OPINION: The role of trade mainstreaming in Sadc

Saturday August 31 2019

Honest Ngowi

Honest Ngowi 

By Honest Prosper Ngowi

The 4th Southern African Development Cooperation (Sadc) industrialisation week and its 39th summit were hosted in Tanzania during August 2019. The new Sadc Chair President Magufuli delivered his acceptance speech on 17th August.

The 32 paged speech has huge economic and business tone, messages and issues. Among the key issues include intra-Sadc trade.

Among the current thinking in development discourse include mainstreaming trade in various visions, policies, plans, strategies, programmes, projects and even budgets.

In this article the author outlines the role of trade mainstreaming as a game changer in Sadc.

On trade

Trade can be described as the act of exchanging goods and services between various transaction parties.


It is a commercial transaction that involves selling and purchasing goods and services. Trade can be local and/or international. It can also be trade in goods and/or trade in services. The first category is trade on physical, tangible and seen products such as food items, minerals, machines and equipment. The latter category involves trade in intangible and unseen services such as transport, insurance and consultancy services.

Role of trade

Trade matters for economic development of a country, community, household and individuals. Among other things, it supports livelihoods, drives innovation and improves quality of life.

Trade touches all aspects of human development. It is essential in development of virtually all sectors of the economy. It is important for bring about and enhancing inter-sectoral linkages. Trade unlocks development potentials and can awaken sleeping giants thereby opening up and linking communities, households and individuals to socioeconomic opportunities. Trade has the potential to contribute to the governments coffers in forms of various kinds of revenues. These include but are not limited to fees, charges, fines and taxes. Need not to say, trade provides substantial direct and indirect employment thereby giving incomes and contributing in poverty alleviation.

Trade mainstreaming

The concept of trade mainstreaming can be described in various ways. Basically however, it revolves around integrating various trade issues in all national development plans, various sectoral strategies and action plans, in private sector undertakings, in policies, in programs and projects. It also involves integrating trade issues in regional and national budget as well as in countries’ relations with their various development partners.

Trade mainstreaming implies using trade polices strategically and proactively instead of reactively in order to attain specific regional and national development goals. These goals include but are not limited to attaining targeted macro-economic variables such as economic growth, employment, inflation, investments, balance of payment, national debt as well as poverty reduction. Trade is a cross-cutting issue. It is virtually relevant and present in all sectors of the economy such as mining, agriculture, tourism, land, natural resources and many others.

Mainstreaming as game changer

Given what trade is and its importance in attaining country’s economic development if well undertaken and facilitated, trade stands to be the game changer in SADC’s economic development. It stands to unlock locked economic potentials as well as awaken sleeping giants across the bloc. If its potential is well taped, trade stands to bring about rapid and great economic development thereby attaining various Sadc goals that at the end of the day boil down to poverty reduction.

Known interventions

Among the known interventions to mainstream trade in Tanzania include the ‘’Capacity Development for Mainstreaming Trade - Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF)- Tier 1’’ project. The project aimed to strengthen the capacity of institutions such as Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as well as private sector and civil society organizations (CSOs) to mainstream trade in formulating and implementing pro-poor trade policies. These are policies that among other things, support inclusive and sustainable growth. Other SADC countries can peak a leaf or two from this intervention as Tanzania can do from similar interventions elsewhere in Sadc.

Ways forward

Trade mainstreaming is arguably a new concept and practice in some Sadc countries. Being at its infancy stage of development, trade mainstreaming has to be well known.

This calls for various forms of capacity building including training. Once well known, the concept has to be implemented. The point of departure could be making in-depth analysis of the extent to which trade is mainstreamed in various Sadc countries.

Where they are not mainstreamed, dedicated efforts have to be made to ensure that mainstreaming sees the light of the day accordingly. Short of that, we as a people and economic bloc will shamefully miss the opportunities availed by the good practice of trade mainstreaming.

The author is professor of economics, a researcher and consultant based at Mzumbe University Dar es Salaam Business School.