EPA SADC - Southern African Development Community

The EU-SADC Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) makes it easier for people and businesses from the two regions to invest in and trade with each other, and to spur development across Southern Africa. Learn how the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreement with five SADC states can benefit your trade.

The agreement at a glance

The EU - Southern African Development Community (SADC) Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) states comprising Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) signed the SADC EPA agreement on 10 June 2016. The EPA came provisionally into force as of 10 October 2016, with Mozambique provisionally applying it since 4 February 2018.

The SADC EPA is a development-focused trade agreement, granting asymmetric access to the partners in the SADC EPA group. They can shield sensitive products from full liberalisation and deploy safeguards when imports from the EU are growing too quickly. A chapter on cooperation identifies trade-related areas that can benefit from funding. The agreement also contains a chapter on sustainable development, which covers social and environmental matters.

In terms of trade in goods, the new market access includes better trading terms mainly in agriculture and fisheries, including for wine, sugar, fisheries products, flowers and canned fruits. On its side, the EU will obtain meaningful new market access into the Southern African Customs Union (products include wheat, barley, cheese, meat products and butter).

Benefiting countries

  • Botswana
  • Lesotho
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • South Africa
  • Eswatini (Swaziland)

The other six members of the Southern African Development Community region – the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Zambia and Zimbabwe – are part of or negotiating EPAs with the EU as part of other regional groups, namely Central Africa or Eastern and Southern Africa.

Asymmetric provisions in favour of SADC countries

The EPA foresees asymmetric provisions in favour of SADC EPA countries, such as the exclusion of sensitive products from liberalisation, flexible rules of origin, in addition to special safeguards and measures for agriculture, food products and infant industries

  • SADC EPA countries can activate five bilateral safeguards and increase import duties in case imports from the EU increase so much or so quickly that they threaten to disrupt domestic production
  • should the EU apply a safeguard under WTO rules, the EU offers its SADC EPA partners a renewable 5-year exemption from its application, enabling SADC EPA countries to continue their exports


  • the EU grants 100% duty-free and quota-free access to all imports coming from Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Swaziland. The access to the EU market is permanent, full and free to all products. The EU removes customs duties on 98.7% of imports coming from South Africa, under specific quantity quotas.
  • countries that are part of the Southern African Customs Union (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Eswatini) remove customs duties on around 86% of imports from the EU. Mozambique removes customs duties on 74% of imports from the EU
  • all custom duties can be found in Annexes I, II and III of the EU-SADC EPA


Use the search option of My Trade Assistant to find the exact information on duties and tariffs for your specific product, taking into consideration its country of origin and destination. If in doubt, contact your customs authorities

Rules of origin

In order to qualify for preferential treatment, your product will need to satisfy the rules of origin under the agreement. Please check the “Rules of Origin Self Assessment tool (ROSA) in My Trade Assistant to assess whether your product fulfils the rules of origin and find out how to prepare the correct documents.

General information about the rules of origin and the origin procedures can be found in this section.

Origin is the 'economic nationality' of traded goods. If you are new to the topic, you can find an introduction to the main concepts in the goods section.

Rules of origin


In order to qualify for preferential treatment, your product will need to satisfy the rules of origin under the agreement. Please check the interactive “Rules of Origin Self Assessment tool (ROSA) in My Trade Assistant to assess whether your product fulfils the rules of origin and find out how to prepare the correct documents.

General information about the rules of origin is available below.

Where can I find the rules of origin?

The rules of origin are set out in Protocol I concerning definition of the concept of "originating products" and methods of administrative cooperation (OJ L 250, 16.9.2016, p. 1924) of the EU – SADC Economic Partnership Agreement. Please also consult the Guide on the application of Protocol 1 of the SADC-EU EPA.

Does my product originate in the EU or an SADC EPA state?

For your product to qualify for the lower or zero preferential tariff under the EU-SADC Economic Partnership Agreement a product must originate in the EU or an SADC EPA state.

A product is considered originating in the EU or in an SADC EPA state, if it is

The product also needs to fulfil all other applicable requirements specified in the Chapter (for example insufficient working or processing, the non-alteration rule). There are also some additional flexibilities to help you comply with product specific rules (for example tolerance or cumulation).


Examples of product specific rules in EU Trade Agreements

  • The value-added rule – the value of all the non-originating materials used cannot exceed a certain percentage of the ex-works price of the product
  • The change of tariff classification – the production process results in a change of tariff classification between the non-originating materials and the final product for example, production of paper (Harmonized System Chapter 48) from non-originating pulp (Harmonized System Chapter 47)
  • Specific operations – a specific production process is required, for example spinning of fibres for yarns, such rules are mostly used in the textile and clothing, and chemical sectors
  • A combination of these different rules is possible with the different rules being complied with alternatively or in combination

Tips to help you comply with the product specific rules

The agreement provides additional flexibility helping you to comply with product specific rules, such as tolerance or cumulation.

