EAC poised to pressure remaining members into antitrust enforcement

By AAT staff

On the heels of the COMESA Competition Commission launching its first-ever “failure-to-file” merger investigation, the East African Community (EAC) Competition Authority is poised to dip its toes into the waters of being operational — but it will require its member states to active enforcement programmes of their own, says the agency head.

There are hurdles to the regional body of the African Great Lakes, as our sources point out: only two out of the EAC’s six members states — namely Kenya and Tanzania — have working antitrust enforcement authorities at the moment.  Having only one-third of a supra-national organisation’s members being versed in competition enforcement is a hindrance to the EAC Authority’s competence and pragmatic effectiveness, said chairman of the Board of Commissioners, Sam Watasa at the agency’s 2nd meeting at the organisation’s Arusha headquarters.  He is quoted as saying:

“Kenya and Tanzania have operational National Competition Agencies, Rwanda and Burundi had enacted laws but are yet to be operationalised. In Uganda there was a draft Competition Bill.”

Advertisements

Adverse effects of price-fixing: East Africa recognises drawbacks

It is not really news, but worth mentioning as it is literally happening simultaneously: As the most developed antitrust enforcement jurisdiction in Africa, South Africa, charges ahead with heavy-handed actions, such as denying alleged currency manipulators “access to file” in the investigative process, or accusing two livestock-feed processors of colluding in the sales and pricing of animal feed ‘peel pulp’, the East African nations lag behind.

What is news, however, is that they have begun to recognise the shortcoming and the adverse effects of collusion and other anti-competitive conduct on their economies: Andreas Stargard, an antitrust lawyer with Primerio Ltd., notes that the head of the East African Community (EAC), Mr. Liberat Mfumukeko, recently addressed ongoing antitrust violations in the EAC: “The Secretary denounced anti-competitive practices (cartels and the like) as serious obstacles to obtaining foreign direct investment in the region.  Moreover, he recognised the violations as ‘impeding effective competition’ and thereby directly hurting African consumers,” says Stargard.

Mr Mfumukeko is quoted as stating: “The EAC markets pose challenges to investors and consumers including the charging of high prices arising from anti-competitive practices such as cartels. These practices impede effective competition in the markets.”

Within the EAC, Stargard notes, the primary jurisdictions with operational antitrust regimes are Kenya and Tanzania, with others such as Uganda lagging behind even farther, having no competition legislation or only having draft bills under review.  Most other nations lag behind, although, as Mr. Stargard observes, many are part of the broader COMESA competition regime.  “The COMESA rules, however, have thus far been enforced with a primary objective of merger regulation,” he says, “effectively failing to police any collusive conduct in the close to two dozen member states at all, despite the explicit prohibition thereof in the COMESA regulations.”

Antitrust exemption regime: Value-add or underutilized?

Professional Associations in Kenya not Making Use of Exemption Provisions a Major Concern for Competition Authority

Continuing in our series about the burgeoning East African Community and its nascent antitrust regime, AAT contributing author and Pr1merio attorney, Elizabeth Sisenda, writes a second installment covering the exemption regime of the region and its (surprising) underutilized status to date.

Elizabeth Sisenda, LL.M (London) LL.B (CUEA) PGD Law (KSL)

Price-fixing in Kenya is prohibited under the Competition Act No. 12 of 2010 under Section 21 (3) (a) which provides that any agreements, decisions or concerted practices which directly or indirectly fix purchase or selling prices or any other trading condition is prohibited under the Act, unless they are exempt in accordance with the provisions of Section D of Part III.

Part III B further prohibits price-fixing by trade associations under Section 22 (b) (i) which provides that the making, indirectly or directly, of a recommendation by a trade association to its members or to any class of its members which relates to the prices charged, or to be charged by such members, or to any class of members, or to the margins included in the prices, or to the pricing formula used in the calculation of those prices, constitutes a restrictive trade practice under the Act.

