Regional Market Under Siege

It is generally agreed amongst the international community, at least in principle, that liberalization of trade and allowing the free movement of goods, services and people, among countries that share common geographic boundaries and states situated at different poles of the earth, is a must.

In order to make the liberalization of trade a reality and to ensure the free flow of goods and services, states initiate various types of structures. The Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa (COMESA) is Africa's largest economic community. COMESA was established by a treaty agreed in 1993 by 15 east and southern African states. Before this, some east and southern African states had tried to develop other structures. These include the sub-regional Preferential Trade Area (PTA) in 1978 and later the establishment of a Preferential Trade Area for Eastern & Southern Africa, in 1981. The latter became a stepping stone for the inauguration of COMESA.

This economic community embraces states with very differing economic, political and social experiences and legacies. Countries ranging from those with a large population size, such as Ethiopia, to countries with very small number of people, like Swaziland or Lesotho, are all members of this block.

Moreover, this block encompasses countries colonized by various European powers, such as Great Britain and France. This continues to test the vitality and stamina of African states to establish structures able enough to quench the interest of African minds and hearts. Hence, the difference of interests among member states of the common market makes the forum special.

Of course, the block is vital, in that its success or failure would help to test the capacity of African states to establish alliances ready to accommodate the differing interests of various states.

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