The COMESA Free Trade Area
The COMESA Free Trade Area (FTA) was launched on 31 October 2000 with nine Member States. This was the first FTA in Africa under the African Union. Membership in the FTA is now 13 Member States trading on a full duty free and quota free basis, with the remaining countries at various stages of joining the FTA. The FTA has boosted intra COMESA trade, increasing it by nearly six-fold from USD 3.1 billion in 2000 to USD 17.4 billion in 2011.
COMESA (Group I) FTA Member States
- Republic of Burundi
- Republic of Djibouti
- Arab Republic of Egypt
- Republic of Kenya
- Republic of Madagascar
- Republic of Malawi
- Republic of Mauritius
- Rwandese Republic (Rwanda)
- Republic of Sudan (North Sudan)
- Republic of Zambia
- Republic of Zimbabwe
- Republic of Seychelles
- Union of Comoros
COMESA (Group II) Non-FTA Member States
- Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
- State of Eritrea
- Kingdom of Swaziland
- Republic of Uganda
- Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
- South Sudan
COMESA Group I Member States trade on a full duty free and quota free basis. COMESA Group II Member States either grant partial tariff reduction or do not offer any tariff reduction.
The COMESA Rules of Origin
Introduction to preferential origin
Preferential origin is conferred on goods from particular countries, which have fulfilled certain criteria. In order to obtain preferential origin those criteria generally require that the goods be wholly obtained or have undergone sufficient transformation in the manufacturing processes.
Preferential origin under COMESA confers certain tariff benefits (entry at a reduced or zero rate of duty) on goods traded between COMESA countries.
In order to have preferential origin goods must fulfill the relevant conditions laid down in the COMESA Protocol on Rules of Origin.
In effect, it means that goods must either (1) be manufactured from raw materials or components which have been grown or produced in the exporting COMESA country or, should that not be the case, (2) at least undergo a certain amount of working or processing in the COMESA exporting country. Such goods are then considered to be "originating".
In all cases there is a list of the working or processing each product manufactured from non-originating materials or components must undergo in order to obtain originating status.These rules are often referred to as "the rules of origin". They set out the least amount of working or processing required on non-originating materials in order for the resulting goods to obtain originating status.
The structure of the list of working or processing requirements is based on the structure of the HS Code of the final product being exported. So before being able to determine what processing a specific product must undergo it is necessary to know its HS classification. More detailed information on tariff classification is available at:
Rules of Origin Criteria under COMESA
Products shall be considered and accepted as having COMESA preferential origin if they have undergone the following:
- The goods have been wholly produced or obtained in the COMESA Member State; or
- The goods have been produced in the COMESA Member State and the CIF value of any imported raw materials used in their production should not exceed 60% of the total cost of all materials used in their production; or
- The value added resulting from the process of producing the goods from imported materials should account for at least 35% of the ex-factory cost of the goods; or
- The goods should be produced in a Member State and be classified or become classified, after the process of production, under a tariff heading other than the tariff heading under which they were imported (CTH rule).
More flexible Rules of Origin to be able to benefit from duty free access on the COMESA market have been agreed for several products including garments, PET bottles, canned tuna, and plastic products, amongst others. It is now possible for instance to use fabrics imported from any other country for transformation into finished garments to be subsequently exported on the COMESA market on a duty free basis.
In addition, at the 13th Meeting of the COMESA Council of Ministers held in Malawi in October 2011, Egypt has agreed to implement the 35% Value Added Rule which requires that the value added resulting from the process of producing the goods from imported materials should account for at least 35% of the ex-factory cost of the goods.
For the complete lists of products benefitting from such improved rules, click on:
Complete information on the rules of origin under COMESA is available from the COMESA Procedures Manual on the implementation of the Protocol on Rules of Origin
COMESA Certificate of Origin:
The COMESA Certificate of Origin is both issued and approved by the Commerce Division of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Consumer Protection:
4th Floor, Anglo Mauritius Building
Tel: (230) 201 1072
Fax: (230) 208 7325
For the Commerce Division to approve the Certificate, the following documents must be submitted:
- COMESA Certificate of Origin duly filled
- Customs Declaration (Export and Import)
- Export Invoice
- Appropriate certified costing for value added requirements
- Any other document as may be required by the Commerce Division
Market Access to COMESA Countries
The COMESA FTA provides Mauritian exporters duty free and quota free access to 12 other Member States in COMESA. This confers a margin of preference to Mauritian exporters as compared to imports from other third countries like China and India. The margin of preference is the difference between the normal custom duty applicable and the rate of duty when exported under COMESA. A competitive edge is therefore granted to COMESA originating products. The links below provide the tariff schedules in most of the COMESA countries where the normal duties applicable on imported products are listed.
