COMESA was formed in 1994 to replace the former Preferential Trade Area (PTA) arrangement which had existed earlier. COMESA 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”. With its 21 Member States, population of over 583 million GDP of $805 billion, a global export/import trade in goods worth US$ 324 billion. COMESA forms a major marketplace for both internal and external trading.
By signing up to COMESA, countries agreed on the need to create and maintain:
- A 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;
- A customs union under which goods and services imported from non-COMESA countries will attract an agreed single tariff all COMESA States;
- Free movement of capital and investment supported by the adoption of common investment practices 50 as to create a more favourable investment climate for the entire COMESA region:
- A gradual establishment of a payments union based on the COMESA Cleaning House and the eventual establishment of a common monetary union with a common currency;
- The adoption of a common visa arrangement, including the right of establishment leading eventually to free movement of bona fide persons.
In September 2023, the COMESA – the Global Environment Facility Climate Change Project meeting was conducted. The first COMESA Climate Change Programme Steering Committee (PSC) meeting for the Global Environment Facility – funded Capacity Building Initiative for enhanced Transparency (COMESA-CBIT) Project took place in September 2023 on the margins of the Africa Climate Summit and Africa Climate Week in Nairobi, Kenya. The project is supporting four COMESA Member States; Eritrea, Comoros, Seychelles, and Zambia, to build capacity for enhanced transparency in climate change monitoring, reporting and verification as defined in the Paris Agreement.
Consequently, the meeting emphasized the need to leverage on the current COMESA-CBIT project to mobilize additional financial resources from Global Environment Facility (GEF) and other potential funders, given that a majority of COMESA Member States face financial stress due debt burdens and budget deficits.