Section 29 (1) of the Act further outlines the rules for exemptions in respect of professional associations. It provides that a professional association whose rules contain a restriction that has the effect of preventing, distorting or lessening competition in a market must apply in writing or in the prescribed manner to the Competition Authority for an exemption. Sub-section (2) goes on to explain what factors the Authority considers in order to grant an exemption for a specified period. These include:

  • Maintenance of professional standards
  • Maintenance of the ordinary functioning of the profession
  • Internationally applied norms

Section 29 (5) further gives discretion to the Authority to revoke an exemption in respect of such rules or the relevant part of the rules, at any time, if the Authority considers that any rules, either wholly or in part, should no longer be exempt under this section. For instance, if they no longer promote consumer welfare or do not enhance standards in the profession.

Price setting concerns by Law Society of Kenya, LSK

kenyaProfessional fees for advocates in Kenya are set by the Chief Justice under the Advocates Act Chapter 16 of the Laws of Kenya. Part IX Section 44 provides that the Chief Justice may by order prescribe and regulate in such manner as he/she thinks fit the remuneration of advocates in respect of all professional business, whether contentious or non-contentious. Sub-section (2) also provides that the Chief Justice may prescribe a scale of rates of commission or percentage in respect of non-contentious business.

However, Section 45 provides that agreements in respect of remuneration may be made between the advocate and the client subject to permissible professional rules under section 46 of the Act. Therefore, as much as the Chief Justice may set professional fees under the Act, there is an opportunity for the advocate and the client to agree on professional fees subject to the Act. Moreover, a client has redress to apply to the courts under Section 45 (2) to set aside or vary such an agreement on grounds that it is harsh, unconscionable, exorbitant or unreasonable according to professional practice. The decision of the court on this matter is final.

The Chief Justice periodically revises the Advocates Remuneration Order which sets out the scale of professional legal fees. In doing so the Chief Justice considers factors such as inflation and the costs of providing legal fees. The Kenyan Advocates Remuneration Order was last revised upwards in 2014, increasing professional fees by 50%. The Order was last revised in 1997. Advocates had petitioned the Chief Justice to do so in order to enable them cope with tough economic conditions. Recently there was a public discourse on whether advocates should have set fees. Stakeholders argue that the Chief Justice’s decision to adjust fees may not be entirely objective because since he or she has qualifications in law, and could revert to the profession upon retirement from office.

LSK on the other had contends that the minimum fees help protect consumers from poor services, and it reduces the price wars that would occur without the scale of fees. Under the Advocates Act, charging below the set scale of fees amounts to undercutting. This is a professional offense that could result in the concerned advocate being suspended or struck off the roll. Moreover, any agreements or instruments prepared by the concerned advocate are liable to be invalidated by the courts.

The question arose among legal stakeholders as to whether the Authority could intervene in relation to the scale of professional fees under the provisions on price-fixing. The LSK chairperson recently commented that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the Authority, as the Remuneration Order seeks to set minimum fees and not a fixed rate. However, it is clear from the provisions of Section 29 that any professional body whose rules, having regard to internationally applied standards, contain any restrictions which have the effect of preventing or substantially lessening competition in a market, must apply to the Competition Authority for an exemption of the said rules.

Price Setting Concerns by Association of Kenya Reinsurers, AKR

The Association of Kenya Reinsurers is regulated by the Kenya Reinsurance Corporation Limited Act, Cap 487A of the Laws of Kenya. The Association consists of the following companies: Kenya Reinsurance Corporation Limited, Africa Reinsurance Corporation Limited, East Africa Reinsurance Company, Zep – Re and Continental Reinsurance Limited. The Authority recently investigated this association for price fixing following a complaint lodged from the National Intelligence Service (NIS). The association, through a circular dated 2, October 2013, had advised its members on the minimum applicable premiums upon renewal of NIS Group Life Scheme for 2013/2014. Insurance companies are required by their regulator Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA) to use an independent actuary to come up with their own individual premium rates, which they file with the IRA for approval.

The association is required under the Competition Act Section 29 (1) to apply in the prescribed manner to the Authority for an exemption in relation to any anti-competitive rules. Section 22 (2) (b) also prohibits the making, directly or indirectly, of a recommendation by a trade association to its members, or to any class of its members which relates to the prices charged, or to be charged by such members, or any such class of members, or to the margins included in the prices, or to the prices, or to the pricing formula used in the calculation of those prices. Therefore, the Association is legally bound to seek the approval of the Authority in order to set a minimum fee for any particular group of consumers. Moreover, the association may be in violation of Section 21 (f) of the Competition Act which prohibits any decisions by associations of undertakings which applies dissimilar conditions to equivalent transactions with other trading parties, thereby placing them at a competitive disadvantage, unless they are exempt in accordance with the provisions of Section D of Part III.

