate structural weaknesses in the commonality of cultural identity among member states as well as the power imbalances in the regional body constituting the main impediments to stronger regional integration. Skills gaps and misalignment of regulations are equally found to slow down the region’s industrialization ambitions and hamper its ability to e successfully deploy transnational growth corridors as a development strategy. This study therefore also explores the absorptive capacity requirements for structural transformation and surveys existing facilities and incentives for technological capability building. We recommend an integrative approach combining intensive skills development to facilitate the absorption of foreign technologies and a stronger harmonization of regulations in the regional block to strengthen common identity and foster greater mobility of intra-regional capital investments, as well as a free movement of locally produced goods and services.
Keywords: growth corridors, intra-regional trade, regional integration, Southern African Development Community, structural transformation.
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