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COMESA Strategy

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Strategic Options

There are generally three recognised approaches to integration: Market Integration, Production or Project-directed Integration, and Development Integration. The Market Integration approach focuses on the integration of markets through, principally, trade liberalisation by way of removal of both tariff and non-tariff barriers to commercial interaction and investment. This approach aims at achieving full economic co-operation through a gradual process starting with the creation of a free trading zone, followed by the establishment of a common market and ending with an economic community.

The Production or Project-directed approach focuses mainly on the co-ordinated planning and implementation of productive activities. The Development Integration approach has elements of both production and market integration approaches, but emphasises equitable development through compensatory and corrective initiatives.

Strategic Choice

COMESA strategy so far has been to emphasis the integration of the economic space through removal of trade and investment barriers. Although COMESA has made good progress using this approach, and will continue to pursue it, the focus in the next decade and beyond will shift towards development integration. This will mean giving increased prominence to the supply side of integration, namely investment in the productive sectors. This shift in emphasis recognises developments both at the global and regional level. Globalisation in general and trade liberalisation under WTO in particular is pushing countries to remove trade barriers and open up their markets. Regionally, COMESA trade and investment promotion programmes have improved the investment environment making it more attractive for investment in the productive sectors.

The attainment of full integration and the implementation of complete COMESA mandate under the Treaty is viewed as a long term objective. In the short to medium term the emphasis in programme focus will be trade development and investment, specifically, the elimination of impediments to trade and investment.

In COMESA's strategy of trade, investment and development integration, the private sector will play a central role. The Secretariat will work together with governments in COMESA to create the space and environment where the private sector can play its rightful role as the main driver of the economic integration process.

Programme Structure and Focus

The structure of programmes reflects COMESA's chosen path towards the fulfilment of its vision, namely the attainment of a fully integrated, competitive regional economic community. The chosen path towards an economic community is through development integration involving a combination of trade development and investment promotion and co-ordination. This path entails the following steps: achievement of zero tariffs for all tradable goods among COMESA members (free trade area status) by the year 2000 with continued development of COMESA as a common investment area, establishment of a common external tariff, CET, or customs union by the year 2004 (common market status), the implementation of programmes to enable free movement of services, labour (including right of establishment) and capital (leading to right of and monetary union) between 2000 and 2025.

The concurrent pursuit of trade liberalisation, infrastructure development and investment promotion and co-ordination, with science and technology providing the driving force, is expected not only to deepen the integration process, but to also lead to higher and sustainable levels of economic growth. In implementing this vision and strategy, the following thrusts will, therefore, form the core of COMESA's development integration agenda:

  1. Trade Development
  2. Investment Development
  3. Infrastructure Development
  4. Science and Technology (S&T) Development

The implementation of these programme thrusts is co-ordinated from the Secretariat, with the support of the cross-cutting divisions: Information and Networking, Strategic Planning and Research, Co-operation Development, Legal and Corporate Affairs, and Administration and Finance (see figure 2. below).



COMESA's ultimate objective is to create a fully integrated and internationally competitive and unified region in which goods, services, capital and persons move freely. The principal route that has been chosen in order to realise this goal is development integration through development of trade and investment.

The primary instrument for achieving trade development is trade liberalisation and the freeing of market forces. This market-focused approach will have a favourable effect on the allocation efficiency of the economies of the member States through the rationalisation of their actual and emergent economic structures which will result in trade creation, expansion, investment rationalisation and production integration. This will also give rise to expanded domestic and foreign investment inflows into the integrated area as a result of investment creation.

Programme Priorities

1. Formation of a Free Trade Area, October 31, 2000

The key mechanism for trade liberalisation is the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers to intra-COMESA trade. In this regard, COMESA has adopted a programme for the reduction and eventual elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to intra-COMESA trade. The reduction programme towards the eventual elimination of tariffs on intra-COMESA trade is as follows: 60% reduction by 31 October 1993; 70% reduction by 31 October 1994; 80% reduction by 31 October 1996; 90% reduction by 31 October 1998; and 100% reduction by 31 October 2000, thus achieving a Free Trade Area.

The tariff reduction is complemented by programme aimed at removing the remaining non-tariff barriers. The non-tariff barriers that segment the COMESA regional market consist of those that affect trade, production and investment.

