Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa

Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)
  • 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
Map of Africa indicating COMESA membership.
     Current members
     Former members 
SecretariatZambia Lusaka, Zambia
Official languages
Type Trade bloc
Membership 19 Member States
   Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya
Establishment Agreement
   Signed 5 November 1993 
   Ratified 8 December 1994 

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is a free trade area with twenty member states stretching from Libya to Swaziland. 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, and Seychelles in 2009.

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 Joined on/in
 Djibouti 21 Dec 1981
 Eritrea 1994
 Ethiopia 21 Dec 1981
North Africa
 Egypt 6 Jan 1999
 Libya 3 Jun 2005[n 1]
 Sudan 21 Dec 1981
Indian Ocean
 Comoros 21 Dec 1981
 Madagascar   "
 Mauritius "
 Seychelles 2001
African Great Lakes Joined on/in
 Burundi 21 Dec 1981
 Kenya "
 Malawi "
 Rwanda "
 Uganda "
Southern Africa
 Swaziland 21 Dec 1981
 Zambia "
 Zimbabwe "
Central Africa
 Democratic Republic  
 of the Congo
21 Dec 1981
Former members
Left on/in
 Lesotho 1997
 Mozambique   1997
 Tanzania 2 Sep 2000
 Namibia 2 May 2004
 Angola 2007[n 2]


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

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.[4]

The following lower policy organs make recommendations to the above:

Other COMESA institutions created to promote development are:

Comparison with other regional blocs

African Economic Community
blocs (REC)
Area (km²) Population GDP (PPP) ($US) Member
in millions per capita
AEC 29,910,442 853,520,010 2,053,706 2,406 54
ECOWAS 5,112,903 300,000,000 1,322,452 3,888 15
ECCAS 6,667,421 121,245,958 175,928 1,451 11
SADC 9,882,959 233,944,179 737,335 3,152 15
EAC 2,440,409 169,519,847 411,813 2,429 6
COMESA 12,873,957 406,102,471 735,599 1,811 20
IGAD 5,233,604 187,969,775 225,049 1,197 7
Area (km²) Population GDP (PPP) ($US) Member
in millions per capita
CEMAC 2 3,020,142 34,970,529 85,136 2,435 6
SACU 2,693,418 51,055,878 541,433 10,605 5
UEMOA 1 3,505,375 80,865,222 101,640 1,257 8
UMA 2 5,782,140 84,185,073 491,276 5,836 5
GAFTA 3 5,876,960 166,259,603 635,450 3,822 5
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

  smallest value among the blocs compared
  largest value among the blocs compared

During 2004. Source: CIA World Factbook 2005, IMF WEO Database

See also

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the African Union


  1. 10th COMESA summit
  2. Self-suspension:


  1. "Comesaweb – Comesa anthem". Retrieved 2 September 2011.
  3. "About COMESA". The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). Retrieved 10 December 2011.
  4. "Court of Justice of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa". Retrieved 10 December 2011.

External links

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