Anatomy of the Southern African Customs Union: Structure and Revenue Volatility

12 September 2013
Publication Type: Working Paper
JEL Code: H27, H50, N17

This paper studies the evolution of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), tracing it from its inception in 1889 as the Customs Union Convention, the world’s first customs union, to its current status. While the union has operated under different agreements, which have been negotiated and renegotiated with changing circumstances, the study identifies the agreements of 1889, 1910, 1969 and 2002 as key to the union’s transformation. It is observed that SACU has evolved from a geopolitical organisation with a repressive colonial foundation to a well-integrated regional trading bloc that is perceived as a possible springboard for larger regional trading blocs in Africa. The study further explores evidence of declining SACU revenue, and investigates its implications on government expenditures in the small members of the union, namely, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland (BLNS Countries). It is found that among the members of the union, Lesotho and Swaziland are the most dependent on SACU transfers and consequently the most vulnerable to the current downward trend in SACU revenue. While Namibia has traditionally relied on diamond exports, it has also been receiving large SACU transfers relative to its GDP. In addition, the study observes that the present SACU revenue sharing formula adopted in 2002 exposes the BLNS countries to instabilities arising from global business cycles more than it does South Africa.

Working paper 374
1 September 2013

International Business & Economics Research Journal

Related South Africa’s Cities and Growth Spatial Challenges and Policy Interventions Content

South Africa’s future will be decided in our cities
Discussion Document 14 South Africa’s cities face multiple, overlap...
Published: 23 June 2023
Discussion Document
Monitoring South Africa’s metropolitan economies: A survey of the data landscape
Discussion Document 13 Disparities in data across different metropo...
Published: 22 May 2023
Discussion Document
Cities, productivity and Jobs in SA: Problems and potential
Discussion Document 12 Cities contribute to national prosperity bec...
Published: 22 May 2023
Discussion Document
Place-based economic policies: international lessons for South Africa
Discussion Document 11 Place-based policies are designed to support...
Published: 22 May 2023
Discussion Document
What luminosity data can and cannot reveal about South Africa’s urban economies
Discussion Document 10 As novel types of data are becoming availabl...
Published: 22 May 2023
Discussion Document
Crime: A policy-oriented survey
Discussion Document 9 South Africa has a reputation for having high...
Published: 22 May 2023
Discussion Document
Virtual CDE Workshop on SA Cities and Growth
Urban economics has provided powerful insights into how the charact...
Published: 12 December 2022

Search Resources

Ground Floor Brookside Building
11 Imam Haron Road
Claremont, 7700
Cape Town

PostNet Suite # 109
Private Bag X1005
Claremont 7735
Cape Town

Get Social