Conclusion

In conclusion, professional associations in Kenya should take advantage of the provisions of Section 29 of the Competition Act which allow professional associations to apply rules whose effect is the lessening of competition in the market, provided they are applied to enhance professional standards, the ordinary functioning of the profession or internationally applied norms for the benefit of consumers.

 

 

EAC expands to accept 6th member in accession of S. Sudan

Landlocked and Oil-Rich South Sudan Joins Free-Trade Zone

As South Sudan was officially admitted to the East African Community (EAC) as its sixth member in Arusha (Tanzania), on Wednesday, March 2, the beleaguered nation joined a free-trade zone that will allow it to benefit from more open labour movement, less restrictions on capital flows and other increased economic integration.  The other member states are Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda.  After integration with S. Sudan — the youngest nation on Earth — the region will have a population of an estimated 163 million.

John Oxenham, of Pr1merio Africa advisors, says: “South Sudan’s former institutional weaknesses were (apparently, despite the ongoing civil strife in the country) sufficiently remedied that the EAC governing body saw fit to grant the application for admission that had been pending since 2011.  Basic governance principles must be met for EAC membership, and we are not even talking competition-law here…”

As the EAC charter provides, all members must demonstrate and strive to achieve “good governance including adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law, accountability, transparency, social justice, equal opportunities, gender equality, as well as the recognition, promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in accordance with the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”  (EAC Treaty, Chapter 2 Article 6 (d)).

 

Setting aside civil-rights concerns or worries about political instability, the integration of an oil-rich nation may ultimately benefit its neighbouring fellow EAC members, such as Kenya and Uganda.  It remains to be seen whether integrating a less-than-stable country into the EAC zone will harm the competition legislation the region enacted in 2006.  As AAT author Elizabeth Sisenda pointed out recently, the organisation “has been setting up the mechanisms for its enforcement to-date through capacity building and mobilizing resources. In 2010, the EAC subsequently enacted competition regulations to assist in implementing the Act. One of the main challenges that has been encountered in the EAC with regards to the implementation of competition law and policy has been the unique economic and market structure of the member states.  The majority of the EAC member states are economies that are transitioning from state-regulation to liberalization.”

We note that S. Sudan’s northern neighbour, the Republic of [the] Sudan, is currently a COMESA member state and thereby subject to the COMESA competition-law regulations and related merger-notification regime.  South Sudan has, since at least the 2012 talks in Uganda, likewise been in negotiations with the COMESA governing bodies to discuss accession to that free-trade zone.

Regs & Exemptions: more on the EAC

The Exemption Regime under the East African Community’s competition regulations

Continuing in our series about the burgeoning East African Community and its nascent antitrust regime, AAT contributing author Elizabeth Sisenda is highlighting the exemption regime of the populous (146 million inhabitants) and increasingly wealthy ($150 billion GDP) region.  (For more background on the EAC regime, start here.)

Elizabeth Sisenda, LL.M (London) LL.B (CUEA) PGD Law (KSL)

Emerging markets or developing economies only recently adopted competition law and policy as an exclusive legal and economic tool for regulating markets. In previous years, restrictive trade practices were mostly handled under government price control departments or monopolies commissions. Most of the competition legislation and regulations in developing economies were promulgated within the last decade.

EAC: regulations & market conditions

The EAC, in particular, enacted its competition legislation in 2006 and has been setting up the mechanisms for its enforcement to-date through capacity building and mobilizing resources. In 2010, the EAC subsequently enacted competition regulations to assist in implementing the Act. One of the main challenges that has been encountered in the EAC with regards to the implementation of competition law and policy has been the unique economic and market structure of the member states.

The majority of the EAC member states are economies that are transitioning from state-regulation to liberalization. Consequently, several key sectors of these economies are still under quasi-governmental regulation by independent agencies established by the legislature, or explicitly protected by executive policy or subsidiary legislation.

