Common market for eastern and southern Africa (COMESA)

Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)

31/12/2016 - 16:46
Relations with International Organisations and Fora

The Delegation of the European Union in Zambia is also responsible for managing official relations between the European Union (EU) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa - COMESA.

What is COMESA?

The Delegation of the European Union in Zambia is responsible for managing official relations between the European Union (EU) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa - COMESA.

COMESA ( was established by treaty in 1994, with the goal of being "a fully integrated, internationally competitive regional economic community with high standards of living for all its people, ready to merge into an African Economic Community" (Article 3 of the COMESA Treaty)

COMESA is the largest of the 8 Regional Economic Communities recognised by the African Union, bringing together 19 Member States: Burundi, Comoros, DR Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Swaziland, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

With a population of 492 million people and a GDP value of USD 682 billion (2015), COMESA is one of the largest economic and trading regional community in Africa. Average growth in the region was 5% in 2016, while COMESA total exports amounted to 71 billion USD. Intra COMESA trade remains structurally low relative to other regions, stagnating at around 11% of total COMESA exports (2016) and with the majority of traded products being with low added value. Over 90% of the Member States trade with other parts of the world. This is also due to the lack of industrial diversification, the existence of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs), supply side constraints and cumbersome border measures.


Why regional integration is important?

Regional economic integration is a process where barriers to trade are reduced or eliminated to facilitate trade between regions or nations. It is not only about trade in goods, but it also covers issues such as movement of services, capital and labour. The elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to the flow of goods, services and factors of production can result in lower prices for producers and consumers as well as increased productivity. Through building bigger markets, it can also provide an important stimulus to attract domestic and foreign direct investments (FDI) and contribute to jobs creation.


COMESA integration agenda

COMESA trade integration agenda includes a functioning Free Trade Area (currently made of 15 member states). It also encompasses various trade and transport facilitation instruments (such as the Yellow Card Insurance and the COMESA Carnet), the creation of a Customs Union as well as the progressive liberalisation of trade and services, investments and the free movement of people. COMESA is also involved in various trade agreements and negotiation processes with third parties, such as the Tripartite Free Trade Area (COMESA – Eastern Africa Community – Southern Africa Development Community) formally launched in June 2015), the Continental Free Trade Area  at the African Union level and the Economic Partnership Agreements with the European Union.



COMESA and EU development relations

The EU is COMESA's main cooperating and trading partner: in 2016, the EU accounted for 24 % of COMESA total imports and exports. The EU-COMESA development partnership has been evolving since the 1990s, driven by COMESA's needs and priorities.

The 10th EDF allocated € 645 million between 2007 and 2013 to promote regional integration in the Eastern and Southern Africa-Indian Ocean (EA-SA-IO), of which approximately € 150 million were allocated to COMESA.

Under the 11th EDF (2014-2020), the EU has allocated a total of around € 1.5 billion grants to support regional economic integration, peace & security and natural resources management in the EA+SA+IO region. This includes € 600 million for infrastructure development as well as around € 510 million to address cross-regional challenges such as migration, cross-border security, maritime safety, water management, wildlife conservation, sustainable fisheries, Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) as well as growth and jobs creation in the region. The COMESA Sub-region has an allocation of € 85 million.


EU-COMESA development relations under the 11th EDF will focus on trade facilitation and economic integration, which is COMESA's core mandate as well as an area where the EU has a unique experience and added value. The objective is to reduce the cost of cross-border trade through the removal of internal barriers; to increase local private sector participation in regional and global value chains as well as to enhance the institutional capacity of the COMESA Secretariat and its Member States to deepen regional integration.


The EU Delegation in Lusaka, in collaboration with COMESA Secretariat and other partners, is currently managing a number of projects aiming at enhancing regional integration and supporting regional infrastructures in the COMESA region.

