Regional Economic Integration in the Southern African Development Community (SADC): Analysing the Dynamics and Performance

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This article analyses the dynamics and performance of regional economic integration in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It proposes an innovative theoretical approach to the analysis of regionalism that refers to cooperation theory and takes the impact of external actors explicitly into account. The motivation for this research stems from the observation of a new wave of regionalism in the Global South. Many of these new or reformed regional integration organisations (RIOs) comprise of developing countries, particularly in Africa. In contrast to expectations of most mainstream integration theories, new regionalisms in the Southern Hemisphere have come into existence and show considerable degrees of dynamics and institutional performance. However, there is evidence that regionalisms in the Global South are less stable than in the North and not always entirely under control of regional actors only. This puzzling observation, of which the SADC gives an example, has motivated research for this article. Its central aim is to explain the recent integration dynamics and performance of the organisation in its key policy area, namely the economy. By applying a situation-structural approach to analyse and explain the development of institutionalised regional integration, the author argues that patterns of strong and asymmetric interdependence between regional and extra-regional actors may have an ambivalent impact on the genuine structure of regional cooperation problems, institution-building and institutional performance. The article illustrates and explains this on the example of SADC’s key economic integration projects: the SADC Free Trade Area and the scheduled SADC Customs Union.

About the authors

Johannes Muntschick

Johannes Gutenberg-University

PhD (Political Science), Postdoc Research Fellow and Lecturer, Department of Political Science (International Relations Unit) Mainz, Germany


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