Intra-COMESA Export Trade Potential at E1.8 Trillion

By Phiwa Sikhondze

The Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa’s (COMESA) Head of Corporate Communications, Mwangi Gakunga, says its 21 member states have achieved remarkable progress in trade and development since the bloc was established in 1994 to replace the former Preferential Trade Area (PTA).

The seasoned Corporate Communications practitioner disclosed this during the National Media Training Programme for Media Practitioners held at the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel from 29-30 November 2023.

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is a regional economic bloc that boasts a population of over 640 million and a GDP of over $1 trillion (E18.8 trillion), making it one of the largest and most dynamic markets in Africa and the world.

Countries that are part of the bloc comprise; Eswatini, Burundi, Comoros, DR Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

He divulged that the future of COMESA is to merge with all other regional economic communities to create one continental Common Market for Africa, with free movement of people, labour, goods, one currency, and eventually one political federation.

Furthermore, the COMESA representative noted that Intra-COMESA trade has risen from E28 billion ($1.5 billion) in 2000 when the Tripartite Free Trade Area was launched to E254 billion ($14.1 billion) in 2022; excluding informal trade estimated at 40% of total trade and services at 50% of GDPs.

As astonishing as the growth has been in intra-COMESA trade, Gakunga says their research indicates that the intra-COMESA export potential is E1.8 trillion.

He added that COMESA’s global export/import trade in goods was worth US$ 383 billion (E6.3 trillion), reflecting the bloc’s competitiveness and diversity.

COMESA’s vision is to promote economic prosperity through regional integration, based on the principles of free trade, cooperation, and solidarity among its member states. Some of the benefits of regional integration in COMESA include:

  •  A wider, harmonized, and more competitive market that offers more opportunities for trade and investment, both within and outside the region.
  • Greater industrial productivity and competitiveness that enhances the value addition and diversification of the region’s products and services.
  • Increased agricultural production and food security that ensures the availability and affordability of food for the region’s population.
  • A more rational exploitation of natural resources that fosters sustainable development and environmental protection.
  • More harmonized monetary, banking, and financial policies that facilitate the convergence and stability of the region’s currencies and financial systems.
  • More reliable transport and communications infrastructure that improves the connectivity and accessibility of the region’s markets and people.

COMESA also collaborates with other regional and international organizations, such as the African Union (AU), the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and the European Union (EU), to address common challenges and opportunities in the region. COMESA covers almost two-thirds of the African continent, making it a strategic partner for global development.

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