Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is a regional economic community in Africa with twenty-one member states stretching from Tunisia to Eswatini. COMESA was formed in December 1994, replacing a Preferential Trade Area which had existed since 1981. Nine of the member states formed a free trade area in 2000 (Djibouti, Egypt, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe), with Rwanda and Burundi joining the FTA in 2004, the Comoros and Libya in 2006, Seychelles in 2009 and Tunisia and Somalia in 2018.

Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)
  • السوق المشتركة لشرق وجنوب أفريقيا (Arabic)
  • Marché commun de l'Afrique orientale et australe (French)
  • Mercado Comum da África Oriental e Austral (Portuguese)
Anthem: "People of Africa"[1]
Map of Africa indicating COMESA membership.
  Current members
  Former members 
Secretariat Lusaka, Zambia
Official languages
TypeTrade bloc
Membership21 Member States
 Secretary General
Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe
5 November 1993
8 December 1994

COMESA is one of the pillars of the African Economic Community.

In 2008, COMESA agreed to an expanded free-trade zone including members of two other African trade blocs, the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). COMESA is also considering a common visa scheme to boost tourism.[2]


Current members

Horn of Africa countries
 Djibouti21 Dec 1981
 Ethiopia21 Dec 1981
 Somalia21 Dec 1981 (PTA) / 19 Jul 2018 (COMESA)[3]
North African countries
 Egypt6 Jan 1999
 Libya3 Jun 2005[n 1]
 Sudan21 Dec 1981
 Tunisia18 Jul 2018[3]
Indian Ocean
 Comoros21 Dec 1981
African Great Lakes
 Burundi21 Dec 1981
Southern Africa
 Eswatini21 Dec 1981[n 2]
Central Africa
 Democratic Republic of the Congo21 Dec 1981[n 3]

Former members

 Tanzania2 Sep 2000
 Namibia2 May 2004
 Angola2007[n 4]


According to the treaties, the following organs have decision-making power:

  • The COMESA Authority, composes of Heads of States or Government and is COMESA's supreme policy-making organ. The Authority is headed by a Chairman elected for an agreed period; the current chairperson from February 2014 - March 30, 2015 is His Excellency Joseph Kabila Kabange, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Thereafter, the COMESA Chairmanship moves to Ethiopian Prime Minister His Excellency Hailemariam Desalegn. The Authority is tasked with the general policy direction and controlling the overall performance of the executive functions of COMESA. The COMESA Authority meets once a year at Summits which are held in different member States. The hosting government and the COMESA Secretariat bear joint responsibility for their organization. Whilst the hosting country assumes the chairmanship of the Authority for the year, an Extraordinary Summit can be held at the request of any member of the Authority; so long as one-third of the members of the Authority support such a request.[4] The Authority meetings are held in closed sessions and usually decisions are taken by consensus. The session leaders have to issue a communiqué, recording any decisions made. These directives and decisions taken by the Authority are binding on all member States and the other organs to which they are addressed.
  • The COMESA Council of Ministers
  • The COMESA Court of Justice decisions have precedence over any decisions of national courts. The Court of Justice may receive cases not only from member States, but also from natural and legal persons, against the council to determine the legality of any act towards the directive's, regulation or decision made. The Persons are also permitted under the Treaty to sue a member State in the COMESA Court; the legality under the Treaty of any act, directive regulation, or decision of such member State.

In the event that a member State's court is reviewing the application or interpretation of the Treaty, it may request the Courts' opinion on the matter. If the national court is a court from which there is no appeal or remedy, then court is required to refer the question to the COMESA court. The national remedies must be exhausted before a person can bring a matter to the COMESA CJ. The COMESA Court has jurisdiction over suits brought by COMESA employees and third parties against COMESA or its institutions. It also may act as an arbitrary tribunal on any matter arising from a contract to which COMESA or any of its institutions is a party. Further the Court can adjudicate any dispute between member States who agree to bring the dispute before it. Unlike the Statute of the International Court, the treaty does not state the sources of law to be applied by the Court. The Treaty and any COMESA issued legal instruments, will make the initial law to be applied, but municipal law and international law may also be determined applicable by the Court.

