"This policy brief examines trade patterns in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) over the period 1980 to 1997. Perhaps the most notable conclusion about trade trends in the region is the rather disturbing lack of trend. Trade patterns over the last decade have shown some significant fluctuations, particularly in the growth of non-food consumer goods imports and the growth of capital goods imports amongst others. Some stabilisation has been apparent in primary intermediate goods imports, manufactured goods imports and merchandise exports. The growth in the agricultural sector - although modest, is encouraging and South Africa appears to dominate the region in terms of agricultural exports. Increasing political stability in the region will also play an important role in attracting the foreign direct investment so vital to sustained economic growth Perhaps the greatest opportunities for trade in the region lie in the exploitation of comparative advantages to create supply chains. SACU has realized much of its trade potential, potential which many non-SACU SADC countries have yet to realize. The formation of supply chains across an integrated trading area will facilitate the transfer of skills and assist the region as a whole. This is one of the reasons why South Africa’s relative economic strength should not be viewed as a threat, but rather as an asset to the region."