As a result of the progressive liberalization of EAC economies, private entities have been building capacity to supply sectors of the economy where the government once had a monopolistic stake. These private firms, both local and multinational, have faced several challenges in meeting market requirements in terms of capacity. Consequently, the governments of these economies have sometimes adopted a protectionist approach for key sectors of their economies in the public interest. As much as this has often contributed to the substantial lessening of competition in the affected sectors to the detriment of consumers, these regulatory measures have been upheld by the respective governments on the grounds of national interest. The EAC, however, has been very cautious in its provisions for exemptions within the common market that could contribute to the substantial lessening of competition.

The EAC exemptions

Section 6 (3) of the EAC Competition Act provides that the Competition Authority may exempt a category of concerted practices by firms or parties, provided the concerted practice is limited to objectives which lead to an improvement of production or distribution, and whose beneficial effects, in the opinion of the Authority, outweigh its negative effects on competition. However, any exemptions granted by the Authority under this sub-section shall be applicable only if the combined market share of the parties involved in the concerted practice does not exceed 20% of the relevant market, and the agreement relating to the concerted practice does not contain any restrictive trade practice expressly prohibited under the Act. Thus, it may be contended that this exemption does not contribute to the substantial lessening of competition because it only applies to small or medium firms without any hint of market power, having a maximum market share of 10% each. Furthermore, the net effect of the concerted practice is beneficial to consumer welfare by improving access to goods or services. It also gives leeway for small producers to produce more efficiently, thus improving market conditions.

Low shares = more permissible conduct

The Authority under section 6 (1) further allows competitors whose combined market share does not exceed 10% of the relevant market to apply quantitative restraints on investment or input, output or sales, and engage in concerted practices that restrict the movement of goods within the common market. However, such conduct is expressly forbidden by the Act in the case of firms with larger market share. It may be contended that this particular provision is aimed at enabling small and medium enterprises to have a strategic opportunity to operate in an otherwise large and well-exploited market. It also does not limit competition because the firms in question have very little market share. Instead this exemption aims at protecting the competitiveness of the market by ensuring that smaller firms are not driven out of the market by larger, more efficient firms.

R&D and so on

Under section 6 (2) of the Act, the Authority also exempts 3 categories of conduct, namely: joint research and development, specialization of production or distribution and standardization of products or services, by firms whose combined market share does not exceed 20% of the relevant market. This exemption requires that the agreement relating to these categories of concerted practices should not contain any of the expressly prohibited anti-competitive practices under the Act. The Authority may contend that this exemption promotes consumer welfare by enabling smaller firms to collaborate in improving the quality of products or services in the relevant market through standardization and specialization efforts. It also enables smaller firms to participate in innovation through a collaborative effort. Most firms with this extent of combined market share would lack the resources or capacity on their own to engage in these activities that promote consumer welfare and efficiency in the relevant market.

Get permission first!

According to section 7 of the Act, any firm or person must first apply to the Authority, in accordance with the Regulations, for clearance to engage in any concerted practice. The Authority shall thereafter communicate its decision to the applicant within 45 days of receipt of the application. However, if the Authority does not communicate its decision in the specified duration, then the permission for the concerted practice shall be deemed to have been granted. Under the same section, it is an offence, punishable by a fine of not more than $10 000, to omit to seek the permission of the Authority to engage in a concerted practice. The Regulations under section 16 further provide that the undertaking seeking an exemption must pay the prescribed fees, and provide a detailed statement setting out the reasons why the concerted practice should be permitted for consideration to the Authority.

Conclusion

The EAC exemptions are therefore permitted in the common market to exercise a form of economic regulation for the purpose of ensuring that small and medium enterprises can effectively compete in a liberalized market without being driven out by firms with larger market share. In this way, the public interest is promoted to ensure that national or regional interests such as employment, allocative efficiency, specialization agreements and international competitiveness of domestic firms are taken into account. Applying exemptions does not necessarily imply the weakening of competition law enforcement. National economic policy considerations such as the maintenance and promotion of exports, changing productive capacity to stop decline in a particular industry, or maintaining stability in a particular industry are some of the policy considerations that motivate the application of exemptions. However, exemptions must be applied with caution because their application in one sector can perpetuate or induce distortions that can affect economic efficiency.

