The “Second Coming” of COMESA’s CCC? Is the EAC foreshadowing a copy-cat maneuver?

tanzania COMESA Competition Commission logo 

Will there be a copy-cat to COMESA’s competition-law enforcer?

As the Tanzania Daily News reports (via AllAfrica, as TDN’s web site seems to be down at the moment), the Tanzanian Minister for industry and trade, Dr. Abdallah Kigoda (pictured), emphasized the importance of competition law policy across the entire East African Community (“EAC”) region during a speech yesterday.

He reportedly stated at the inaugural meeting of the “Accelerating Implementation of EAC Competition Policy and Law Project” (that’s a mouthful) that:

“[i]t is difficult for a single country to deal with the competition policy and therefore it is vital to go for a well functioning competition policy that will help curb anti-competition practices by not only domestic firms but also regional and large multinational corporation (MNGs) and international cartels.”

This sentence is somewhat incomplete, in our grammatical view — but it seems to be a thinly-veiled call for a trans-national, region-wide competition policy.   This would be notable insofar as the following two premises are considered:

  1. One need not look far in the region to find a good example: There is a very recent case of a functioning competition policy and enforcement body in the east-African region, namely: COMESA’s Competition Commission (“CCC”), which became operational in January 2013.
  2. Tanzania left COMESA in 1999 and is currently not a member.  (This withdrawal was, ironically, announced by Dr. Kigoda’s long-ago predecessor minister.)

Go figure…!  We at AfricanAntitrust.com are all for sensible competition-law enforcement.  Yet, one would hope that the EAC (and Tanzania) do not plan to emulate the COMESA example and create yet another — presumptively conflicting — regional antitrust body in eastern Africa, lest the will of corporate investors to grow their businesses in the region be completely stifled by the rampant growth of competing antitrust jurisdictions in the area, seeking to extract merger-filing fees and/or fines for contraventions from established economic actors.

Do we think this is a probable threat?  No.  But it’s worth writing about, when statements like the one quoted above are made by officials acting on behalf of national governments and, indeed, supra-national bodies.

Why don’t we think it’s a likely problem? Because all of the other EAC members** are already COMESA member states, and would have to suffer from the governmental equivalent of schizophrenia to subscribe to two separate supra-national competition regimes, in addition to their own domestic ones (to the extent they exist).

What’s an alternative interpretation?  Hmm, could Tanzania be considering re-joining COMESA?

** Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda (setting aside COMESA non-member Tanzania).

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