The history of COMESA began in December 1994 when it was formed to replace the former Preferential Trade Area (PTA) which had existed from the earlier days of 1981. 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' and as such it has a wide-ranging series of objectives which necessarily include in its priorities the promotion of peace and security in the region.
However, due to COMESA's economic history and background its main focus is on the formation of a large economic and trading unit that is capable of overcoming some of the barriers that are faced by individual states..
COMESA's current strategy can thus be summed up in the phrase 'economic prosperity through regional integration'. With its 19 member states, a GDP of US$ 510 bilion, a population of over 445 million and annual import bill of around US$ 137 billion with an export bill of US$ 107 billion, COMESA forms a major market place for both internal and external trading. Since the launch of the Free Trade Area in 2000, Intra-COMESA trade has grown from US$ 2.6 billion in 1999 to US$ 17.4 billion in 2010, or in other words to seven fold. Its area is impressive on the map of the African Continent covering a geographical area of 12 Million (sq km). Its achievements to date have been significant.
COMESA Member States:
Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe