Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)

Member states: Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Eswatini, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Population: 560 million

GDP: USD 768 billion



Visa openness

Visa openness within COMESA varies widely. Seychelles, one of Africa’s three top-ranked countries, offers visa-free entry to the entire African continent. Libya, in contrast, is the continent’s joint least open country on the AVOI, while the DRC, Egypt, Eritrea, and Sudan are also ranked low. Ethiopia notably improved its score almost 20-fold between 2021 and 2022, climbing from 48th to 17th place. Djibouti rose from 52nd to 18th over the same period.

Overall, COMESA ranks fourth of the eight regional economic communities: it is home to two of the AVOI’s top 1C0OpMerEfoSrAmers, and another seven rank inside the top 20.

COMESA adopted a visa protocol in 1984 that sought to eventually eliminate visas on intra-regional travel, followed in 2001 by a regional protocol on the free movement of persons and right of establishment and residence. Only 4 countries have to date signed the protocol and implemented its fundamental principles; however, a task force was recently established to help speed up implementation of the two legal instruments.

Regional reciprocity

Visa-free reciprocity within COMESA averages a low 20%, or 36% when combined with a visa on arrival. No COMESA member state offers visa-free entry to more than half of other COMESA members: the most open countries in this regard are Kenya and Uganda, which dispense ten fellow COMESA members from obtaining a visa, but do not offer a visa on arrival to the rest. Mauritius (top-20 ranked), Rwanda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe (all three top-10 ranked) offer simplified entry to more than half of their fellow COMESA members. Egypt ranks last on regional reciprocity, only offering visa-free access or a visa on arrival to five African countries, none of which is a member of COMESA.

Regional overview, 2022