As part of the process of facilitating trade under the FTA, COMESA will complete the programme on harmonisation of trade statistics and customs procedures and management systems. These will include improving the usability of the COMESA Customs Document (COMESA-CD), the installation of ASYCUDA/EXTRADE in the remaining member States. ASYCUDA (Automated System for Customs Data and Management) and EXTRADE (External Trade) is part of the process of harmonising and improving of national customs practices; strengthening the capacity at the national and regional levels for producing high quality, harmonised trade statistics; improving the links between the customs departments and the National Statistical Offices; and establishing a regional trade information system.

2. Formation of a Customs Union with a Common External Tariff, 2004

A Customs Union with a common external will be established by 2004. The objective of the Customs Union and Common External Tariff is to accelerate successful structural adjustment in the member States' economies and thus enable enterprises in the member countries to become internationally competitive by first becoming regionally competitive through the process of restructuring, mergers, acquisition and privatisation.

3. Formation of a Monetary Union.

The objective of the monetary and financial programme is to create a zone of monetary stability with an efficient exchange and payments system in order to facilitate the market integration of the region. The long-term goal is to eventually attain a monetary Union with a single currency.

A four-stage programme towards the establishment of a Monetary Union by the year 2025 was approved by the Authority of Heads of State and Government in 1992. The stages in these programme are the following:

  • stage one 1992 - 1996: consolidation of existing instruments of Monetary Co-operation and implementation of policy measures aimed at achieving macroeconomic convergence;
  • stage two 1997 - 2000: introduction of limited currency convertibility and informal exchange rate union;
  • stage three 2000 - 2024: formal exchange rate union and co-ordination of economic policies by a common monetary institution;
  • stage four 2025: full Monetary Union involving the use of one common currency issued by a common Central Bank.



Beyond expanding the size of the market and creating a liberalised environment that is conducive to free trade and investment, COMESA recognises the importance of restructuring, widening and diversifying the productive base of the COMESA economy as the basis for durable economic growth and competitiveness in the global market place. In order to sustain long-term growth and development, capital inflows and domestic resources must contribute to enhancing economic productivity. COMESA also recognises that, in order to enhance productivity and quality of goods in the region, it cannot continue to rely solely on the 'comparative advantage' of low labour wages. It must invest in the development of human resources and technology. A key strategy in the pursuit of these goals is the development and facilitation of the private sector.

The focus of the investment development thrust will be the principal sectors of industry, agriculture, livestock, fisheries, and irrigation. In the services sector the focus will be on financial inter-mediation, insurance, tourism, human resource and other social infrastructure development. The strategy for programme implementation will include identification and co-ordination of investment opportunities in all these sectors, promotion of higher productivity in agriculture and industry through training and collaborating programs, development of a favourable investment environment, direct support to businesses through market development programs, and programs to mainstream gender.

Programme Priorities

1. Industry

Industrialisation is the driving force in the development process. Since independence, many governments in Africa have taken industry as the main vehicle for diversifying their economies, generating jobs and reducing dependence on primary production and exports. Unfortunately, the share of industry in GDP for Africa has declined over the period 1980 to 1997, consistent with the decline in per capita income over this period.

As expected, the liberalised policies led to a contraction of manufacturing output, particularly that part of it which had been heavily protected. However, such a reallocation of resources should be a source of growth for the economy. Thus it remains true that, in the longer term, it would be expected that the manufacturing share in GDP should grow. Nonetheless, the concern expressed regarding de-industrialisation in a number of COMESA countries is related to the fact that these shifts out of manufacturing will not be easily reversed.

The key strategies for developing a strong, balanced and competitive industrial sector in COMESA are the following:

  • Promotion of industrial co-operation so as facilitate technology transfer and exploitation of complementarities based on the principles of market sharing and resource pooling;
  • Capacity building in entrepreneurial, business management and other technical skills targeted at micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs);
  • Policy reform aimed at supporting MSMEs and providing a more level playing field;
  • Implementing programmes that promote industrial balance as a way of narrowing disparities in industrial development. The regional investment agency that will be established will assist to promote COMESA as a Common Investment Area.

