The liberalisation of trade in services took a significant amount of time to be concluded but the SADC protocol in services entered into force on the 27 January 2022.

The rapid growth of trade in services created the impetus for a separate agreement under SADC, solely for trade in services and negotiations commenced in 2000. 11 out of 16 member states have deposited their instruments of ratification while 5 countries are yet to ratify (Angola, DRC, Madagascar, Tanzania, and the Union of the Comoros). These countries will not benefit from the agreement until they have ratified.

This means a legally binding framework has been developed under SADC for trade in services. Each country has a set list of its own binding sectorial commitments and considers the varying levels country specific development needs and legal capacity. The list of key service sectors in the SADC agreement are:

  • Finance
  • Tourism
  • Communication
  • Transport
  • Construction
  • Energy-related service
  • Business services
  • Distribution
  • Educational 
  • Health
  • Social services
  • Environmental services
  • Recreational cultural and sporting services

The SADC protocol on trade in services is premised on the General Agreement of Trade in Services (GATS) at the WTO.  The agreement endeavours to promote trade liberalisation in services and enhance market integration, by ensuring countries grant each other preferential market access and equal treatment of foreign and local service suppliers. Importantly, domestic laws should align with the agreement and discriminatory laws, acting as trade barriers, should be removed.

Some countries, such as South Africa, have been resisting the harmonisation of the transport laws in the SADC protocol in services. For instance, the proposed amendment of Road Traffic Regulations, which seeks to exclude foreign truck drivers from driving South African registered trucks, is in direct opposition of the principles of the agreement. Zambia also tried to limit foreign truck drivers, but this did not materialise.

If the proposed Gauteng Economic Township Economic Development Bill is passed, it would potentially be in breach of the protocol as it seeks to limit foreign nationals from operating businesses in Gauteng townships.  

If you either trade in services or wish to trade in services within SADC then contact us at for more information.



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