n Journal for Contemporary History - Die Suider-Afrikaanse Doeane-unie (SADU)

Volume 28, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0258-2422
  • E-ISSN: 2415-0509



Southern Africa has a longer successful history of customs unions than any other part of the world. The Customs Union Convention of 1889 between the Cape Colony and the Orange Free State evolved to the present Southern African Customs Union (SACU) with participant countries South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia. The revenue distribution formulae of 1910 and 1969 and especially the stabilisation factor of 1976 gave political advantages to South Africa and economic benefits to the neighbouring countries. The political change in South Africa during 1994 also necessitates the renegotiation of the customs union agreement. Two issues should receive urgent attention. The first is the correct calculation of South Africa's share in the formula and not only as the residue. The second is the exclusion of excise duties from the formula. The dependence of most neighbouring countries on the customs union revenue was the most important obstacle in negotiating a new formula. The SACU is too important an institution in Southern Africa to ignore or neglect. It might in future turn out to be an indispensable element in a viable structure of regional co-operation and welfare creation in Southern Africa.

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