Economic integration in COMESA is at an advanced stage, where COMESA has achieved a key milestone in terms of the establishment of a fully functional free trade area with 14 Member States, which increased intra COMESA trade to USD 17.4 billion in 2010, from only 2.6 billion in 1999 – a near seven-fold increase in less than ten years. Following, the launch of the COMESA Customs Union in 2009, which is expected to further increase intra-trade and investment, COMESA is on the road of having a Common Market in 2014 and the Monetary union by 2018.
COMESA’s greatest asset is its abundant natural resources. These include water resources - sea, fresh water lakes and rivers - and vast tracts of arable land which offer huge potential for investment in commercial agriculture, livestock farming, horticulture and floriculture, and agro-processing.
The COMESA region is also endowed with a wide variety of mineral resources, including sizeable deposits of copper, gold, platinum, nickel, cobalt and iron. It offers investment opportunities in mining, manufacturing and processing in a wide variety of goods and other industrial products. There are also opportunities for oil exploration and refining in a number of the COMESA Member States.
COMESA further offers some of the best tourist destinations in the world. The region boasts a wide array of flora and fauna as well as magnificent mountains, craters, lakes and rivers – all of which guarantee attractive returns on investment in the hospitality and related industries. The world-renowned Masai Maraa and Serengeti national parks, the Victoria Falls and the Hwange National park, the Mountains of the Moon, the Mountain Gorillas, the Source of the Nile and indeed, Lake Victoria – the second largest freshwater lake in the world – are unique endowments of diverse natural beauty. Similarly, the region boasts an amazing collection of scenic attractions including the sandy beaches of the vast East African coastline and many world heritage and cultural sights.
In the services sector, phenomenal growth has been recorded in financial services, health care, education and ICT. The latter is among the fastest growing and most profitable sectors of the regional economy - with mobile telephony comfortably exceeding initial projections. The COMESA Member States have consistently implemented conducive macro, fiscal and monetary economic policies to facilitate both the inflow and outflow of financial resources and high returns on investment.
The process of privatizing state enterprises is marching forward in tandem with the evolution of the capital markets in the region and, together, these developments have reinforced the business community’s role as a key engine of economic development in the region. COMESA Member State stock exchanges and bond markets have performed strongly in recent years, which also bodes well for future private sector investment.
The success of COMESA Member States approach is demonstrated by the rapid GDP growth levels registered in most of COMESA Member States, on an average of above 5% in the recent years. The growth trend peaked at 7% in 2008 just before the onset of the global financial and economic crises. On this score, the region has exhibited remarkable resilience. In addition, the COMESA Member States have maintained a stable macroeconomic environment, with manageable rates of inflation and stable exchange rates. Member States have also fully liberalized their foreign exchange markets and significantly liberalized their capital accounts, resulting in increasing investor convenience and confidence.