Fast-Tracking the SADC Integration Agenda to Unlock Regional Collaboration Gains along Growth Corridors in Southern Africa

Alexis Habiyaremye


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.

Full Text:



CABOZ, J. (2020). Watch: A R3.9 Billion Bridge Linking Durban to the Democratic Republic of the Congo Comes to Life. Business Insider: South Africa. Retrieved from

CHIDEDE, T. (2017). Intra-SADC Trade Remains Limited: How Can It Be Boosted? Tralac Trade Law Centre. Retrieved from

CIA WORLD FACTBOOK. (2019). Infrastructure Indicators for Various Countries. Retrieved from

CROSS-BORDER ROAD TRANSPORT AGENCY. (2017). Annual State of Cross-Border Transport Report. Retrieved from

ENAIFOGHE, A.O. (2019). South Africa’s Politics of Regional Integration in SADC and its Socio-Economic Implications. Journal of African Foreign Affairs, 6, 85–105.

FAROLE, T., & MOBERG, L. (2017). Special Economic Zones in Africa, Political Economy Challenges and Solutions. In: PAGE, J., & TARP, F. (eds.) The Practice of Industrial Policy: Government-Business Coordination in Africa and East Asia. Oxford University Press, pp. 234–254.

FESARTA. (2017). SADC Border Chaos - First Fatality. Retrieved from

HARTZENBERG, T., & MWANZA, W. (2015). Review of SADC’s Market Integration Agenda: Opportunities and Challenges for Regional Industrial Development. Retrieved from

INFRASTRUCTURE NEWS. (2016). North–South Corridor Africa’s Main Vein. Retrieved from

INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT. (2016). Rural Development Report 2016: Fostering Inclusive Rural Transformation. Retrieved from

LALL, S., HENDERSON, J., & VENABLES, A. (2017). Africa’s Cities: Opening Doors to the World. Washington, District of Columbia: The World Bank. Retrieved from

LEWIS, W.A. (1954). Economic Development with Unlimited Supplies of Labor. The Manchester, 22, 139–191.

MUNDELL, R. (1961) A Theory of Optimum Currency Areas. American Economic Review, 51, 657–665. Retrieved from

NEWMAN, C., & PAGE, J.M. (2017). Industrial Clusters: The Case for Special Economic Zones in Africa. Helsinki: United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research.

NGARACHU, A., WOOD, C., KROGMAN, H., TSHUMA, E., MUDENDA, D., & GRANT MAKOKERA, C. (2018). Border Economies. Pretoria: GEG.

REEG, C. (2017). Spatial Development Initiatives – Potentials, Challenges and Policy Lessons. Bonn: Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik.

SOUTHERN AFRICA DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY. (2016a). Protocol on Trade in the Southern African Development Community. Gaborone: SADC Secretariat.

SOUTHERN AFRICA DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY. (2016b). SADC Statistical Yearbook 2015. Gaborone: SADC Secretariat. Retrieved from

SOUTHERN AFRICA DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY. (2019). SADC Selected Economic and Social Indicators. Gaborone: SADC Secretariat.

TUROK, I., & HABIYAREMYE, A. (2020). Territorial Collaboration: A Third Way to Spread Prosperity? Regional Studies, 52, 1776-1786.

VANHEUKELOM, J., & BERTELSMANN-SCOTT, T. (2016). The Political Economy of Regional Integration in Africa. Retrieved from

WORLD BANK. (2010). Africa’s Infrastructure: A Time for Transformation. Retrieved from

WORLD BANK. (2019). Belt and Road Economics: Opportunities and Risks of Transport Corridors. Retrieved from


  • There are currently no refbacks.