Tanzania And Comesa: Membership Dynamics

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Tanzania and COMESA: Membership Dynamics

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is a regional integration initiative established in 1994. Its primary objective is to promote economic cooperation and integration among its member states in Eastern and Southern Africa. COMESA aims to create a single market, facilitate the free movement of goods, services, and people, and foster sustainable economic development in the region.

COMESA's membership initially comprised 19 countries, but it has since expanded to include 21 member states, making it one of the largest regional economic communities in Africa. Member states benefit from preferential trade arrangements, harmonized customs procedures, and joint infrastructure development projects aimed at enhancing connectivity and economic growth.

Tanzania's Relationship with COMESA: Non-Membership and Withdrawal

Tanzania's relationship with COMESA has been characterized by fluctuations and periods of engagement followed by disengagement. Tanzania was one of the founding members of COMESA in 1994, recognizing the potential benefits of regional economic integration. However, Tanzania later decided to withdraw from COMESA in 2000, citing concerns over the negative impacts of liberalizing trade on its domestic industries and economy.

The decision to withdraw from COMESA was influenced by Tanzania's broader economic policy orientation at the time. The country prioritized protecting domestic industries and promoting self-sufficiency in key sectors over regional integration initiatives that it perceived as potentially undermining these objectives. Tanzania's withdrawal from COMESA reflected its preference for a more cautious and domestically focused approach to economic development.

While Tanzania withdrew from COMESA in 2000, it continued to maintain observer status within the organization, indicating a willingness to engage with regional integration efforts on some level. However, it did not fully re-join COMESA until 2017 when it formally applied for re-admission as a member state.

Reasons for Tanzania's Withdrawal and Non-Membership in COMESA:

  1. Protection of Domestic Industries: Tanzania's decision to withdraw from COMESA in 2000 was driven by concerns over the potential negative impacts of liberalized trade on its domestic industries. The country sought to protect sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, and textiles from competition with more established industries in other COMESA member states.

  2. Sovereignty and National Development Priorities: Tanzania's withdrawal from COMESA also reflected a broader emphasis on sovereignty and the pursuit of national development priorities. The government prioritized policies aimed at promoting domestic industrialization, job creation, and economic self-sufficiency, which were perceived as incompatible with the liberalization requirements of COMESA membership at the time.

  3. Regional Integration Challenges: Tanzania faced challenges in aligning its domestic policies and regulatory frameworks with the requirements of COMESA's integration agenda. The country's withdrawal from COMESA underscored the complexities and tensions inherent in reconciling national development objectives with regional integration commitments.

  4. Re-engagement and Re-evaluation: Despite its withdrawal from COMESA in 2000, Tanzania later re-evaluated its stance on regional integration and recognized the potential benefits of closer cooperation within the COMESA framework. In 2017, Tanzania formally reapplied for membership in COMESA, signaling a renewed commitment to regional economic integration.


Tanzania's relationship with COMESA has been characterized by periods of engagement, withdrawal, and subsequent re-engagement. The country's decision to withdraw from COMESA in 2000 was driven by concerns over the potential impacts of liberalized trade on its domestic industries and the prioritization of national development objectives.

However, Tanzania's subsequent reapplication for membership in COMESA in 2017 reflects a recognition of the potential benefits of regional economic integration and a willingness to engage constructively with its neighbors to promote shared prosperity and development. As Tanzania continues to navigate its relationship with COMESA, it will need to strike a balance between safeguarding national interests and actively participating in regional integration efforts to harness the full potential of economic cooperation in Eastern and Southern Africa.