Southern African Development Community (SADC)

Member states: Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Eswatini, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Population: 345 million (2018)

GDP: USD 721.3 million (2018)

Visa openness

With an average AVOI score of 0.536, the 16 members of the Southern African Development Community score higher as a group in 2022 than do the members of six of Africa’s seven other regional economic communities (SADC comes second only to ECOWAS). Among SADC members is Seychelles, which shares top place with Benin and The Gambia (ECOWAS). Seychelles is, however, somewhat of an outlier in the SADC: the AVOI scores of more than half of SADC’s members fall below the mean score for SADC overall. In total, six SADC countries feature among Africa’s top 20 performers.

Only half of SADC member states have signed the African Union’s Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons (most island states have not signed; neither have most members of the Southern African Customs Union). Most SADC members have signed SADC’s own Protocol on Facilitation of Movement of Persons (2005), but only six countries—Mozambique and the five members of the Southern African Customs Unions - have ratified it. 

The SADC Protocol on Trade in Services entered into force on 13 January 2022: for it to most stimulate trade in the region, the movement of people in Southern Africa must be liberalized.

Regional reciprocity

Regional reciprocity within SADC is relatively high: in 60% of cases, the nationals of SADC member states can travel visa-free to another SADC member state. In another 12% of cases, nationals may obtain a visa on arrival.

Zimbabwe allows the nationals of 13 of 15 other SADC countries to enter without a visa, and in September 2022, Namibia and Botswana called for fast-tracking the use of identification documents instead of passports to ease travel between the two countries. At the other end of the scale, Comoros and Madagascar are the least open: neither offers visa-free access to the nationals of any other SADC member state. Interestingly, however, both Comoros and Madagascar feature among the continent’s top 20 performers, owing to their offering a visa on arrival to the nationals of almost all other African countries. In this way, they differ from many other SADC members, which are much more open to countries within the SADC region than they are to African countries in general.

Regional overview, 2022