Private sector support, including programs to mainstream gender. Specific activities in industry will target the following sub-sectors:

  • Metallurgical Industries
  • Engineering Industry
  • Pharmaceutical Industry
  • Building Materials Industry
  • Chemical and Fertiliser Industries
  • Agro-Industry

2. Agriculture

Agriculture is the backbone of most economies of COMESA member States and plays a key role in their industrial development and trade development. In 1997, agriculture accounted for 24% of COMESA's gross domestic product (GDP), employed 70% of its labour force, and made up for 28% of its exports. In some COMESA countries, these figures are much higher. Agriculture is also a major contributor - more than 50% - of raw materials for industry.

The past three decades have, however, seen a slow rise in agricultural production in the COMESA subregion. This slow rise has been on average 1.9 per cent per year and has since been decreasing, while population has been growing. The per capita dietary energy supply (DES) dropped by 2 per cent between 1979 and 1997 and continues to drop. In deed, 15 out of 21 COMESA States have DES levels below the average for Africa.

The decline in agricultural growth has been attributed to, among others, the slow rate at which new land is brought into production, inappropriate agricultural technology, environmental degradation, unfavourable land-use and land tenure policies, periodic drought, political instability and wars, and unfavourable external economic environment.

The twin challenges for COMESA is how to assure food security through sustainable increase in overall agricultural production, and how to stimulate a strong and dynamic agriculture-industry link.

The core of COMESA's strategy for the agricultural sector is intended to address these two challenges. COMESA already has an agricultural strategy which was developed through a broad-based consultative process. In broad outline, the strategy stresses the importance of co-operation and co-ordination of regional agricultural policy, food security, marketing, research and development, plant and animal disease and pest control, training, irrigation development, and exploitation of marine and forestry resources.

The COMESA Strategy recognises the need for a holistic approach that embraces the four "I s" of agricultural-development, namely: Incentives, Inputs, Institutions and Infrastructure.

Future policies should concentrate on giving farmers greater incentives to produce surplus for urban markets through strategic regulation of the agricultural market; research into lower production costs; improvements in marketing channels and the development of processing technologies to make local staples more attractive to consumers.

With regard to inputs, priorities include improvements in credit availability at reasonable interest rates, and input marketing, with particular attention to the needs of women. Greater stress than in the past will be given to simple mechanisation to overcome seasonal labour supply bottlenecks and enhance productivity.

More practical, better focused institutional reforms, including land reform, and expansion of training, research and extension services aimed at empowering small scale farmer will form part of the overall policy reform that would be needed.

In order to improve access by farmers to markets, as well as promote intra-COMESA trade and the transport of foods and goods at reasonable cost, development of infrastructure will be critical. Of critical importance is the construction and maintenance of rural access roads and storage facilities.

In the short to medium term, the emphasis in agriculture will to be on the following:

  • Adoption and implementation of the COMESA Agricultural Strategy;
  • Harmonisation of sanitary and phytosanitary, health and safety regulations;
  • Promotion of free trade in agricultural products;
  • Forestry Development with emphasis on enhancing trade in forestry products;
  • Human resource development and capacity utilisation;
  • Promotion of agro-industries; and
  • Technical support including sharing of best practices in the production and marketing of value-added products.

3. Fisheries

Fish and fishery products are important commodities in the region as sources of high quality protein, employment and income particularly in the rural areas. Some COMESA member countries rely to a very significant extent on their fishery resources for food security at home and income generation through exports. With improved air transport links there has been a substantial development of fish export industry, providing good returns to a number of COMESA countries. The main objectives of the fisheries sub-sector therefore are to increase fish production and promote intra- and extra-COMESA trade in fish and fishery products.

COMESA will pursue the establishment of a Common Marine Fisheries Investment and Management Policy. The objective of such a common policy is to enable member States administer and manage their marine fisheries against exploitation by distant fishermen, thereby maximising the utilisation of marine fisheries especially in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The benefits to be derived from the project will be great in terms of food security, employment, income and revenue generation in the long run.

COMESA will also address the problem of lack of appropriate quality assurance arrangements. The future for fish exports from the region is being seriously threatened by new regulation being progressively imposed by the major importing countries. These countries only be permit importation from countries or companies that operate quality assurance systems, based on the principles of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP).

Another area of focus will be the promotion of production, processing, and marketing of value-added fish and fishery products based on cultured tilapia, shrimp as well as captured Nile perch, tuna and dagaa (sardines).

