Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) emerged in 1994 to replace defunct Preferential Trade Area (PTA) of the eighties. The main focus is the collaboration and promotion of a large economic and trading unit that is capable of overcoming some of the barriers that are faced by individual states. To advance growth, COMESA’s strategy is Economic Prosperity Through Regional Integration (EPTRI) and that is the Promotion of Regional Integration through Trade and Investment: integration through trade and the development of natural and human resources for the mutual benefit of all people in the region (Inclusive Growth). COMESA membership is growing year after year, currently it has 21 Member States as follows:
The 21 member states constitute almost two thirds of the African Continent with an area of 12 Million square kilometer and a population of over 583 million with a Global Domestic Product of $805 billion, a global export/import trade in goods worth US$324 billion. COMESA has become a major marketplace for both internal and external trading. This is a power marketplace in Africa. It is important to go on record that in the year 2000, nine of the member States: Djibouti, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe eliminated their tariffs on COMESA originating products. Burundi and Rwanda joined the FTA on January 1, 2004, making 11 FTA member states and Tunisia joined COMESA in July 2018, signed the COMESA Free Trade Agreement, ratified the Agreement and deposited the ratification instruments in a span one and half years. With the commencement of trading under the FTA, Tunisia products will now access the markets of the other FTA members. These are: Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Tunisia, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. These sixteen FTA members have not only eliminated customs tariffs but are working on the eventual elimination of quantitative restrictions and other non-tariff barriers.
According to the Sindiso Ngwenya, “the role of the COMESA Secretariat is to take the lead in assisting its Member States to make the adjustments necessary for them to become part of the global economy within the framework of WTO regulations and other international agreements. This is to be done by promoting “outward orientated” regional integration. The aims and objectives of COMESA as defined in the Treaty and its Protocols are, therefore, to facilitate the removal of the structural and institutional weaknesses of Member States so that they are able to attain collective and sustained development.”
To facilitate COMESA’s objective, the following specialized institutions were established independent of its Secretariat:
Sindiso Ngwenya further emphasized the following:
COMESA’s focal areas of integration are: –
COMESA offers its members and partners programs that are expected to deliver the following benefits:
COMESA seeks to become a fully integrated, internationally competitive regional economic community; a community within which there is economic prosperity demonstrated by high living standards of its people with political and social stability; a community within which goods, services, capital and labor move freely across national geographical borders.