  • in the EU-SADC Economic Partnership agreement, the tolerance rule allows the producer to use non-originating materials that are normally prohibited by the product specific rule up to 15% of the product’s ex-works price
  • this tolerance cannot be used to exceed any threshold of maximum non-originating materials expressed in value listed in the product specific rules
  • specific tolerances apply to textiles and clothing classified in Harmonized System Chapters 50 to 63, which are included in the Notes 5 to 6 of Annex 1 ‘Introductory notes’

The EU-SADC Economic Partnership agreement provides for

  • bilateral cumulation, which allows materials originating in an SADC EPA state to be counted as originating in the EU (and vice versa) when used in the manufacturing of a product.
  • full cumulation, which allows the working or processing carried out on non-originating materials in the EU, to be taken into account in a SADC EPA state (and vice versa) when assessing whether you comply with the product specific rule.
  • diagonal cumulation, which allows (i) materials originating in any SADC EPA state, in the other African Caribbean and Pacific  EPA state or in an EU Overseas Country or Territory and (ii) operation or processing carried out in those countries, to be considered respectively as originating or as having been carried out in a SADC EPA state or the EU when used in the manufacturing of a product provided that certain conditions are met, including administrative cooperation agreements be in place between the two countries from where origin is cumulated. This cumulation doesn’t apply to (i) materials HS 1604 to 1605 originating in Pacific and (ii) materials originating in South Africa which cannot be imported into the EU duty-free quota-free.   
  • cumulation with respect to materials that are subject to MFN duty free treatment in the EU, which allows exporters in a SADC EPA State to count non-originating materials which at importation into the EU would benefit from duty free and quota free treatment under EU most-favored nation tariffs, as if they are originating in that SADC EPA State, when incorporated into a product produced there, provided that no anti-dumping or anti-circumvention duties are in place against this material from the country of origin
  • cumulation with respect to materials originating in other countries benefiting from preferential duty-free quota-free access to the EU, which allows materials originating in countries benefitting from duty-free and quota-free access to the EU for that material to be counted as originating in an SADC EPA State if used in the manufacturing of a product provided that certain conditions are met. This cumulation is not currently applicable.

At the request of an SADC EPA state, a specific derogation could be granted, under specific conditions, in order to allow more relaxed rules of origin to apply for specific products originating in specific countries. Currently, no specific derogations apply.

Other requirements

The product also needs to fulfil all other applicable requirements specified in the Protocol, such as insufficient working or processing or the direct transport rule:

Transport through a third country: direct transport rule

In the EU-SADC Economic Partnership Agreement, originating products must be transported from the EU to an SADC EPA State (and vice-versa) without being further processed in a third country.

Some operations can be conducted in a third country if the products remain under customs supervision, such as

  • adding or affixing marks, labels, seals or any documentation to ensure compliance with specific domestic requirements of the importing country
  • preserving products in good conditions
  • storage
  • splitting consignments

In case of doubt, the customs authorities may request the declarant to provide evidence of compliance, which may be given by any means, including contractual transport documents such as bills of lading or factual or concrete evidence based on marking or numbering of packages or any evidence related to the goods themselves.

Duty drawback

Refund of duties previously paid on non-originating materials used to produce a product that is exported under a preferential tariff is allowed under the EU-SADC Economic Partnership Agreement.

Origin procedures

The origin procedures related to claiming of a preferential tariff and verification by customs authorities are set out in Title IV on proof of origin and Title V on arrangements for administrative cooperation.

How to claim a preferential tariff?

To benefit from preferential treatment, you must provide proof of origin

  • you will need either
  • the proof of origin remains valid for 10 months from the date of issue
  • no proof of origin is required when
    • the total value of the products does not exceed €500 in the case of small packages, or
    • €1,200 in the case of products forming part of travellers' personal luggage
Movement certificate EUR.1
  • a specimen of a EUR.1 certificate is included in Annex III and gives instructions for its completion
  • Movement certificates EUR.1 are issued by the customs authorities of the exporting country
  • the exporter applying for the certificate should be prepared to submit documents proving the originating status of the products concerned
Origin declaration (self-declaration by the exporter)

Exporters can self-declare that their product originates in the EU or an SADC EPA state by providing an origin declaration. It can be made by

  • an approved exporter, or
  • by any exporter provided that the total value of the consignment does not exceed €6,000


Approved exporters

The customs authorities of the exporting country may authorise any exporter who makes frequent shipments of products under this Agreement to make out origin declarations irrespective of the value of the products concerned.

An exporter seeking such authorisation must provide to the customs authorities all guarantees necessary to verify the originating status of the products as well as the fulfilment of the other requirements of this Protocol.

