||Over the past few years, the idea of establishing Export Processing Zones (EPZs) has found support among several governments of Southern Africa. This development is linked to the increasing acceptance of ‘globalisation’ and neo-liberal policies across the region. Attempts to become internationally ‘competitive’, to move towards export-led growth, and structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) are now characterising most Southern African countries and most governments regard EPZs as a suitable strategy to find a niche in the global economy. The World Bank regards the introduction of EPZs as a signal of a country’s departure from import substitution towards an export-oriented economy (World Bank 1991). In other words, EPZs are seen as a first step in the process of liberalising trade and integrating national economies into the global economy. Ultimately, the whole country is supposed to operate like an EPZ.
The governments of Southern Africa are justifying EPZs by claiming that they will bring foreign investment, new industries and jobs to their countries. Zimbabwe, Namibia, Malawi and Mozambique have already passed national EPZ laws, Zambia wants to follow soon and EPZ proposals ‘in disguise’ are even appearing in South African policy documents. This paper looks at some of the recent EPZ developments in the region and highlights the broader implications of EPZs against the background of the current global economic order and attempts to achieve greater regional economic co-operation in Southern Africa.
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