The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) was formed in December 1994 replacing the former Preferential Trade Area (PTA) which had existed since coming into being in 1981. COMESA (as defined by its Treaty) was established 'as an organization 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 population of over 450 million and annual import bill of around US$32 billion with an export bill of US$82 billion COMESA forms a major market place for both internal and external trading. The COMESA region covers an impressive geographical area of 12 Million (sq km) of the African continent.
COPMESA has created several institutions to promote sub-regional co-operation and development. These include: African Trade Insurance Agency; COMESA Clearing House; COMESA Court of Justice; Federation of National Associations of Women in Business in Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (FEMCOM); Leather and Leather Products Institute; Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank (PTA) and PTA Re – Insurance Company. Further initiatives exist to promote cross border initiatives, form a common industrial policy and introduce a monetary harmonization program.
COMESA whose Secretariat is based Lusaka-Zambia boats of the following Member States are: Burundi, Union of Comoros, Congo DRC, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Sudan, Swaziland, Seychelles, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.