 

The Big Picture (AAT): East Africa & Antitrust Enforcement

AAT the big picture

East-Africa & Antitrust: Enforcement of EAC Competition Act

By AAT guest author, Anne Brigot-Laperrousaz.

Introduction: Back in 2006…

The East African Community (the “EAC”) Competition Act of 2006 (the “Act”) was published in the EAC Gazette in September 2007. The Act was taken as a regulatory response to the intensification of competition resulting from the Customs Union entered into in 2005. This was the first of the four-step approach towards strengthening relations between member States, as stated in Article 5(1) of the Treaty Establishing the EAC.

Challenges facing the EAC

As John Oxenham, an Africa practitioner with advisory firm Pr1merio, notes, “10 years have passed since the adoption of the EAC Act, yet it remains unclear when (and if) the EAC will develop a fully functional competition law regime.”

The EAC Competition Authority (the “Authority”) was intended to be set up by July 2015, after confirmation of the member States’ nominees for the posts of commissioners. Unfortunately Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi failed to submit names of nominees for the positions available, and the process has become somewhat idle, leaving questions open as to future developments.

The main challenges facing the EAC identified by the EAC’s Secretariat is firstly, the implementation of national competition regulatory frameworks in all member States; and secondly, the enhancement of public awareness and political will[1].

The first undertaking was the adoption of competition laws and the establishment of competition institutions at a national level, by all member states, on which the sound functioning of the EAC competition structure largely relies.

Apart from Uganda, all EAC member States have enacted a competition act, although with important discrepancies as to their level of implementation at a national level.

The second aspect of the EAC competition project is the setting up of the regional Competition Authority, which was to be ensured and funded by all members of the EAC, under the supervision of the EAC Secretariat. Although an interim structure has been approved by member States, the final measures appear to be at a deadlock.

As mentioned, the nomination of the commissioners and finalisation of the setting up of the EAC Competition Authority came to a dead-end in July 2015, despite the $701,530 was set aside in the financial budget to ensure the viability of the institution[2]. It is widely considered, however, that this amount is still insufficient to ensure the functionality of the Competition Authority.  Andreas Stargard, also with Pr1merio, points out that “[t]he EAC has been said to be drafting amendments to its thus-far essentially dormant Competition Act to address antitrust concerns in the region.  However, this has not come to fruition and work on developing the EAC’s competition authority into a stable body has been surpassed by its de facto competitor, the COMESA Competition Commission.”

Furthermore, inconsistencies among national competition regimes within the EAC are an important impediment to the installation of a harmonised regional enforcement. Finally, international reviews as well as national doctrine and practice commentaries have highlighted the lack public sensitization and political will to conduct this project.

A further consideration, as pointed out by Wang’ombe Kariuki, Director-General of the Competition Authority of Kenya, is the challenge posed by the existence of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (“COMESA”).

Conclusion

The implementation of the EAC has not seen much progress since its enactment, despite its important potential and necessity[3]. It therefore remains to be seen how the EAC deals with the various challenges and whether it will ever become a fully functional competition agency.

A quick summation of the status of the national laws of the various EAC members can be seen below. For further and more comprehensive assessments of the various member states competition law regimes please see African Antitrust for more articles dealing with the latest developments.

EAC Member States Status

Tanzania

The Tanzanian Fair Competition Act (the “FCA”) was enacted in 2003, along with the institution of a Commission and Tribunal responsible for its enforcement. The FCA became operational in 2005. Tanzania’s competition regime was analysed within the ambit of an UNCTAD voluntary peer review in 2012[4]. The UNCTAD concluded that Tanzania had overall “put in place a sound legal and institutional framework”, containing “some of the international best practices and standards”.

This report, however, triggered discussions on major potential changes to the FCA, which would impact, in particular, institutional weaknesses and agency effectiveness[5]. One of the most radical changes announced consisted in the introduction of criminal sanctions against shareholders, directors and officers of a firm engaged in cartel conduct[6], although there is no sign that this reform will be adopted.

Kenya

Kenya, following a 2002 OECD report[7] and the European Union competition regulation model, replaced its former legislation with the 2010 Competition Act, which came into force in 2011, and established a Competition Authority and Tribunal. Under the UNCTAD framework, the 2015 assessment of the implementation of the recommendations made during a voluntary peer review conveyed in 2005[8] was generally positive. It was noted, however, that there was an important lack of co-operation between the Competition Authority and sectoral regulators, and that there was a need for clear merger control thresholds[9].