4. Livestock Development

The livestock sector in the COMESA sub-region plays a very important role in terms of providing livestock commodity outputs like meat, milk, eggs, wool, hides, skins, manure and traction. The livestock share of agricultural output is quite high in some COMESA member States ranging from 3% to 45%. The value of livestock production in 1988 as calculated by the USDA in 1990 for some 15 COMESA countries was US $6.7 billion out of US$11.8 billion for 41 sub-Saharan African countries.

The annual average growth rate of ruminants has slowed down to around 1.2 percent as compared to between 1961/63 to 1986/88 when annual average growth rate was 1.6 percent. Poultry and pigs grew much faster, but lack of feed is checking this growth.

The current productivity of the livestock sector is characterised by low yields of both meat and milk. Other by-products such as hides and skins are equally affected.

The potential for increasing the productivity of the livestock sector within the COMESA sub-region is tremendous. The number one factor is to increase feed quality and availability, as nutrition is the major limiting factor in livestock productivity. The number twofactor is the containment of major livestock diseases and pests. And the number three factor is the change of attitude by mainly the small-holder or peasant farmers in livestock care.

The COMESA strategy for increasing the productivity of livestock is to explore different agro-ecological zones, their compatibility with a specific production system and the rearing of specific livestock species. Agro-ecological zones where mixed agriculture is possible have the highest potential. Within each agro-ecological zone elements of animal nutrition, animal health, feed resource management and genetic upgrading have to be considered in order to realise the increased productivity. Emphases on small ruminants such as goats and sheep, which can produce both milk and meat, have to be considered. Value addition to products such as milk through processing will greatly enhance livestock productivity and earned income in the COMESA sub-region.

5. Irrigation Development

For the past three decades food production in the COMESA sub-region has grown at 1.4 % per year on average while population growth has averaged 3 percent, thus creating untenable food deficit situation. Increasing demand for food and the consequent population pressure on arable is made worse by the continuing environmental degradation, particularly desertification. Both food imports and food aid is increasing at 4% ands 7% per annum since 1974. For the above reasons, it is now widely acknowledged that irrigation has an important role to play in expanding food and agricultural production and thus close the food gap.

The total land under irrigation in the COMESA sub-region is estimated to be about 5 million hectares or 5.5 percent of the total cultivated area. However, the potential for irrigation expansion remains vast.

To realise the expanded role for irrigation in the COMESA sub-region, it will be necessary to address the problems and constraints facing the sub-sector. In this respect, the major issues that require attention are:

  • Water development
  • Development of policies to promote irrigation investment and enhance profitability
  • Closing the technological gap through capacity building, institutional restructuring, research, extension and training.

6. Tourism

Tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in the world today. Globally, tourism has grown to be one of the largest contributors to national economies, and its contribution is still on the increase. As a significant generator of foreign exchange earnings, the Tourism Sector is estimated to have earned more than 30 percent of total world exports of services in recent years. This is definitely a positive and encouraging trend for this important sector.

Tourism in COMESA has the potential for substantial growth. Underlying this potential are the wilderness experience and the wildlife resources of the region (these include wildlife, a rich variety of wilderness areas ranging from tropical forests to empty deserts, natural wonders of the world, long sandy beaches, scenic mountain ranges and plentiful sunshine). In order to maximise returns from the tourism industry, a major source of foreign exchange, there is need to undertake a major policy review of the tourism sector. The primary objective should be to maximise the region's revenue earnings from tourism, the major elements of which should include a system for licensing, classification and grading of tourist facilities. The regional tourism policy will aim at the promotion of joint ventures between local and foreign entrepreneurs. The regional tourism policy will also focus on the promotion of conservation practices in order to ensure that the environment is preserved.

Furthermore, the composite nature of tourism makes it imperative that the Sector establishes formal links with Sectors like Transport and Communications, whose inputs the industry requires for a complete tourism product.

The COMESA strategy for the tourism sector involves encouraging member States to develop a collective and co-ordinated approach to the promotion and marketing of tourism in the Common Market. To this end, member States will be encouraged to, among others, remove restrictions on the movement of tourists within the Common Market, and promote regional tourist circuits and co-ordinate the policies governing the tourism industry. COMESA will work with Member States to create the necessary regulatory and institutional framework necessary for regional promotion, development, co-ordination and supervision of the operations of the tourism industry.

