SARA is a ‘Non-profit Organisation’ domiciled in Zimbabwe formed in April 1996 in terms of its Constitution in response to increasing road competition. At its formation, SARA was to originally provide the SADC railways with a strong lobbying association to pursue advocacy for fair surface transport competition to be achieved through– “levelling of the playing field” between road and rail in terms of policy and regulations. Modal equity was to be achieved by enforcing the User Pays Principle where the road pays the full cost of road infrastructure or infrastructure support to railways by Governments. Members of SARA are predominantly railways in the SADC region, some major railway customers and suppliers, and other organisations with special interest in railways.
The SADC Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology (PTCM), Article 13.13, mandates the formation of regional Association for each transport mode. It formalised the existence of SARA and provided a platform for interaction amongst the different bodies and interaction with the other stakeholders in their respective modes of transport or sub sectors with the view to come up with an integrated transport system in the SADC region. The mandate of SARA is defined in Article 7 of the SADC Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology.
There was a major shift in the SARA strategy in 2004 leading to the review of its functions and strategies in order to strengthen its effectiveness in the infrastructure development, commercial, operational and policy activities. SARA’s activities now extend beyond coordination, lobbying and advocacy to initiating and playing a leading role in the implementation of regional projects for the benefit of regional railways.
There are three categories of members of the Association. The categories are full members who are railways in SADC, the associate members who are allied to railway industry and special members who are organizations or groups with vested interest in the railway industry. The rights and obligations of membership is set out in the SARA Constitution and or as determined by the SARA Board.
The current barrier in such a regional grouping is national statutory laws and regulations, bilateral agreements. Leadership of SARA is based on rotational selection of SARA President and Vice President on yearly basis based on criteria set in the SARA Constitution. The SARA members pay an annual subscription fee based on a formula with subscription fee ranging from USD24 436 to USD51 567. The Associate members pay a fixed membership fee per annum.