Non-Tariff Barriers Monitoring Mechanism
In the region, Member States of the SADC, COMESA and EAC have decided to adopt a harmonized approach as regards to the elimination of NTBs. The three RECs have joined forces to implement a common Non-Tariff Barrier reporting, monitoring and eliminating mechanism, which incorporates concrete timelines for the removal of NTBs in the region.
The online NTB monitoring mechanism is available on www.tradebarriers.org. Operators can directly report and monitor the resolution of barriers encountered in the COMESA, EAC and SADC regions. This new system enhances transparency and makes it easy to follow-up reported and identified NTBs. This web-based NTB system is accessible to all economic operators, public officials, academic researchers and other interested parties.
Mauritian operators exporting to the region are strongly encouraged to use the online system to report any NTB encountered. The website lists the different types of NTBs which can be reported on the system. Once the complaint is registered in the database, it is logged with a reference number. This reference number can be used to monitor who is responsible for dealing with the reported NTB and any specific outcomes. The online system also publishes notifications of procedural, legislative or regulatory changes announced by Member States in the three RECs, enabling all traders to constantly keep up to date with trading requirements.
More information can be obtained either from the www.tradebarriers.org website or from the MCCI, which has been appointed as the national private sector focal point for assisting the business community in the reporting process.
The COMESA Regional Electronic Payment and Settlement System (REPSS)
The COMESA Clearing House (CCH) has introduced the Regional Payment and Settlement System, (REPSS) which allows member countries to transfer funds more easily within COMESA. REPSS is built on open standards and is also accessible to non-member states and COMESA has the vision to make REPSS the single gateway for central banks within the region to effect payment.
The main aim of REPSS is to stimulate economic growth through an increase in intra-regional trade by enabling importers to pay for goods and services in their local currencies, whilst exporters will be able to invoice for their products in their local currency. Local banks will access the payment system through their central banks. Any participating bank will, therefore, be able to make payments to, and receive payments from, any other participating bank. The linkages through central banks will avoid the complex payment chains that may sometimes occur in correspondent bank arrangements. The system will operate through member countries’ central banks and their corresponding banking systems.
For more information on the COMESA REPSS, click on: http://www.mcci.org/documents/REPSS2.pdf
Chambers of Commerce:
|Burundi Federal Chamber of Commerce and Industry
|Avenue du 18 Septembre
|P.O Box : 313
||Town : Bujumbura
|Phone : (00257) 222280
||Fax : (00257) 227895
|Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
|Alexandria Chamber of Commerce
|31, El Ghorfa El Tegareya Street
|Town : Alexandria
|Phone : +20 3 4808779
||Fax : +20 3 4808779
|Email : email@example.com
|Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry
|Ufanisi House - Haile Selassie Avenue
|P.O Box : 47024
||Town : Nairobi
|Phone : (00254) 20 220867
||Fax : (00254) 20 334293
|EMail : firstname.lastname@example.org
|General Federation of Chambers of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture
|26, Bandong Street
|P.O Box : 12556
||Town : Tripoli
|Phone : (00218) 21 4441613
||Fax : (00218) 21 3340155
|EMail : email@example.com
|Chambre de Commerce, d'Industrie et d'Agriculture d'Antananarivo
|20, rue Henry Razanatseheno
|P.O Box : 166
||Town : Antananarivo 101
|Phone : (00261) 20 2220211-12
||Fax : (00261) 20 2220213
|EMail : firstname.lastname@example.org
|Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry
|Masauko Chipembere Highway Chichiri Trade Fair Grounds
|P.O Box : 258
||Town : Blantyre
|Phone : (00265) 1671988
||Fax : (00265) 1671147
|Rwanda Private Sector Federation
|Gikondo MAGERWA, Kigali Rwanda
|P.O Box : 319
||Town : Kigali
|Email : email@example.com
|Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industry
|Plot 1A, Kiira Road. Mulago Kampala, Uganda
|P.O Box : 3809
||Town : Kampala
|Phone :+256 (0)75350 3035
||Fax :+256 (0)414230310/ 312266324
|Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
|Zambia Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry
|Financial Lane, Showgrounds
|P.O Box : 30844
||Town : Lusaka 10101
|Phone : (00260) 1 252483
||Fax : (00260) 1 253020
|EMail : email@example.com
|Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce
|ZNCC Business Group - 42, Harare Street
|P.O Box : 1934
||Town : Harare
|Phone : (00263) 4 749335
||Fax : (00263) 4 750375
|EMail : firstname.lastname@example.org