In addition, COMESA will work with Member States to establish a common code of ethics for private and public tour and travel operators, standardise hotel classification and harmonise the professional standards of agents in the tourism and travel industry within the Common Market.

7. Industrial and Private Sector Support

Industrial and private sector support programmes are aimed at enhancing the expansion of intra-COMESA trade and industrial production. In the short to medium term, the COMESA strategy is to emphasis the following:

  • Development capacity in standardisation, quality, metrology and testing (SQMT). This is being done through development of National Standards Bureaux (NSB), harmonisation of certification of import/export practices based on ISO/ARSO certifications, accreditation of NSBs, and enterprises to ISO 9000; and to establishment of an operational information centre on SQMT in each member State.
  • Development of a robust, networked and regularly updated database in order to enhance the flow of information between the countries.
  • Promotion of a level investment climate through reform of the private sector policy and regulatory environment
  • Establishment and strengthening of private sector networks and linkages through support to such COMESA organisations as ESABO, FEMCOM, and COMESAMIA.

8. Gender Mainstreaming

In the past decade, there has been a growing acceptance of the gender-focussed approach to development. The gender-focussed approach to development recognises that gender is an organising principle of society that affects women and men in all activities and relationships. It emphasises equal access to resources, rights and responsibilities for both men and women and changes in men's and women's knowledge, attitudes and behaviour regarding roles and responsibilities at home, in the workplace and in the national and international communities. Women and men, in their different roles, have unequal access to resources and benefits, different types and levels of involvement and responsibility in development, and different perspectives on defining and solving problems. Because of these deep-seated disputes, gender focused development seeks to increase equality of opportunity and equity.

COMESA recognises the need to create an environment where both sexes get equal opportunity to fulfil their full potential. In particular, the role that women play (and can play) as important economic actors is appreciated. Articles 154 and 155 of the Treaty recognise the importance of women as a vital link within the chain of agriculture, industry and trade. It is for this reason that the Women in Business Unit within the COMESA Secretariat was created to co-ordinate the entry of women into mainstream business.

Integrating gender perspectives into the mainstream of all aspects of the work of COMESA is therefore an important goal of the COMESA Vision and Strategy into the 21st Century.



The attainment of the long-term goal of a fully integrated economic space where goods, services, capital and labour move freely is dependent in large measure on the state of infrastructure in the region. Unfortunately, the current inter-state infrastructure, particularly in the transport and communication sector, is inadequate to support full integration as envisaged in the COMESA Treaty. In recognition of this fact, transport and communication infrastructure will continue to receive high priority among COMESA's programmes.

The Infrastructure Development programmes will contribute to the efficient movement of people, goods and services through three areas of strategic, concurrent emphasis: 1. Development and implementation of transit traffic facilitation programmes. 2. Identification and co-ordination of investments of a regional nature in, especially, the transport, communications and energy sectors, and 3. Promotion and co-ordination of institutional and policy reforms in transport, telecommunication, postal, energy and environment sectors.

Programme Priorities

COMESA will build on the progress that has been made and consolidate the gains already made in regional infrastructure development. The focus will be the implementation of the following:

   1.      Transport Infrastructure Development This will involve a co-ordinated implementation of the approved 5-year (2000-2004) priority transport development programme in line with the OAU's Pan African Highway Plan. The specific projects that have been identified that form this programme cover the critical network of infrastructure that need to be developed to integrate the region more tightly. They include development of key road, rail, telecommunication, water and air transport infrastructure in a manner that promotes multi-modal usage and linkage. COMESA will work with member States to co-ordinate the mobilisation of resources for the development of these infrastructures.
2.      Transport Facilitation Facilitation of both road and air transport is aimed at ensuring more efficient movement of goods and people, thus enhancing intra-COMESA trade, but also at maximising the use of existing infrastructure. Transport facilitation programs also aim to create a policy stable, competitive environment with higher cost-efficiency. The transport facilitation programmes currently being implemented will be strengthened. These are: the Harmonised Road Traffic Charges, Harmonised Axle Load Limits, COMESA Carrier License and Transit Plates, Road Custom Transit Declaration Document, Advance Cargo Information System, The Yellow Card Scheme, and COMESA Customs Bond Guarantee Scheme.
3.      Liberalisation of Air Transport Services The main objective of the COMESA air transportation strategy is to foster greater regional co-operation through provision of better quality and competitively priced air transport services. COMESA aims to achieve this objective through complete liberalisation of air services. In a meeting held in Lusaka in October 1998, COMESA agreed to liberalise air transport in the COMESA region by October, 2000 through a two-stage process which involves introduction of free movement of intra-COMESA scheduled passenger services with frequency limits of up to two daily flights between any city pairs; and adoption of multiple designation and elimination of capacity restrictions, leading to free movement of intra -COMESA air transport services.