The customs authorities can withdraw the approved exporter status in the event of any abuse.


What should the origin declaration contain?

  • to make an origin declaration, the exporter should type, stamp or print the following declaration (in the appropriate language) on the invoice, delivery note or other commercial document: "The exporter of the products covered by this document (customs authorisation No ... ) declares that, except where otherwise clearly indicated, these products are of ... preferential origin."
  • the text of the origin declaration can be made in any of the official languages of the EU and can be found in the Annex IV. Check with your customs authorities for any extra requirements they might have.
  • you must sign your origin declaration by hand. If you are an approved exporter, you are exempted from this requirement provided you give your customs authorities a written undertaking that you accept full responsibility for any declaration identifying you.


  • an origin declaration may be made by the exporter when the products to which it relates are exported, or after exportation provided that it is presented in the importing country no longer than two years after the importation of the products to which it relates
  • when filling in an origin declaration, you should be prepared to submit documents proving the originating status of your products

Verification of origin

The customs authorities may verify whether an imported product is indeed originating or fulfils other origin requirements. The EU-SADC Economic Partnership Agreement is based on the following principles

  • verification is based on administrative cooperation between the customs authorities of the importing and the exporting Party
  • checks on the origin of the products are done by local customs — visits of the importing Party to the exporter are not allowed

The authorities of the exporting Party determine the origin and inform of the results the authorities of the importing Party.

Product requirements

Technical rules and requirements

  • learn about the technical requirements, rules and procedures that goods have to meet in order to be imported in the European Union
  • search for the specific rules and regulations applicable to your product and its country of origin in the My Trade Assistant database

Health and safety requirements SPS

Custom clearance documents and procedures

For a description of how to prove the origin of your products to claim preferential tariffs and of rules relating to the verification of origin by customs authorities, please refer to the section on rules of origin above.

Find out about other custom clearance documents and procedures needed to import into the European Union.

For information on customs procedures for import and export in general, visit the DG Taxation and Customs Union website.

Intellectual Property and Geographical Indications

The EPA includes a bilateral protocol between the EU and South Africa on the protection of geographical indications and on trade in wines and spirits.

  • the EU protects more than 100 South African names such as Rooibos, the famous infusion from South Africa, and numerous wine names like Stellenbosch and Paarl
  • South Africa, protects more than 250 EU names spread over the categories food, wines and spirits

This means, for instance, that a producer in a country other than South Africa cannot market a tea processed from a plant from its own territory under the symbolically important name Rooibos. The same applies to EU traditional product names.

Trade in Services

Public Procurement


Other areas


  • the EU has stopped export subsidies on all products exported to SADC EPA countries
  • the EU has minimised measures with production and trade- distorting effects
  • if local industry is threatened because of import surges from Europe, EPAs allow measures to be triggered to protect industrial sectors and infant industry

Dispute settlement

Under the SADC EPA, disputes are settled through consultation or mediation, and ultimately by arbitration. After an arbitration process, the party complained against shall take all the necessary steps to comply with the ruling. In case of non-compliance, the other party has the right for compensation or is allowed to take all appropriate measures, such as the increase in duties.

Sustainable development

The SADC EPA is explicitly based on the "essential and fundamental" elements set out in the  Cotonou Agreement, i.e. human rights, democratic principles, the rule of law, and good governance. The agreement thus contain some of the strongest language on rights and sustainable development available in EU agreements.

  • the "non-execution clause" means that “appropriate measures” (as set out under the Cotonou Agreement) can be taken if any party fails to fulfil its obligations in respect of the essential elements. This may include the suspension of trade benefits.
  • the joint EPA institutions are tasked with the function of monitoring and assessing the impact of the implementation of EPAs on the sustainable development of the Parties. In keeping with the Cotonou Agreement, there is a clear role for civil society and members of parliament.

Regional integration

The SADC EPA is as much about trade between the SADC EPA countries as it is about trade with the EU.

  • the SADC EPA rules of origin support the development of new value chains in the region. The acumulation provisions allows for the application of discount tariffs on EU border for fruit harvested in one country of the region and then preserved and canned in another. This type of flexible rules of origin benefit companies in agri-food, fishery and industrial sectors.
  • the SADC EPA harmonises Southern African Customs Union tariffs imposed on imports originating in the EU and consequently improves the functioning of the customs union. In this way, the SADC EPA strengthens regional integration
  • each SADC EPA state has agreed that any advantage it has granted to the EU shall also be extended to the other SADC EPA states

Capacity-building and technical assistance

The EU provides Aid for Trade technical assistance. This helps countries to adapt their customs procedures and reduce paperwork. For you, this means less hassle when dealing with customs.

Useful links and documents

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