The 8th SACU Summit: A Step Towards a Unified and Collaborative Future

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On June 29, 2023, the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) held its 8th Summit in Mandvulo, Eswatini. The summit brought together the Heads of State or Government of SACU member countries, including Eswatini, South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia, and Botswana.

Welcoming the Executive Secretary and Addressing Global Developments

The summit began with a warm welcome to Mr. Thabo David Khasipe, the newly appointed Executive Secretary of SACU. The leaders discussed global developments, specifically the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and its impact on the economies of the SACU Member States. These effects include supply chain disruptions, instability in food and energy markets, and a pessimistic global economic outlook for 2023.

Collaborating to Address Challenges

To address these challenges, the leaders emphasized the importance of continued close collaboration among the SACU Member States. They commended the progress made in implementing the SACU Strategic Plan, approved in June 2022, which focuses on industrialization, trade facilitation and logistics, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), unified engagement with third parties, finance and resource mobilization, and the effectiveness of SACU institutions.

Progress in Trade Facilitation and Logistics, and Industrialization

The summit noted the completion of an Operational Plan to guide the implementation of the Trade Facilitation and Logistics Programme. This included digital transformation and infrastructure development projects, interconnectivity of Customs IT management systems, and the implementation of the Authorised Economic Operator Programme, with 176 authorized economic operators. In the field of industrialization, the member states prioritized ready-to-implement projects, particularly those in the meat, leather, fruits and vegetables, textiles, and pharmaceutical sectors. The summit also acknowledged the establishment of a task team in response to the directive in June 2022 to prioritize fertilizer, agro-chemicals, and seed production.

Ratification of the AfCFTA Agreement

The leaders expressed their appreciation for the ratification of the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA by all SACU Member States. The SACU Provisional Schedule of Tariff Concession (PSTC) to the AfCFTA was adopted on May 31, 2023, outlining a full tariff reduction of 90 percent over ten years.

Strengthening of SACU Institutions

The summit also discussed the efforts to strengthen the governance and effectiveness of SACU institutions, noting a Ministerial Retreat held on June 27, 2023, to address key policy and strategic matters. The leaders called for the extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) for the current beneficiary countries, acknowledging its expiry in 2025. In a notable development, the summit congratulated Professor Edward Kieswetter, Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (SARS), on his appointment as the Chair of the World Customs Organisation (WCO).

The Future Looks Promising

The Kingdom of Lesotho is set to assume the Chairmanship of SACU from July 15, 2023, to July 14, 2024, succeeding the Kingdom of Eswatini. The leaders commended King Mswati III of Eswatini for his exceptional leadership and guidance during his term as the Chair of SACU and congratulated Prime Minister Samuel Matekane on assuming the Chairmanship. The 8th Summit of the SACU Heads of State or Government demonstrated the importance of collaboration, unity, and strategic planning in addressing the challenges faced by the region. As the member states continue to work together, the future looks promising for the Southern African Customs Union.

A Russian-Spanish journalist and Cape Town native, channels his lifelong passion for South Africa into captivating stories for his local blog. With a diverse background and 50 years of rich experiences, Serjio's unique voice resonates with readers seeking to explore Cape Town's vibrant culture. His love for the city shines through in every piece, making Serjio the go-to source for the latest in South African adventures.

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