This is the immediate and priority objective of the air transport programme. COMESA will continue to work with the Working Group of civil aviation experts and consultants in the implementation of the decisions of the Council of Ministers. It will also continue to collaborate with other regional organisations in the implementation of the regional CNS/ATM system.

1. Communication and Information

The communication and information programme will focus on three sub-sectors: Telecommunications Connectivity and Harmonisation; Information and Communication Technology; Meteorological Services; and Shipping Services.

a) Telecommunications Connectivity and Harmonisation

The achievement of telecom interconnectivity and development of a common telecom regulatory framework is a key objective of the Telecommunications Connectivity and Harmonisation programme. A reliable, efficient and cost-effective regional telecommunications network is an important prerequisite to increased economic integration in the COMESA region. Telecommunication infrastructure in the COMESA region is still poor, expensive, inefficient and inadequate to support greater integration. It does not meet the needs of the users and the current practice of routing regional telecommunication traffic via countries outside the region (mainly in Europe) makes the implementation of competitive tariffs very difficult. To address this problem, COMESA has initiated the establishment of a private, limited liability company, COMESA Telecommunications Company, COMTEL, which will build an asynchronous transmission mode (ATM) system that will link national systems together. While gateway to gateway infrastructure is COMTEL's priority, the national infrastructures are equally important and there is a need for all countries in COMESA to continue to develop and improve national infrastructures. The establishment of COMTEL and the harmonisation of telecom regulatory policies are priority activities of COMESA.

b) Information and Communication Technology

Information technology is the fastest growing sector in the world economy. This is because information technology is part of the service sector which adds value to other economic activities. This increasingly borderless, information-based economy is best symbolised by the Internet. At once global and local, a communication tool and a knowledge resource, the Internet has been doubling in size each year since its creation a quarter of a century ago. Nor is the Internet the only channel available. Other technologies like computerised financial markets, e-mail, telephone banking, and electronic data interchange are all moving us towards a more borderless, information-driven economy. One of the major challenges facing the COMESA region at the moment is the provision of up to date, reliable and accurate information which is of use and of benefit to the business community. For liberalised market economies to function effectively and efficiently the availability of market information is essential. But a greater challenge is how position itself so as to gain from the global digital economy that is expected to be the norm in the 21st century. In the next 10 years, COMESA will strive to keep pace with developments in information and communications technology and to actively promote e-commerce in order to enhance the digital integration of the common market.

c) Meteorological Services

Meteorological services form an important component of the transport facilitation program, but is also important in the provision of data for planning in other sectors. COMESA will focus on strengthening the regional meteorological network to make it more integrated and systematised. COMESA will also strengthen its relationship with the World Meteorology Organisation (WMO).

d) Shipping Services

The combined merchant fleet capacity of COMESA countries that operate shipping services handles less than 5 percent of the total COMESA cargo carried by maritime transport. Clearly, there is a need for both co-ordination of maritime policy as well as programs to strengthen this sector. The COMESA program on Shipping Services which has already been developed and agreed to, will focus on policy co-ordination, ratification of maritime conventions and provision of comprehensive information on shipping matters through the COMESA Website and the proposed shipping magazine.

The possibility of introduction of a COMESA shipping line will also be pursued vigorously during the next 5 years.

2. Environment

The environment is the bedrock upon which life is sustained. Member States believe that an essential element of its development strategy is to co-operate fully in the management of its environment for present and future generations. The COMESA strategy will focus on co-ordinating joint action on trans-boundary environmental and conservation issues based on mutually agreed policies.

