12 years in the making, East African regional competition-law enforcer now operational
By Stephany Torres
The East African Community Competition Authority (“the EACCA”) has finally become operational, after years of starts and spurts, having had its original Commissioners appointed (and half-million US$ budget approved) over 2 years ago. The EACCA will focus on investigating firms and trade associations suspected of engaging in price fixing in contravention of the EAC Competition Act 2006 (the “EAC Act”), and proceed under its 2010 Competition Regulations. The East African Community (“EAC”) is a regional intergovernmental organisation of 5 partner states, comprising Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda (South Sudan will be covered at a later stage, as it is not fully integrated into the EAC). The EACCA, therefore has jurisdiction in all the five partner states. EAC headquarters are located in Arusha, Tanzania.
Now, as of April 2018, the EACCA is said to be undertaking its first market enquiries in selected industries, according to Lilian Mukoronia, the Authority’s deputy registrar.
As we mentioned in the fall of 2017, the success of the EACCA’s activities will also be dependent on the EAC’s member countries’ level of and commitment to domestic competition-law enforcement: “Only two out of the EAC’s six member states — namely Kenya and Tanzania — currently have working antitrust enforcement authorities,” according to competition & antitrust practitioner Andreas Stargard. “That said — in a fashion rather similar to other supra-national enforcers, such as COMESA’s CCC or the European Commission — the EACCA will oversee competition-law matters that have a regional dimension, implying that there must be economic consequences reaching well beyond domestic borders before the regional body steps in to investigate,” he says.
There is thus no technical need for all of its partner states to have enacted competition laws and created institutions to enable the EACCA to implement its regional mandate. Moreover, each member state gets to nominate one EACCA commissioner, the current panel of whom were approved by the group’s Council of Ministers and sworn into office in 2016.
The EAC Act, which came into force in December 2014, mandates the EACCA to promote and protect fair competition in the EAC and to provide for consumer welfare. The EAC Act prohibits, amongst other things, anti-competitive trade practices and abuse of market dominance. It provides for notification of mergers and acquisitions, notification of subsidies granted by partner states, and regulates public procurement.