Building prosperity through regional integration: The vision of COMESA is to create a fully integrated, internationally competitive Regional Economic Community in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Position:Focus on COMESA - Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa

According to Renaissance Capital chief economist Charles Robertson, Africa is going to go from a $2 trillion economy today to a combined GDP of $29 trillion by 2050, which is about the current combined GDP of the European Union and the United States.

This optimistic outlook for Africa has recently been boosted by significant developments in regional economic integration, of which the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has long been at the forefront. COMESA constitutes a third of Africa in geographical, economic and demographic terms and has been a significant player in informing continental level and other regional programmes, especially in the areas of trade facilitation and addressing non-tariff barriers.

COMESA was founded in a treaty signed by 19 countries from Eastern and Southern Africa in Kampala on 5 November 1993 and ratified a year later in Lilongwe, Malawi.

The Treaty defined COMESA "as an organisation of free independent sovereign States which have agreed to co-operate in developing their natural and human resources for the good of all their people". As such COMESA has a wide-ranging series of objectives, which necessarily include the promotion of peace and security in the region.

Main focus

COMESA's main focus is on the formation of a large economic and trading unit that can overcome some of the barriers that are faced by individual states. The vision is to create a fully integrated, internationally competitive Regional Economic Community (REC) within which there is economic prosperity, as evidenced by high standards of living for its people, and political and social stability. COMESA's current strategy can thus be summed up in the phrase "economic prosperity through regional integration".

COMESA's mission is to achieve sustainable economic and social progress in member states through increased cooperation and integration in all fields of development, particularly in trade, customs and monetary affairs, transport, communication and information, technology, industry and energy, gender, agriculture, environment and natural resources.

The organisation has a Secretariat based in Lusaka, Zambia, and a number of specialised institutions that support regional integration and development--for further details see pages 66-69.

Overcoming barriers to trade

COMESA's work in overcoming constraints on regional trade includes removal of non-tariff barriers (including quotas, levies, embargoes, sanctions and other...

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