Since Egypt joined the COMESA in 1998, it has been its belief that through the COMESA, Africans can effectively contribute to the development and the prosperity of the people of the region and the continent in general.
Believing in the common future of the African peoples and nations, and in the importance of regional integration as a building bloc for African unity, Egypt has always been keen on utilizing its vast potentials and expertise in the service of our common cause, confident of Africa’s capability of addressing African problems. In fact, instability continues to threaten realizing the dreams of constructing a coherent and robust framework for development.
Egypt believes that peace and stability are the main pillars for development. Economic gains will go astray if Africans fail to ensure stability in the region. The turmoil that has been prevalent in different parts of the continent in the past decades has been posing major constraints to the ability to focus on human development. Africans have to face the fact that the vast majority of the developing countries are African, and that malnutrition, endemic and infectious diseases as well as natural disasters continue to jeopardize the efforts to break the cycle of poverty.
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 (as defined by its Treaty) 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 21 Member States, population of over 583 million a Gross Domestic Product of $805 billion, a global export/import trade in goods worth US$ 324 billion, COMESA forms a major market place for both internal and external trading.
Geographically, COMESA almost two thirds of the African Continent with an area of 12 Million (sq km).
COMESA has 21 member states: Burundi, Comoros, DR Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe
Aims and objectives of COMESA
The aims and objectives of COMESA have been designed so as to remove the structural and institutional weaknesses in the member States by pooling their resources together in order to sustain their development efforts either individually or collectively. These are as follows:
(a) The need to create and maintain: full free trade area guaranteeing the free movement of goods and services produced within COMESA and the removal of all tariffs and non-tariff barriers;
(b) A customs union under which goods and services imported from non-COMESA countries will attract an agreed single tariff (Common External Tariff) in all COMESA Member States;
(c) Free movement of capital and investment supported by the adoption of a common investment area so as to create a more favourable investment climate for the COMESA region;
(d) Gradual establishment of a payment union based on the COMESA Clearing House and the eventual establishment of a common monetary union with a common currency;
(e) Gradual Relaxation and Eventual Elimination of Visa Requirements leading to the Free Movement of Persons, Labour, Service, Right of Establishment and Residence.
Co-operation between Egypt and COMESA
Since it joined COMESA on June 29, 1998, Egypt has been an active player at the organisation’s meetings, whether held at HQ in Lusaka or hosted by member states. Egypt has also been especially dynamic in the areas of economic, trade, investment and tariff cooperation.
Egypt has offered several scholarships to trainees from COMESA countries in the fields of road construction; communications and transport; infrastructure; and government procurements.
Egypt has also hosted numerous seminars where officials, entrepreneurs, bankers and diplomats brainstormed to invigorate COMESA and promote cooperation among its member states.
Trade exchange between Egypt and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) comprising 21 countries hit $3 billion in 2020, representing 60 percent of total trade between Egypt and the African continent which is estimated at $5 billion, according to the Cabinet's Information and Decision Support Center on Sunday.
From 2015-2020, Egypt achieved trade surplus in relations with COMESA states that reached in 2020 $1.4 billion, according to a study compiled by the center on the occasion of Egypt's hosting of the 21th COMESA summit on Tuesday.
COMESA is one of promising markets for Egyptian exports as unexploited export potentials to these countries would reach $1.8 billion by 2025, the study shows.
Egypt's exports to COMESA members Libya, Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia and Tunisia reached $2.3 billion.
Sugar cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose in its solid state come on the top of Egyptian exports to Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda while Egypt’s exports of phosphate, mineral or chemical fertilizers are the commodities with the greatest export potential for Ethiopia, Djibouti, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Burundi.
Egypt's coffee, butter and copper imports from COMESA are declining compared with Egypt's imports of the same commodities from other countries worldwide, the study shows.
China is on the top of Egypt's trade competitors inside COMESA markets with exports reaching $21.4 billion then come South Africa with $7.9-billion exports and Turkey with exports reaching $3.7 billion.
Within this respect, the Egyptian government began carrying out several initiatives and programs to secure more access of Egyptian products to the COMESA market, including the African Continental Free Trade Area that came into effect in January of 2021 and launching a forum on investment promotion agencies in Africa to enhance the private sector's participation in projects in Africa.
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is a free trade area with 21 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.
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).