Burundi

Burundi adopted a Competition Act in 2010, which established the Competition Commission as the independent competition regulator. To date, the Act has not yet been implemented, and accordingly no competition agency is in operation[10].

A 2014 study led by the Burundian Consumers Association (Association Burundaise des Consommateurs, “Abuco”) (which was confirmed by the Ministry of Trade representative) pointed to the lack of an operating budget as one of the main obstacles to the pursuit of the project[11].

Rwanda and Uganda

Rwanda enacted its Competition and Consumer Protection Law in 2012, and established the Competition and Consumer Protection Regulatory Body.

As for Uganda, to date no specific legal regime has been put in place in Uganda as regards competition matters, although projects have been submitted to Uganda’s cabinet and Parliament, in particular a Competition Bill issued by the Uganda Law Reform Commission, so far unsuccessfully.

 

Footnotes:

[1] A Mutabingwa “Should EAC regulate competition?” (2010), East African Community Secretariat

[2] C Ligami, “EAC to set up authority to push for free, fair trade” (2015), The EastAfrican

[3] O Kiishweko, “Tanzania : Dar Praised for Fair Business Environment” (2015), Tanzania Daily News

[4] UNCTAD “ Voluntary Peer Review on competition policy: United Republic of Tanzania” (2012), UNCTAD/DITC/CLP/2012/1

[5] S Ndikimi, “The future of fair competition in Tanzania” (2013), East African Law Chambers

[6] O Kiishweko, “Tanzania: Fair Competition Act for Review’ (2012), Tanzania Daily News.

[7] OECD Global Forum on Competition, Contribution from Kenya, “ Kenya’s experience of and needs for capacity building/technical assistance in competition law an policy “ (2002), Paper n°CCNM/GF/COMP/WD(2002)7

[8] UNCTAD, “ Voluntary Peer Review on competition policy: Kenya” (2005), UNCTAD/DITC/CLP/2005/6

[9] MM de Fays, “ UNCTAD peer review mechanism for competition law : 10 years of existence – A comparative analysis of the implementation of the Peer Review’s recommendations across several assessed countries” (2015)

[10] Burundi Investment Promotion Authority “Burundi at a Glance – Legal and political structure”, http://www.investburundi.com/en/legal-structure

[11] Africa Time, “Loi sur la concurrence : 4 ans après, elle n’est pas encore appliquée” (Competition Law : 4 years after, it is still not implemented) (2014), http://fr.africatime.com/burundi/articles/loi-sur-la-concurrence-4-ans-apres-elle-nest-pas-encore-appliquee

Protecting competition vs. competitors: Calls for an EAC competition regime

Protecting competition vs. competitors: Calls for an EAC competition regime

In an opinion piece by Elizabeth Sisenda, a competition lawyer at the Centre for International Trade, Economics and Environment, the author calls for region-wide adoption, implementation, and enforcement of competition law, for the greater good of local business in the East African Community.  While generally in favour of increased competition-law recognition in Africa, we at AAT believe that there may be a protectionist undertone in the editorial, however:

Ms. Sisenda notably writes, “The EU has been negotiating a bilateral agreement with the EAC … Local firms stand to lose to foreign firms with greater capacity under the agreement in agriculture, retail, horticulture, fisheries, textile and clothing, dairy, and meat — if adequate safeguards are not established under the agreement.  This brings to light the need to enhance a competitive regional economy within the EAC through the implementation of a regional competition law regime to protect consumers and small enterprises from unfair business practices.

As antitrust attorneys will be quick to point out, pure competition law does not invariably act to protect small companies against so-called “unfair” competition by larger (or foreign) entities.  Granted, certain abuses of dominance or — of course — cartelist conduct is prohibited by proper antitrust legislation.  However, the mere arrival of a more powerful competitor in a local economy does not amount to “unfair competition” per se.  If a larger company can source its products and inputs at a lower cost than a local, established entity (say, Wal Mart compared to a ‘mom-and-pop’ corner store), this may hurt the incumbent but is not necessarily unlawful.

