SARA was formed in 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 associations for each transport mode. It formalised the existence of SARA and provided a platform for interaction amongst the different bodies and 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.