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SADC free trade becomes a reality

The Namibian, Namibia

SADC free trade becomes a reality

By Brigitte Weidlich

1 August 2008

The long-awaited free trade area (FTA) for southern Africa will be launched on August 17 during the annual summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

It will be preceded by a comprehensive information campaign across al 14 member states.

Launching the information campaign for Namibia in Windhoek yesterday, Mvula ya Nangolo, special advisor to the Information Ministry, said the removal of import and export tariffs and trade barriers among the SADC countries would bring regional economic integration a huge step further.

Reading the speech of Information Minister Joel Kaapanda, who could not attend the event, Ya Nangolo said the FTA would bring more opportunity to market goods and the removal of tariffs would increase competition and make them more affordable for customers.

"People at all levels of our society will be affected by the trade and business activities during the implementation of the FTA and the freer flow of goods will enable larger variety of choice, although the new economic order will require knowledge and skills to enter the larger market are of the sub-region."

By August 17, 12 of the 14 SADC member states will have established the FTA.

This creates a regional market worth US$360 billion with a total population of 170 million and includes economies growing by up to 7 per cent a year such as Mozambique.

Angola and the DR Congo are set to join the FTA later, adding a further US$71 billion and 77 million people to the SADC market.

South Africa, Botswana and Namibia already removed most tariffs in 2000.

Middle-income countries such as Mauritius have gradually reduced their tariffs each year until this year.

For least developed countries such as Mozambique and Zambia, tariff reductions have generally been introduced during 2007-08.

After the launch on August 17, producers and consumers in the 12 SADC countries will pay no import tariffs on an estimated 85 per cent of all trade in goods.

The SADC regional integration programme includes the establishment of the FTA by 2008, a customs union by 2010, a common market by 2015, a monetary union by 2016 and a single currency by 2018.