Kenyan Competition Authority Disputes COMESA Jurisdiction

kenya
The Kenyan Competition Authority (CAK) has asked for formal guidance from the Kenyan Attorney General (and via his office from COMESA) as to notification requirements of mergers over which national competition authorities used to exercise exclusive or semi-exclusive jurisdiction.

John Oxenham, at Nortons in Johannesburg (South Africa) has said to Global Competition Review that the CCC would inevitably “encounter teething problems. However, it is clear that the landscape in relation to merger notifications across the region has been dramatically reinforced with COMESA coming into operation”.

COMESA member states have the procedural option of requesting a referral-“down” from the COMESA’s CCC (Competition Commission), once they gleaned that a notification has been submitted to the CCC and under circumstances that make it likely that the notified transaction may be harmful to competition within that member state’s market.

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COMESA CCC now functional

COMESA old flag color
COMESA Fundamentals:

COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) is a supra-national group of 19 sovereign African countries; it is the successor entity to the 1982 Preferential Trade Area Agreement among eastern and southern African nations.  For starters, here is a map of COMESA’s member states, which are as follows: Burundi, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Notably absent from its membership is the largest economy of the region, namely South Africa.  Likewise, Tanzania is no longer a member, having left the bloc in 2000.

What is the competition-law relevance of COMESA:

Headquartered in Lusaka (Zambia), the 19 year-old organisation has recently upped the ante for companies engaged in commercial activities within the borders of COMESA member states…  It has created and activated the COMESA Competition Commission (the “CCC”).

The CCC, based in Lilongwe (Malawi), is tasked with supervising and enforcing competition-related matters within the bloc.  In this function, it may be compared to the Directorate General Competition (“DG COMP”) of the European Union, as a supra-national enforcement authority, specialised in antitrust / competition-law matters.  The CCC’s primary areas of responsibility are, unsurprisingly:

  1. Merger enforcement (using an “SLC” – substantial lessening of competition – test)
  2. Cartel conduct and other horizontal and potentially also vertical agreements
  3. Unilateral conduct (i.e., abuse of a dominant position in the market)

The COMESA Board of Commissioners is an appellate authority in relation to the CCC.  Companies may also maintain actions against COMESA member states before the Court of Justice, provided they have fully exhausted their national-court remedies.