The history of COMESA began in December 1994 when it was formed to replace the former Preferential Trade Area (PTA) which had existed from the earlier days of 1981. COMESA (as defined by its Treaty) was established ‘as an organisation of free independent sovereign states which have agreed to co-operate in developing their natural and human resources for the good of all their people’ and as such it has a wide-ranging series of objectives which necessarily include in its priorities the promotion of peace and security in the region. However, due to COMESA’s economic history and background its main focus is on the formation of a large economic and trading unit that is capable of overcoming some of the barriers that are faced by individual states. COMESA’s current strategy can thus be summed up in the phrase ‘economic prosperity through regional integration’. With its 20 member states , population of over 374 million and annual import bill of around US$32 billion COMESA forms a major market place for both internal and external trading. Its area is impressive on the map of the African Continent and its achievements to date have been significant. (See also our comprehensive statistics) COMESA offers its members and partners a wide range of benefits which include: A wider, harmonised and more competitive market ;Greater industrial productivity and competitiveness Increased agricultural production and food security ;A more rational exploitation of natural resources; More harmonised monetary, banking and financial policies;More reliable transport and communications infrastructure.