The biggest event in the Common Market Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) calendar is underway at the African Union here in Addis Abeba. The two weeks meetings kicked off on Wednesday 18th March, 2015. The first event was the 14th meeting of the Committee on Peace and Security, a closed meeting dealing with the issues impacting on the peace and security issues of the 19 COMESA member states.
The fight against maritime piracy, the rise in global terrorism, update on the negative forces that operate in the Great Lakes Region, the conflict in South Sudan and efforts towards the stabilization of Somalia were among the issued in focus during the meeting.
Progress reports of five programs were presented. The programs were the early warning program, the mediation support program, the program on post conflict reconstruction and development, the program on maritime security and the program on democracy and governance.
Friday, the 20th of March saw the commencement of the 34th Meeting of Administrative and Budgetary matters addressing the COMESA budget with focus on Member States assessed contributions. Progress on the acquisition of a machine readable travel document for COMESA staff was presented.
The Intergovernmental Committee Meeting, bringing together Permanent Secretaries and Principal Secretaries from Ministries responsible for COMESA matters or regional integration in the Member States began on Sunday and is expected to end today. In the three days of closed meeting, the Committee handles the bulk of work of the policy organs.
The Council of Ministers will convene on 26 and 27th March 2015 to usher in the 18th Heads of States and Government’s Summit on 30 and 31st March 2015.
COMESA was formed in December 1994 to replace the former Preferential Trade Area (PTA) which had existed from the earlier days of 1981. It 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, population of over 389 million and annual import bill of around USD 32 billion with an export bill of USD 82 billion COMESA forms a major market place for both internal and external trading.