The key areas of focus in the management of the environment are to prevent, arrest and reverse the effects of deforestation, erosion, deterioration of coastal waters, declining bio-diversity and loss of general diversity, polluted soil, water and air. COMESA will work towards a common environmental management policy to preserve the sub-region's ecosystems. COMESA will also endeavour to forge a common stand with respect to the prevention of third countries dumping toxic and undesirable waste into the sub-region.

3. Energy

The production, distribution and utilisation of energy in the COMESA region is not uniform. This difference in the supply and demand for power is partly to blame for the disparities seen in factor costs across the region. The main focus of the energy strategy will be joint development and pooling of energy resources with the objective to optimise intra-COMESA production and trade in commercial energy products. In this respect, the emphasis will be on joint exploration, exploitation and conversion of the energy resources of the sub-region such as wood-fuel, fossil, oil, hydropower, coal, geothermal, biomass and solar energy. The potential for the exploitation of these resources is enormous: over 170 billion cubic metres of natural gas; 200 billion metric tonnes of crude oil; 60 billion tonnes of coal; and 106,000 MW of hydropower potential.

The COMESA strategy aims at conserving energy and economising its use through introducing technological innovations which consume less energy. The single largest user of petroleum-based energy is the transport sector which, in most countries, consumes over half of all oil consumed. Road transport consumes the highest proportion in the transport sector. This is followed by rail and air transport. Electrification of high traffic density rail sections will reduce the dependency on imported petroleum products since the region produces hydroelectricity. Diversion of traffic from road to rail and water will reduce consumption of petrol. In the rural and urban areas, the encouragement of animal driven transport and bicycles will further reduce the demand for energy. Thus, there is a wide range of options which could reduce the demand for petroleum products.


Science and technology is the force that powers economic and social change. It is especially a critical ingredient in the strive towards greater productivity and competitiveness of economic enterprises in the COMESA sub-region. Unfortunately, investment by African countries in Research and Development (R&D), a key indicator of commitment to development of S &T, has always been minuscule. According to UNESCO, in the last thirty years, since the 1970s, sub-Saharan Africa's investment in R&D has averaged 0.3% of GNP (compare this with 2.2% for developed countries). Consequently, sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest number of scientists and engineers - only 0.45 per cent of the global total.

In the next 5 to 10 years, COMESA will strive to create a policy environment that enables S&T to thrive, and to strengthen the interface between science, industry and governments. The vision is to create an environment that fosters a dynamic, self-reinforcing relationship between the demand and supply of S&T knowledge and products, and financing.

To realise this vision, the Strategy will emphasise the following:

  • Promotion of a supportive policy environment for increased investment in R&D by both the public and private sector
  • Adaptation and transfer of new and emerging technologies
  • Promotion of collaborative research and development, including commercialisation of R&D results
  • Promotion of indigenous technology
  • Promotion of capacity building, including literacy in S&T;
  • Promotion and strengthening of inter-firm linkages, in particular collaboration between local firms and scientific institutions and foreign multinational corporations.

Science and technology must, of course, be firmly embedded within a solid overarching education infrastructure and policy framework. Even though commendable progress has been made over the last two decades by COMESA countries, the status of education in the sub-region, in deed in entire Africa continent, is still very unsatisfactory (see table 3 below).

The COMESA strategy for education represents a synthesis of the consensus issues contained in various declarations and plans of action - Dakar, Tokyo, Beirut, Havana, Parlemo, e.t.c. - sponsored by UNESCO and other UN organisations. The main issues that affect education, in the case of Africa, are economic (e.g. declining budgets), social (e.g. inequitable gender access to education) and political (e.g. civil and military conflicts) in nature. These issues are now compounded by globalisation, a phenomenon that has meant, among others, a shift towards high-skill, knowledge-intensive activities requiring highly skilled labour. In order for COMESA to meet this demand for skilled labour force, but also to democratise and broaden access to relevant education, COMESA's strategy is to:

  • increase investment in education through innovative stable financing mechanisms by both private and public sectors; and
  • develop networks and links regionally and internationally, including through greater use of information and communication technologies, in order to maximise the use of education and capacity-building resources.

Contact us

COMESA Secretariat
Ben Bella Road

P. O. Box 30051

Lusaka - ZAMBIA
Tel: +260 211 229725/32
Fax: +260 211 225107



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