n Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa - Flexible integration : a viable technique for the process of deeper integration in the Southern African Development Community (SADC)

Volume 45, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0010-4051



Integration in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is deepening to the extent that the organisation is being tasked with greater responsibilities. However, deeper integration is unlikely to occur within a framework of uniformity; hence, the process of deepening integration may demand flexibility. Flexibility is necessary because SADC member states are likely to differ in their views about the way forward, and how much of their national sovereignty they are willing to trade for the benefits of SADC membership. One example of a critical difference, as SADC prepares for the customs union, is the use of import tariffs. South Africa and Mauritius are increasingly using this as an instrument of industrial policy. On the other hand, poor countries such as Lesotho and Swaziland, are using it as a source of revenue. It is about time that SADC member states realise and accept that these differences will persist rather than wither away. Flexibility does not have to be read as a brake on integration. On the contrary, flexibility offers the most useful means of balancing different national interests, thereby allowing progress to be made in SADC as a whole. This paper seeks to draw lessons for flexible integration from the European Union (EU). Such an undertaking is considered relevant as SADC has made a laudable effort to follow the EU model of regional integration. Part 1 of this paper attempts to define flexible integration within the context of SADC regional integration and the experiences of the EU, while part 2 deals with the rationale for employing flexible integration in SADC. Part 3 discusses the challenges of flexibility and, finally, part 4 outlines ways in which SADC can make flexibility work.

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