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History of Comesa Essay

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa traces its genesis to the mid 1960s. The idea of regional economic co-operation received considerable impetus from the buoyant and optimistic mood thatcharacterised the post-independence period in most of Africa. The mood then was one of pan-African solidarity and collective self-reliance born ofa shared destiny.

It was under these circumstances that, in 1965,the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) convened a ministerial meeting ofthe then newly independent states of Eastern and Southern Africa to consider proposals for the establishment of a mechanismfor the promotion of sub-regionaleconomic integration. The meeting, which was held in Lusaka, Zambia, recommended the creation of an Economic Community of Eastern and Central African states.

An Interim Council of Ministers, assisted by an Interim Economic Committee of officials, was subsequently set up to negotiate the treaty and initiate programmes on economic co-operation, pending the completion of negotiations on thetreaty. In 1978, at a meeting of Ministers of Trade, Finance and Planning in Lusaka, the creation of a sub-regional economic community was recommended, beginning with a sub-regional preferential trade area which would be gradually upgraded over a ten-year period to a common market until the community had been established.

To this end, the meeting adopted the “Lusaka Declaration of Intent and Commitment to the Establishment of a Preferential Trade Area for Eastern and Southern Africa” (PTA) and created an Inter-governmental Negotiating Team on the Treaty for the establishment of the PTA. The meeting also agreed on an indicative time-table for the work of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Team.

After the preparatory work had been completed a meeting of Heads of State and Government was convened in Lusaka on 21st December 1981 at which the Treaty establishing the PTA was signed. The Treaty came into forceon 30th September 1982 after it had been ratified by more than seven signatory states as provided for in Article 50 of the Treaty.

The PTA was established to take advantage of a larger market size, to share the region’s common heritage and destiny and to allow greater social and economic co-operation, with the ultimate objective being to create an economic community. The PTA Treaty envisaged its transformation into a Common Market and, in conformity with this, the Treaty establishing the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, COMESA, was signed on 5th November 1993 in Kampala, Uganda and was ratifieda year later in Lilongwe, Malawi on8th December 1994.

It is important to underline the fact that the establishment of PTA,and its transformation into COMESA, was in conformity with the objectives of the Lagos Plan ofAction (LPA) and the Final Act of Lagos (FAL) of the Organisation ofAfrican Unity (Organisation of African unity). Both the LPA and the FAL envisaged an evolutionaryprocess in the economic integration of the continent in which regional economic communities would constitute building blocks upon which the creation of an African Economic Community (AEC) would ultimately be erected.


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