While the jurisdiction of the COMESA Court provides multiple avenues for the creation of standard interpretation of the Treaty, there is no specific provision of an avenue for the settlement of disputes between the institutions of the Common Market. The Court is not given the power to interpret the statutes of the other COMESA institutions. Finally, the Treaty does not specify that the Court will have jurisdiction over human rights issues within the context of Community

Due to its varying jurisdictions of the Court, the Eighth Meeting of Ministers of Justice and Attorneys General recommended to the Council of Ministers and the Authority that the Treaty be amended to provide for two divisions in the Court, the Court of First Instance and the Appellate Division. The proposal was adopted and the Court was expanded in June 2005 with the appointment of seven judges in the Court of First Instance and five judges in the Appellate Division. The work of the Court was then suspended until the Appellate Division judges were appointed and the Rules of Court for the Appellate Division were drawn up and adopted. During this reformation of the Court, the previously fully independent Court was made subject to the review of any proposed Rules of Court by the Ministers of Justice and Attorneys-General. The Court was established under the 1994 Treaty, the first set of judges was not appointed until 1998.

Unlike other African regional courts, the COMESA Court continues to receive cases. However, due to lack of funds the Court is unable to hear all its cases at certain times. Funding is only done for one session of the Court per year, these has contributed greatly to piling of cases. The backlog of cases will most certainly increase with the current growth in trade disputes in the region.[5]

  • The Committee of Governors of Central Banks

The following lower policy organs make recommendations to the above:

  • The Inter-governmental Committee
  • The Twelve Technical Committees
  • The Consultative Committee of the Business Community and other Interest Groups
  • The COMESA Secretariat

Other COMESA institutions created to promote development are:

Comparison with other regional blocs

African Economic Community
Pillar regional
blocs (REC)
Population GDP (PPP) ($US) Member
(millions) (per capita)
EAC 4,810,363 312,362,653 833,622 3,286 7
ECOWAS/CEDEAO 5,112,903 349,154,000 1,322,452 3,788 15
IGAD 5,233,604 294,197,387 225,049 1,197 7
AMU/UMA a 6,046,441 106,919,526 1,299,173 12,628 5
ECCAS/CEEAC 6,667,421 218,261,591 175,928 1,451 11
SADC 9,882,959 394,845,175 737,392 3,152 15
COMESA 12,873,957 406,102,471 735,599 1,811 20
CEN-SAD a 14,680,111 29
Total AEC 29,910,442 853,520,010 2,053,706 2,406 54
Other regional
Population GDP (PPP) ($US) Member
(millions) (per capita)
WAMZ 1 1,602,991 264,456,910 1,551,516 5,867 6
SACU 1 2,693,418 51,055,878 541,433 10,605 5
CEMAC 2 3,020,142 34,970,529 85,136 2,435 6
UEMOA 1 3,505,375 80,865,222 101,640 1,257 8
UMA 2 a 5,782,140 84,185,073 491,276 5,836 5
GAFTA 3 a 5,876,960 1,662,596 6,355 3,822 5
During 2004. Sources: The World Factbook 2005, IMF WEO Database.
  Smallest value among the blocs compared.
  Largest value among the blocs compared.
1: Economic bloc inside a pillar REC.
2: Proposed for pillar REC, but objecting participation.
3: Non-African members of GAFTA are excluded from figures.
a: The area 446,550 km2 used for Morocco excludes all disputed territories, while 710,850 km2 would include the Moroccan-claimed and partially-controlled parts of Western Sahara (claimed as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic by the Polisario Front). Morocco also claims Ceuta and Melilla, making up about 22.8 km2 (8.8 sq mi) more claimed territory.

See also


  1. 10th COMESA summit, as Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
  2. As Swaziland
  3. As Zaire
  4. Self-suspension:


  1. "Comesaweb – Comesa anthem". Archived from the original on 22 August 2011. Retrieved 2 September 2011.
  2. Writer, eTN Staff (27 April 2010). "Apple files patent for iTravel - eTurboNews (eTN)".
  3. "Tunisia, Somalia Joins COMESA". Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa. 19 July 2018. Archived from the original on 18 July 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  4. "About COMESA". The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). Archived from the original on 7 December 2011. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
  5. "Court of Justice of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa". Archived from the original on 18 August 2014. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
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