|Introduction to the COMESA Region:|
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.
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
COMESA Regional Investment Agency:
The COMESA Regional Investment Agency, launched in June 2006, the agency aims to make the COMESA region a viable, attractive destination for regional and international investors. In the long term, the RIA’s shared vision with COMESA is to present the region as a fully integrated, internationally, competitive regional economic community.
The RIA’s key role is to be the strategic driver for capacity building amongst COMESA Member States’ Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs), promoting best practice and facilitating each Member State to generate a positive business environment for potential investors – thus creating a strong region for investment within Africa. In order to fulfill this role, RIA works closely with the 19 IPAs in the region, to advocate policy changes for the improvement of national investment climate, as well as to identify skills gap within their organizations, and provide the appropriate training and development support.
Working with the IPAs in the region, the RIA also acts as an information hub for potential investors, assisting enquiries and acting as a coordinator. In doing so, the RIA is active in promoting the COMESA region as a Common Investment Area, and in building a positive image of the region for a worldwide audience.
1) Promotion of best practices and supporting Member-States to generate a positive business environment for potential investors.
2) Gathering and disseminating information on policies affecting the investment environment, cost of doing business, investment procedures, investment opportunities, and other relevant information about Member-States.
3) Promoting the COMESA FTA, Custom Union, and Common Investment Area.
4) Identifying and promoting investment opportunities, with special focus on projects with a regional impact.
5) Improving the regional investment environment by identifying constraints to investment and recommending measures to overcome these constraints.
6) Training and providing development support to National Investment Promotion Agencies in member countries and at a regional level.