The COMESA Competition Commission (“CCC”) hosted a live webinar today on the impact of COVID-19 on merger regulation and enforcement within the common market in the COMESA region. The seminar was aptly sub-titled “Challenges and Way Forward,” and the CCC representatives, in particular Dr. Willard Mwemba, did indeed lay out the problems faced by them and the measures proposed and taken to alleviate them.
COVID-related business and national competition agency closures have led to “significant delays in information gathering” from NCAs, third parties, and merger parties themselves.
CCC has relaxed the hard-copy filing requirements for merger notifications.
The concept of non-competition factors (i.e., the public-interest element) was also raised, as there is a “growing debate on whether the pandemic may necessitate changes in [the] substantive assessment of mergers, e.g., towards more lenient consideration of failing firms.”
That said, the CCC emphasized that its adjustment to enforcement actions should not be construed as any weakening of competition principles taking place. The harmonization and coordination among the COMESA member countries’ agencies and the CCC remain a critical element of the operation of the single market.