Opening Statement by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the occasion of the Eighth Summit of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), Ezulwini, Eswatini, 29 June 2023

Opening Statement by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the occasion of the Eighth Summit of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), Ezulwini, Eswatini, 29 June 2023


Your Majesty King Mswati III,

Heads of State and Government,

Ministers of Trade and Finance of SACU,

Executive Secretary of SACU, Mr Thabo Khasipe,

Members of the SACU Secretariat,


Ladies and Gentlemen,


We are meeting at a time when seismic shifts are taking place in the global economy.


Just as countries were beginning to recover in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global economy was further weakened by the Russia-Ukraine conflict and geopolitical contestation.


As the UN Conference on Trade and Development noted earlier this year, food and energy crises, surging inflation, debt tightening and the climate emergency are all contributing to one of the lowest rates of global economic growth in decades.


As the Southern African Customs Union, it is critical that we fulfil our mandate if we are to withstand these global shocks and mitigate their impact on our respective countries.


SACU is the oldest Customs Union in the world, having been founded in 1910.


The SACU agreement has undergone several changes and improvements over the years to better reflect the prevailing political and economic environment.


We have always been deliberate about using this Union as a vehicle for advancing and deepening integration.


We are working to achieve this integration through cooperation in trade and industrial policies. We seek to build cross-border value chains among all SACU Member States, underpinned by regional infrastructure programmes.


The question for us is, to what extent have we been successful in this regard? And, is SACU still fit for purpose and able to respond effectively to the needs of member countries?


The geopolitical and economic shifts taking place across the world necessitate that we must be quite intentional about what we hope to achieve as SACU.


We must be quite deliberate when it comes to playing a developmental role in the region, on the continent and globally.


At the recent Summit for a New Global Financing Pact in Paris, Africa spoke with one voice about the need for industrialised countries to meet their commitments to developing economies.


Nearly all countries present agreed on the need for the reform of multilateral development and financial institutions.


Ultimately, we strive for a world order that accommodates developing economy countries by having rules in respect of access to capital, sovereignty and the right to develop our industries.


The SACU Strategic Plan adopted in June 2022 is the foundational document that executes the aspirations of SACU.


We must work to deepen regional integration in the Customs Union and deliberately forge stronger ties among the five Member States.


South Africa believes that spatial development initiatives, industrialisation, exports and investment promotion and regional manufacturing linkages will enable our countries to diversify our economies.


It will also enable us to take advantage of opportunities opened up by the African Continental Free Trade Area.


For this to happen, we should prioritise economic infrastructure, especially scaling up renewable energy capacity, roads and railways, ports and airports, telecommunications and water infrastructure.


We must discuss what we can do to diversify our economies, increase intra-Africa trade and deepen integration.


We are well positioned to use our collective revenues to support industrial capacity and infrastructure development within the Union.


We cannot be content that Africa’s share in global trade is a mere 3 percent.


This Customs Union should contribute to substantially increase African trade in goods and services.


We will achieve this if we have clearly articulated programmes, sufficient resources, a robust governance framework and a commitment to execute the Strategic Plan.


May SACU continue to serve as an important instrument for deepening African economic integration as we strive to develop our economies, advance mutual prosperity and leave no one behind.


I thank you.


Issued by: The Presidency