TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Trade hub to address poverty reduction in SADC region

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Source: Mmegi (Botswana)

The recently launched Southern Africa Trade Hub (SATH) is set to play a key role in addressing challenges of economic growth and poverty reduction in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region.

Officially launching the initiative in Gaborone last Thursday, US Ambassador to Botswana Stephen Nolan said he strongly believed that increased trade is key to achieving greater economic growth and poverty reduction in the region. "It is particularly important to address the challenge of food security in many countries. I am confident that this expanded engagement by the US in promoting competitiveness and regional trade will have a deep, long-lasting and positive effect," he said.

The hub was originally established by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2002 with the goal of enhancing exports under the US-Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), but has over the years expanded its scope of activities to support new initiatives within the region. In recent years, the Trade Hub has supported implementation of the SADC free trade agreement as well as assisting in modernising customs procedures and improving the flow of goods along transport corridors. It has also helped the SADC countries to develop bond markets and remove regulatory barriers to greater investment in the energy sector. It has had its headquarters temporarily in Gaborone since its inception.

Ambassador Nolan said the new trade hub would build on the solid foundation laid down over the last eight years.

He said the hub's focus will be on increasing international competitiveness, intra-regional trade, and food security in the SADC region and the new team at the hub will take the programme to an even higher level of effectiveness.

The new five-year project will be implemented by AECOM International Development and will have a budget of US$ 80 million over the set period. The regional and international experts in the hub team will deliver targeted technical assistance to governments, the private sector and civil society organisations throughout the SADC region.

"The aim is to help stakeholders strengthen regional and global trade linkages and support export-oriented business development," said Nolan.

For his part, USAID Southern Africa Mission Director Jeff Borns said they feel very pleased to launch one of the largest trade ventures in their portfolio. He said USAID has created trade hubs in Southern, Eastern and Western Africa to enhance the continent's economic competitiveness but the Southern hub is different as it is a central point where Southern Africans can gain access to the US markets through business linkages, capacity-building and problemsolving trade facilitation.

Meanwhile, Gaborone has been considered to remain the Trade Hub's home base, as it is also the home of SADC headquarters. The 15-member SADC states represent a vibrant and growing market with a population of 240 million people with a collective GDP of close to a trillion dollars. SADC Executive Secretary Dr. Tomaz Salomao was also present at the launch.

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