1. Regional Integration Support Mechanism (RISM) (2007-2019) €111.4 Million: The programme contributes to the effective domestication and implementation of regional integration policies, regulations and programmes at the national level. Resources are channelled to the Member States through the COMESA Adjustment Fund after a rigorous peer review of Member States' regional commitments and subsequent monitoring of progress.


2. Programme to Promote Regional Maritime Security (MASE) (2012–2018) €5.5 million to COMESA (out of €37.5 million for the EA-SA-IOC region): The MASE programme is implemented by four African regional organisations (COMESA, EAC, IGAD, IOC) with the objective to enhance maritime security and to fight against maritime piracy in the EA-SA-IOC region. The COMESA component of the programme, implemented in partnership with Interpol, is focused on the economic impacts of piracy and aims at fighting money laundering and disrupting the financial networks of pirate leaders and their financiers in the sub-region.


3.  The African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) Support Programme (2011-2018) - €7.3 million to COMESA (out of €73 million): the programme aims at increased capacities at the African Union (AU) and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), including COMESA, in the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts on the continent. It includes support to early warning mechanisms, mediation and preventive diplomacy, and the African Standby Forces (ASF) as well as cross-cutting issues of common concern such as terrorism and transnational organised crime.


4. The Regional Technical Cooperation Facility (TCF) - COMESA component of € 1.5 million for the period 2016-2020: the regional TCF is supporting COMESA in the identification and formulation of 11th EDF-funded regional programmes. The TCF also supports COMESA to undertake sector surveys, conduct stakeholder consultations, hold policy dialogue and support trade negotiation processes (such as the negotiation for the Tripartite Free Trade Area).



New Regional Programmes under the 11th EDF


5. The COMESA Trade Facilitation (TF) Programme, with a total budget of €53 million, will support system developments to monitor and address Non-Tariff Barriers in the region and improve coordinated border management and interconnectivity at selected border posts in order to reduce costs. The five selected border posts are: Chirundu (between Zambia and Zimbabwe), Mwami/Mchinji (between Zambia and Malawi), Tunduma/Nakonde (between Zambia and Tanzania), Galafi (between Ethiopia and Djibouti) and, Moyale (between Ethiopia and Kenya). The Programme will also enhance Sanitary- and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures and assist to upgrade regional metrology infrastructures. Finally, the programme will support trade in services, the free movement of persons and ongoing trade negotiations in order to connect better the region to the world trade circle, as well as help to promote COMESA for traders and investors through trade fairs.


6. The €15 million COMESA Small Scale Cross-border Trade Programme aims at promoting and implementing "pro-poor" trade facilitation rules, instruments and infrastructures to ease formal border crossing by small-scale traders at selected border posts (namely: Chirundu, Mwami/Mchinji, Kasumbalesa, Tunduma/Nakonde and Moyale). It includes support to the implementation of the COMESA simplified trade regime (STR), the fight against corruption, bribery and harassment at the border (with a focus on women, around 70% of small-scale traders in Africa being women), improved data collection and monitoring on small-scale trade flows, capacity strengthening of Cross Border Traders Associations (CBTAs) as well as the construction/upgrade of small-scale border infrastructure such as border markets and storage facilities.



These two new trade programmes will start implementation in 2018. Other new regional programmes are also currently in the pipeline. This includes: (i) the €10 million Regional Enterprises Competitiveness and Access to Markets (RECAMP) Programme, which will contribute to increased local private sector (in particular SMEs) participation in regional and global value chain through improved investment/business climate and enhanced competitiveness and productive/innovation capacity; and (ii) the institutional capacity development at the COMESA Secretariat project (€7 million) to support monitoring & evaluation, communication, procurement and financial management, in order to help COMESA fulfilling its core mandate of deepening regional integration. Finally, a new 5 million programme will be signed with Interpol (CRIMLEA 3) under the 11th EDF cross regional envelope dealing with maritime security in order to support the capacity of law enforcement agencies and fight maritime crimes in the EA-SA-IO region.