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Special economic zones (SEZs) in Africa are generally regarded as underperforming relative to their peers in the rest of the world. This study focuses on the design features of the SEZ in Africa that may help explain this underperformance. Literature was reviewed to identify the key design attributes of SEZ programmes that could enhance their success. A case study of six Southern African countries—Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe—is then used to assess if these countries’ SEZ programmes meet the ideal design features.
The study finds that key design attributes are missing in these countries, hence creating problems in the implementation of SEZ programmes. More importantly, the study identifies lack of developed SEZ geographic areas, especially the requisite on-site and off-site infrastructure, with dedicated authorities to provide such infrastructure, as the main drawback for SEZ programmes in failing countries. The study recommends that countries should pay due attention to all the key design attributes of their SEZ programmes in order to enhance the success of the SEZs.