COMESA
Court Of Justice Of The Common Market For Eastern And Southern Africa

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The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa was created in 1994, on the blue print of the European Communities, to foster the economic development of the States of the region. Such a goal is to be attained by removing the structural and institutional weaknesses plaguing member States and by pooling their resources. The ultimate objective is to create a sub-regional common market and eventually an economic community. The COMESA agreement replaces the ineffective Preferential Trade Area for Eastern and Southern Africa (PTA), which was operational since 1984.

Under the COMESA Treaty, member States are called to cooperate in all areas of economic activity, including trade promotion, monetary and financial cooperation, development of agriculture, investment, and improvement of transport and communications. COMESA also promotes peace, security, and stability among member States in order to enhance economic development in the region.

To oversee the implementation of the COMESA agreement, the Treaty established a Court of Justice, modeled along the lines of the Court of Justice of the European Communities. Hence, the COMESA Court adjudicates on disputes between member States against one another, or on references by the COMESA Council or the Secretary General against a member State for infringement of or failure to fulfill a Treaty provision. The COMESA Court can also hear a reference from a member State or any legal and natural person resident in a member State, concerning the legality of any act, regulation, directive, or decision of the COMESA Council. Under the previous Treaty Establishing the PTA, these functions were to be carried out by the PTA Tribunal.

Furthermore, the COMESA Court has jurisdiction over COMESA employees and third parties against COMESA or its institutions (a function previously carried out by the PTA Administrative Appeals Board), and can act as an arbitral tribunal on any matter arising from a contract to which COMESA or any of its institutions is a party (a function similar to that carried out by the former PTA Centre for Commercial Arbitration). To date, four cases have been submitted to the COMESA Court and this sets it apart from many similar judicial bodies created by past attempts at African regional and sub-regional economic integration.