From the conception of Southern African Development Community in 1992, the sub-regional grouping has had its fair share of successes. There were however numerous challenges that continue to dog it in the twenty-first century. It is the argument of this paper that after putting the gains and losses on the scale, challenges that confront the sub-region outweigh the gains attained thus far. This write-up centers on the challenges faced by SADC today, and these include but are not limited to overlapping membership, unrealistic goals set to achieve regional integration, complications caused rules of origin, different levels of development within the SADC member states, duplication of activities between SADC and Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and the failure by SADC tribunal to show impartiality in dealing with issues involving injustice and blatant violations of human rights. Failure by the sub-regional arbitration body to provide recourse to justice and act as a unifying platform for member states has presented a strong case for mistrust between countries in the region.
Overlapping membership by some member states presents a hosts of challenges to individual countries . For instance, it comes with costs as countries have to negotiate in a number of forums and then implement a range of policies which may be conflictual in nature. Some members of SADC have membership in either COMESA or SACU. There is an economic partnership agreement (EPA) that was signed recently between SADC EPA and European Union, this arrangement is divisive in nature - the SADC EPA group which has six of the fifteen SADC countries include Botswana , Lesotho , Namibia, Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland; of these five members form SACU while others are not. This means that non-SACU member states will have to negotiate trade with other SADC in their individual states.
In the SADC regional protocol signed by the majority of members in 2000, the countries sought to liberalise 85% of trade within the bloc by 2008, the percentage was scheduled to be increased to 100% in the next four years, form a customs union by the year 2010. All these targets were missed by a wider margin. Moreover, the failure to establish a common market and a monetary union by the stipulated time frame is indicative of the challenges of attaining in meeting unrealistic goals set by SADC for itself - it is over-ambitious.