Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) was formed to replace the former Preferential Trade Area (PTA), which had existed since 1981, by a Treaty in December 1994. COMESA was established “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”

Objectives and approach

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) seeks to integrate the economies of its 20 member states. The regional integration agenda of COMESA takes place within the framework of the African Union and NEPAD.

Institutional structure

COMESA has evolved a comprehensive decision making structure. At the top of it, there is the Authority of Heads of State and Governments of the member countries. There is then a Council of Ministers responsible for policy making, some technical committees and a series of other advisory bodies (including specific relations with partner countries and the business community). In addition each member state appoints liaison persons in their appropriate ministries who form part of the day-to-day communication process. Overall co-ordination is achieved through the Secretariat, based in Lusaka, Zambia.

Work areas

It covers cooperation in environment, wildlife and the development of natural resources. The member states agree to take concerted measures to:

  • foster cooperation in the joint and efficient management and sustainable utilisation of natural resources within the Common Market for the mutual benefit of the Member States;
  • promote the utilisation and strengthen the facilities of training and research institutions and encourage joint utilisation of training and research facilities; and
  • establish uniform fisheries investment guidelines for inland and marine waters.