Chinyamata Chipeta, ed. Trade & Investment in Southern Africa. Harare: Southern African Printing and Publishing House/SAPES Trust, 1998. ii + 147 pp. $ 18.95 (paper), ISBN 978-1-77905-076-2.
Lloyd Sachikonye, ed. Labour Markets and Migration in Southern Africa. Harare: Southern African Printing and Publishing House, 1998. x + 130 pp. $16.95 (paper), ISBN 978-1-77905-070-0.
Reviewed by Michael Niemann (International Studies Program, Trinity College)
Published on (June, 2000)
Regionalization in Post-Apartheid Southern Africa
When the historic elections of 1994 brought to power a government dominated by the African National Congress, there were a good number of opinions among observers of the region as to the impact of this transition on the larger region of southern Africa. These opinions ranged from one extreme, which is best captured by the remark of a Batswana business man to this reviewer that southern Africa needed to reduce its dependence on South Africa irrespective of the nature of the latter's government. On the other extreme were those who hoped for a 'peace dividend' or maybe even a southern African 'Marshall Plan' which would move the region forward after decades of destabilization. In the end neither of these perspectives captures the current status of regional relations. The rest of the region has certainly not reduced its dependence on South Africa and the transition to majority rule has not generated noticeable dividends. The future of the region is still unclear and policy choices are driven by various individual initiatives which reflect the current neo-liberal orthodoxy rather than a comprehensive vision of the region. The two volumes reviewed are part of this debate. Both emerged from conferences organized by the SAPES Trust in Harare in 1996 and 1997 respectively and address many of the crucial questions which need to be answered in order to develop such a vision.
The first volume on trade and investment consists of nine chapters divided into five parts. The issues addressed by the various contributions range from two regional overviews to institutional issues to commodity and capital flows and end with an analysis of gender and regional security. One of the unique features of southern Africa is the existence of three competing regional trade agreements, the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
For those unfamiliar with these different arrangements, the chapters contributed by Chanthunya, Matsebula and Ndlela provide helpful information on the sometimes bewildering array of rules and regulations which characterize the competing and overlapping trade regimes. In addition to outlining the respective degrees of trade liberalization envisioned and implemented under each regime, all three authors further comment on the complications caused by the multiple memberships of specific states and the manner in which Zambia and Zimbabwe, for example, could trade with each other following either SADC or COMESA regulations whereas Zimbabwe and Botswana trade with each other under the rules of SACU and Zimbabwe and Kenya would have to follow the COMESA rules.
The very presence of such multiplicity in trade arrangement ought to at the very least give rise to some critical analysis of the policy decisions of the states in the region which led to and maintain this degree of redundancy. However, to the extent that such critical questions are raised by the authors of the trade chapters, they remain in the background. Instead, the chapters repeat a good amount of (neo-)classical trade theory, in particular customs union theory with its well worn key concepts of trade creation and trade diversion as sole indicators as to the overall benefit of regional trade arrangements.
The overwhelming position of South Africa is mentioned and the role of undocumented trade is dutifully raised, but given that these are messy issues which do not fit into the neat formulas of conventional trade theories, these issues remain largely unexamined. If undocumented trade indeed amounts to 15-20 percent of official regional trade among SADC states as Ndlela points out (p. 86), then it would appear that theoretical tools which are incapable of addressing such flows would have at best limited applicability in the southern African context.
The chapters by Mlambo and Ncube on regional investment flows document in some detail the fact that most states in the region are unable to generate internally the investment capital necessary to foster income growth and therefore continue to rely on the inflow of foreign investment. Ncube's contribution goes further in pointing out the shortcomings of mainstream investment theories by demonstrating that increases in investment between 1989 and 1992 did not lead to higher GDP growth as the theory would lead us to believe. His call for a more careful investigation of the assumed causal relationships between variables is a welcome challenge to the current consensus on these issues. Chimendza's chapter on gender and international trade continues in this vein by pointing to the differential impact of structural adjustment programs in particular and trade adjustments in general on men and women.
