Developmental Regionalism and Regional Value Chains: Pitfalls to South Africa’s Vision for the Tripartite Free Trade Area

Sören Scholvin


Regional integration via the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) re-ceived a significant boost when the South African parliament signed the corresponding agreement in October 2018. This article uncovers the convictions and objectives that drive South Africa’s commitment to the TFTA. It reveals that South Africa sees the TFTA as a means of “de-velopmental regionalism,” which is expected to facilitate region-wide industrialisation based on value addition in regional value chains (RVCs). For this purpose, South Africa seeks to coordinate industrial policies within the TFTA and rehabilitate infrastructure jointly with the regional states. In addition to explaining the logic behind these goals, and analysing how far they have already been achieved, the article also highlights important challenges to South Africa’s vision for the TFTA. It calls the prospects of developmental regionalism into question, being particularly sceptical about the way in which RVCs are conceived.

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