COMESA: THE DYNAMIC FUTURE
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is Africa’s largest Regional Economic Community. The region is rich in natural resources – mineral, agricultural and energy – as well as in the youth of its population and the intensity of the desire of its peoples to succeed in growing their economies to match the living standards of the most industrialised nations. The world has been expanding its links with COMESA, where rates of return on investment have been higher than in any other part of the world.
COMESA comprises 19 Member States: Burundi, Comoros, DR Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Investors operating in the COMESA region benefit from its ease of doing business, governments that are responsive to investor needs, cost-effective workforce, huge market and good quality of life.
COMESA’s most obvious benefit to investors is the fully functional free trade area offering duty-free access to 15 of its 19 Member States which together are located on strategic world trade routes such as the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Indian Ocean, and in close proximity to global markets including Europe, the Gulf, Asia, and the rest of Africa. COMESA provides a larger market space for businesses to operate in where procedures and policies are being further simplified and harmonized.
COMESA is experiencing a boom that extends from metals to mobile payments. Many assume that the growth is overwhelmingly linked to natural resources like oil, gas, and mining. Natural resources are a big part of the story. However, three-fourths of the story is elsewhere, in sectors such as wholesale and retail, agriculture, transport and telecommunications, manufacturing, financial services, construction, real estate, business services and tourism, etc. Furthermore, according to Ernst & Young, in 2012, there were over 800 active infrastructure projects in Africa with a combined value in excess of USD 700 billion.
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, and is expected to continue the average growth rate of 5% till 2017 according to Ernst and Young. 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.