While all authors raise important questions about the future of regionalism in southern Africa, this volume suffers from the inability or unwillingness of many of its authors to transcend textbook economic theories and see the region for what it is, an intricately integrated space in which boundaries are arbitrary features of state building processes which began only after most regional links had already been created. In such a context economic theories which assume neatly divided and separated national economies as their basic building blocks are bound to lead to an incomplete picture of the current status of the region and the possibilities which exist for the future.
The second volume on labor markets and migrations does exactly what the first volume does not. Here, the region is seen as an intricate entity which has been shaped by and continues to shape the lives of those who have to leave their home in order to find work. This extended quote from Rudo Gaidzanwa's chapter on the gendered nature of cross-border trade in the second volume captures the shortcomings of the first volume rather well:
"In Southern Africa, trade does not necessarily operate on the basis of assumptions and realities derived from industrialized countries. In fact, the frequency of wars, civil strife, economic and social problems result in the creation of markets and trade that operate in more complex ways. The attempts to make trade and markets operate in 'rational' ways under these conditions may provide bodies such as SAPES and governments with 'talking fairs' where the problems of creating perfect conditions are discussed and explanations of the sources of imperfection are debated. However, observation of actual traders in action may sometimes be more illuminating and a better basis for generating explanations and solutions for the issues that perplex governments and academics where cross-border trade is concerned" (p. 83-4).
This volume consists of seven chapters which address the experience of migrants and their families from Mozambique, Lesotho and Zimbabwe, the impact of Export Processing Zones (EPZ) on labor rights, attempts to reverse the brain drain from the region and the above mentioned gendered perspective on cross-border trade in the region.
The introductory chapter by Sachikonye sets the tone with its critical investigation of the factors which led to the emergence of the regional system of labor over the past century and a half. Manghezi's chapter on Mozambique continues with a clear analysis of the historical patterns which have created a pattern of migrant circulation and which is unlikely to be altered significantly in the absence of successfully targeted development initiatives. His case study of the Uniao General das Co-operativas highlights an important example of economic development initiatives which empower entire communities rather than only select members.
Matlosa, in turn, questions the future of Lesotho in light of the South African policy of extending permanent residency to qualified Basotho migrant workers. He rejects the notion held by some that the impact of this policy on Lesotho will be negligible. Instead, he predicts an increasing outflow of those who will take advantage of the opportunity of moving to South Africa and thus depriving Lesotho of crucial remittances. As a consequence he asks important questions about the future of Lesotho as an independent state and explores scenarios ranging from a continuation of the status quo to the political integration with South Africa. Both this and the previous chapter point out that the drastically reduced official recruiting of migrants will lead to increased illegal migration even in the face of the harsh policies implemented by the South African government.
Gwauza's chapter explores the impact of the system of labor migration on the family structure in Zimbabwe. Drawing on research undertaken by the Women and Law in Southern Africa Research Trust and the Zimbabwe Women's Bureau, she demonstrates the unequal impact of the migratory system and the inapplicability of a western model of the family, calling instead for a more flexible concept of family while stressing the need a reaffirmation of the reciprocal support obligations in families which are spatially separated. In a cogent analysis of the manner in which real people engage in trade across borders, Gaidzanwa makes a conscious effort to tie trade to the causes which generate needs rather than focus on abstract notions of comparative advantage. Unfortunately the copy under review was missing four pages, but this printing flaw did not detract from the valuable insights provided by this chapter.
In short, the volume on labor markets and migration, in large part because addresses the lives of real people rather than dealing in theoretical constructs, provides a richer insight into the regional dynamics of southern Africa than the volume on trade which remains rooted in stale economic theories. Both volumes, however help shed light on the continuing problems of regionalization in southern Africa and are useful resources for those who focus in their work on such questions.
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Michael Niemann. Review of Chipeta, Chinyamata, ed., Trade & Investment in Southern Africa and
Sachikonye, Lloyd, ed., Labour Markets and Migration in Southern Africa.
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