Calls for “African” competition enforcement must be careful not to commingle the notions of protectionism of domestic incumbents with actual competition-law enforcement.

UPDATE: Ms. Sisenda, the author of the original article, wishes to clarify that by “adequate safeguard” her intention was not protectionism but ensuring that dominant firms do not undertake anti-competitive practices such as price-fixing, raising barriers to entry or other illicit conduct.  She is clear in disavowing any notion of protectionism that AAT might have perceived, noting that “By using the term ‘unfair business practices,’ I did not impute any regulatory measures to prop local entities and lock out foreign firms. I simply meant abuse of dominance by more capable foreign firms such as predatory pricing.”

Andreas Stargard, a partner at Africa advisory practice Pr1merio, agrees with Miss Sisenda on two key points, however.  Says Stargard:

The author correctly notes that “there is still a quest for protectionism by the governments of some of the EAC member states.”  Truly anti-competitive practices must be curbed, whereas the inefficient protection of smaller incumbent domestic companies versus more efficient new entrants must not be encouraged.  In the words of one influential court, over 53 years ago, good antitrust laws are designed to protect “competition, not competitors”

Moreover, Ms. Sisenda rightly points to the great need within the EAC (and elsewhere in Africa) for “capacity-building at the national and regional level in support of the … competition regime, which might involve training personnel on competition law and policy and its enforcement.”  Workshops and publications such as AfricanAntitrust.com aid greatly in these efforts, including raising awareness of the need for proper competition-law enforcement, what it can do and also what it cannot accomplish on its own.

The EAC Competition Authority has an interim organisational structure & budget and is expected to start being operational next year.

PS: we note that Ms. Sisenda also raised, in our follow-up conversation with her, some notable questions that we invite our readers or future contributing authors (maybe Ms. Sisenda herself?) to address:

  • In your view, are there any parameters to antitrust such as exemptions granted under legislation for the purpose of promoting economic efficiency (be it allocative or productive) that are justified?
  • Is there a place for economic regulation in antitrust?

Continue reading

Proliferation of active multi-nation competition regimes continues

6-member East African Community (EAC) to finalise competition law amendments

The EAC, a regional intergovernmental organisation comprising Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan, is said to be drafting amendments to its thus-far essentially dormant regional fair Competition Act (dating back to 2006, EAC Competition Act 2006, 49 sections) to address antitrust concerns in the region.  The EAC’s legislative body is in the final stages of completing its work on the East African Community Competition (Amendment) Bill (2015).

In a 2010 paper, Alloys Mutabingwa (then Deputy Secretary General of the EAC Community Secretariat) writes:

As the EAC begins the implementation of the Common Market, one is pushed to wonder, which kind of competition do we currently have in the East African Community? Is it the kind of competition that constantly pushes companies to innovate and reduce prices? Does it increase the choice of products and services available to EAC consumers? Or, is it the type of competition that is defined by companies colluding to highjack the market? The answer lies somewhere in the middle but one thing is certain, with the intensification of competition in the EAC there will be frictions between companies across the region as they seek to gain advantage over their competitors.

In this short and worthwhile read, he stresses the importance of having a multi-national competition framework vs. a purely domestic network of independent enforcers.  Mr. Mutabingwa uses the example of the merger case of East African Breweries and South African Breweries, in which the Kenyan and Tanzanian competition authorities were “allowed by law to handle national practices only.”

According to an October 2014 article, “statistics show that the EAC’s total intra-regional trade soared from $2 billion in 2005 to $5.8 billion in 2012, while the total intra-regional exports grew from $500 million to $3.2 billion in the period under review.”  The  piece quotes an EAC competition official as saying that the enforcement agency would be online by December 2014.

In addition to the EAC efforts, a report also states that the head of economic affairs of the Tanzanian Fair Competition Tribunal (FCT), Nzinyangwa Mchany, recently emphasised the importance of member-state level enforcement, such as that of the country’s FCT and FCC, “to increase efficiency in the production, distribution and supply of goods and services to Tanzanians,” especially in economies that were centrally planned until only a few decades ago, and which have had to struggle with the ill after-effects of unregulated trade liberalisation and privatisation of state-owned enterprises.