19 Aug 2021 / 14:00 to 15:15
Regional growth
Policy dialogue

SA-TIED policy dialogue - Strengthening regional economic development in southern Africa

On 19 August, the SA-TIED programme will host its final in a series of policy dialogues to enhance engagement on pertinent economic and social issues facing southern Africa. 

This policy dialogue will be hosted under the work stream on Regional growth for southern Africa’s prosperity and will discuss strengthening regional economic development.

COVID-19 has created a trade crisis in southern Africa with a dramatic slowdown in cross-border trade. The crisis, which exposed weaknesses and deficiencies in the trade facilitation regimes, presents an opportunity for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to address and contribute to greater levels of trade within Africa.

What is the impact of the border closures in response to the pandemic, and its impact on trade and the movement of goods in and out of the southern African development community? How then should the AfCFTA address the long-term problems of weak trade facilitation systems and bring in measures that would advance greater intra-regional co-operation?

Special Economic Zones (SEZs) have become common across southern Africa in the past 20 years. In line with experiences in the rest of the world, they have had at best marginal success. Their essential premise is that it should be more efficient and effective to establish an enclave with world-class administration and infrastructure than to address cross-cutting blockages to growth. In east Asia, this approach was able to build on a broader national industrialization trajectory. In southern Africa, by contrast, it has proved unable to offset the main constraints on investment. The case of SEZs underscores the need to develop effective methodologies to test whether policy solutions developed in very different circumstances are viable in southern Africa.

Plastics are ubiquitous across the region and play an important role in multiple industries. Most plastics products are based on a value chain that is grounded in petroleum refining, posing an environmental challenge. Plastic manufacturing in South Africa suffers from the high cost of inputs. Mozambique is endowed with large deposits of natural gas. What then is the potential for the sustainable development of a plastics value chain in southern Africa?

About the policy dialogue 

The policy dialogue will begin with a synthesis of research findings produced under the work stream on Regional growth for southern Africa’s prosperity by Saul Levin, TIPS executive director.

Following the synthesis presentation, speakers will dive into the main topics listed below. The discussion will be moderated by Mashudu Masutha, media liaison for South Africa’s Minister of Finance.

The following issues will be explored in the discussion:

  • To what extent can SEZs be used as a policy tool for supporting industrialization, and what lessons can we learn from two decades of SEZs in southern Africa;

  • The initial responses to COVID-19 in southern Africa saw border closures and lockdowns being implemented. These issues are discussed in the context of trade facilitation in southern Africa and its implications for the AfCFTA;

  • Exploration of the upstream plastics sector as a regional value chain (RVC), and the possibilities of supporting the growth of this RVC and ‘future-proofing’ it against a number of headwinds.


Saul Levin, executive director at TIPS

Neva Makgetla, senior economist at TIPS

Faizel Ismail, research fellow at TIPS

Liako Mofo, senior economist at TIPS


Register for the policy dialogue here