Dr. George Lipimile the Former Director and Chief Executive Officer of the COMESA Competitions Commission has warned sector players to avoid multiplicity of competition authorities in the region but rather focus on strengthening National Competition Commissions.
Lipimile, who was delivering a keynote address on the topic fostering integration through competition law enforcement, during the 10 Years Anniversary of the COMESA Competitions Commission in Malawi, said multiple competition authorities will confuse business people.
“A business person is a busy person. Now whom will he notify in case of a merger or acquisition? You are busy setting up institutions and authorities. Spend 90% of your time strengthening national competition commissions,” said Lipmile.
Lipimile’s concern came as a result of learning that the East African Community, which has members in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) are planning to set up the East African Community Competition Authority.
This is in addition to the COMESA Competition Commission, the yet to be ratified Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA), which brings together members of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), East African Community (EAC) and COMESA and, it envisages the creation of the Tripartite Free Trade Area Competition Authority.
It is hoped that the yet to come into force Africa Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) will have a competition commission referred to as the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Competition Authority.
Lipimile advised sector players to rather have a unified portal for easy information sharing and very clear merger thresholds.
“The most damage is done at the national level. Our authorities come in when it’s impacting cross border trade. Please strengthen national competition authorities and avoid multiplicity,” he said.
In his address to the gathering, Dr. Willard Mwemba, the Current Director and Chief Executive Officer of the COMESA Competition Commission, said from inception in 2013 to date, the COMESA Competition Commission has investigated over three hundred and sixty (360) merger cases and the companies involved derived an aggregate turnover of over USD 210 billion in the Common Market, representing the amount of business generated from the Common Market.
“It is evident that the Commission’s regulatory role can have cost implications on businesses which reinforces the need to be sensitive to the impact of any delays in the Commission’s enforcement efforts.
“With regards to the investigation of restrictive business practices, the COMESA Competition Commission has investigated over forty (40) cases since inception.
“Among the notable cases include the “Investigation into Agreements between the Confédération Africaine de Football, Lagardere Sports SAS, Orange SA and TOTAL SA relating to the commercialization of marketing rights for CAF competitions” and as well the investigation into resale price maintenance by The Coca-Cola Company,” said Mwemba.
With regards to the consumer protection mandate, Mwemba added that to date, the COMESA Competition Commission has a fully-fledged consumer protection division which was not the case at inception.
“Under this mandate, the COMESA Competition Commission seeks to ensure that consumers are not misled nor exploited in the ordinary course of business.
“Since inception, the Commission has investigated over forty-four (44) consumer cases. Notable among these cases include the investigation into unfair terms and conditions on the Jumia online platform.
“The Commission engaged Jumia on the incompatibility of their Terms and Conditions to the COMESA Competition Regulations, and they cooperated and reviewed the problematic clauses. “Further, the Commission investigated the conducted of Malawi Airlines in 2022 following complaints from passengers aboard a flight from Johannesburg to Blantyre. Due to bad weather, Malawi Airlines re-routed the Blantyre passengers to Lilongwe, Kamuzu International Airport, and accommodated them at the Sunbird Capital Hotel.
“Unfortunately, thereafter were left to find their way from Lilongwe to Blantyre. The Airline was engaged and it agreed to compensate all the affected passengers for the disruption of their journey,” said Mwemba.
Mwemba said the Commission has also undertaken product recalls and published alerts with regard to defective and unsafe products distributed in the Common Market which were declared unfit for consumption or use by consumers.
“Through such actions, the Commission has ensured that consumers are not put at risk of consuming defective products,” he said.
BY PAUL TENTENA