Eswatini has utilised the SADC Trade Related Facility (TRF) towards its ambition to effectively implement the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) by developing an EPA Implementation Strategy and Action Plan.
The TRF is an EU-funded mechanism for financial and technical support to eligible SADC Member States to assist them implement their commitments under the SADC Protocol on Trade and the SADC-EU EPA. In June 2016, Eswatini together with other SADC countries namely Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa signed an EPA with the EU, providing Eswatini with an immediate duty-free quota-free market access to the EU market. Eswatini, together with its partners in the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), namely Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa, has removed duties on around 86% (fully for 74.1 and partially for 2.5%) of imports from the EU.
The SADC-EU EPA, if effectively implemented, holds potential in Eswatini’s economic transformation journey towards a dynamic and competitive economy, with high value addition, export diversification in which the trade sector is an engine for sustainable growth and development.
Eswatini’s capacity to utilise benefits offered under the EPA is limited by several factors, including insufficient production capacities; narrow export base and lack of competitiveness; limited information about the EU market; inadequate and inappropriate quality and standards’ infrastructure and technology, amongst others. Accordingly, this EPA Implementation Strategy and Action Plan is elaborated to address identified challenges and translate the obligations undertaken under EPA into actions towards realising benefits, particularly from improved access to the EU market.
As part of the Eswatini SADC TRF project, a consultant was recruited to develop Eswatini EPA Implementation Strategy and Action Plan (EIS & AP). This development was enabled through the following key approaches:
- An inclusive stakeholder consultative approach, involving all national actors in the EPA implementation process.
- Anchoring and aligning the EPA Implementation Strategy and Action Plan to key official policy framework of Eswatini, including the National Development Strategy (NDS) 2022; the Industrial Development Policy; Investor Road Map; Aid for Trade Strategy; National Trade in Services Strategy & Action Pan; National Export Strategy; the Draft National Trade Policy and Action Plan; Eswatini Investment Policy; Small and Medium Enterprise Policy; National Cooperative Development Policy; National Regulatory and Quality Policy; and the National Regulatory and Quality Action Plan.
- Aligning the EPA Implementation Strategy and Action Plan to regional, international and multilateral agreements of which Eswatini is an integral part, namely SACU, SADC, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the WTO; and in particular the SADC-EU-EPA, amongst others.
Key enablers of success
A key enabler for the development and adoption of the EPA Implementation Strategy and Action Plan, was the level of increased awareness of the EPA, through an inclusive engagement with all relevant stakeholders, particularly those who tend to benefit from its effective implementation. The availability of TRF support enabled this consultative approach as well as the engagement of a technical expert to support the process. A clear EPA implementation as illustrated in the Fig.1 below underpinned the strategy development process:
Fig.1: EPA environment
The intervention has significantly raised EPA awareness among stakeholders, and in particular, the necessary ownership required for effective implementation. The implementation strategy has set out a clear vision, objectives and targeted support interventions to address the identified challenges in order to maximise the benefits from implementing the EPA. The following strategies and targeted interventions form part of the implementation action plan:
ü Support programmes for addressing supply side constraints in export-oriented sectors to incentivise Eswatini production and trade with EU;
ü Support programmes for enhancing export readiness of firms to exploit EU market opportunities;
ü Support trade facilitation programmes to ensure easy movement of goods and services across borders;
ü Support programmes to promote mobilisation of export-oriented investments inflows, especially from the EU market;
ü Support programmes on strengthening sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) measures and technical barriers to trade (TBT) infrastructure and capacity; Support programmes to promote private and public sector policy dialogue on EPA issues, and targeted EPA Communication and Visibility; and
ü Capacity building programme on issues in the EPA rendezvous clause (Competition Policy, Public Procurement and Intellectual Property Rights), including services sector development in Eswatini; amongst others.
Thus, an immediate benefit relates to the realisation of a nationally owned strategy and action plan to guide an effective and efficient EPA implementation process in Eswatini, providing clarity on what needs to be done and how, as well as embedding strategies into the national development policy framework.
Significance to the SADC regional economic integration agenda
The national implementation strategy and action is aligned to the regional SADC-EU Implementation Strategy, thereby ensuring a coherent regional integration approach, and building on achievements made on this front, such as the consolidation of the SADC Free Trade Area (FTA) and the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap (2015-2020).
Key lessons learned
The development of the Eswatini EPA Implementation Strategy and Action Plan was participatory, involving consultations with relevant stakeholders, particularly private economic operators. The process was also anchored in Eswatini’s national development policies and strategies and those of the SADC and COMESA regions.
Conclusion and next steps
While it has been adopted, the strategy and action plan require a robust monitoring and evaluation to be undertaken at three levels – national/ multi-sectoral, industrial and firm level. Key performance indicators have been identified, such as number of exports product lines to EU, increase in production lines and volumes, volume of exports - increase in export earnings attributed to EPA, increase in investments attributed to EPA, ability to meet rules of origin and cumulation, number of firms exporting and rate of entry and exit into and from export market and complaints reported on exports to EU -due to non-compliance with standards.