CEO Calls for Introduction of Nigerian Competition Law

 

“Too huge to be monopolised”? — Orkeh cites business need for Nigerian competition law

The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of African Cable Television, Mr. Godfrey Orkeh, was interviewed recently in Lagos, Nigeria, and discussed a topic we at AAT have previously addressed: The need for Africa’s largest economy to enact antitrust laws.  ACTV (pronounced “active”) began its service in December 2014 and has faced an uphill battle in entering the pay-TV marketplace.

As John Oxenham, a founding director of Pr1merio, the Africa-focussed legal advisory firm and business consultancy, points out: “In April of 2014, Nigeria surpassed South Africa as the continent’s largest economy, yet it still lacks any enforceable antitrust provision in its statutes.” (See Economist Apr. 12, 2014: “Africa’s New Number One“).

nigeria

Even prior to Nigeria’s rise to become the continent’s premier economy in terms of GDP, we published several calls for a Nigerian competition law. For example, in our article “Another call for Competition Law in Nigeria: Privatization of Electricity,” AAT contributor Chinwe Chiwete wrote:

The way forward still remains for Nigeria to have a Competition Law as the basic legal framework upon which other sector regulations can build upon.

Chilufya Sampa, a former COMESA Competition Commissioner and currently the Executive Director of the Zambian Competition & Consumer Protection Commission, said that antitrust law in Africa’s largest economy “would be great indeed,” noting the “many benefits in having a competition law.”

Pr1merio director Andreas Stargard likewise promoted the idea of establishing an antitrust regime in West Africa’s dominant economy. He wrote in an article aptly entitled “Nigerian antitrust?“:

Today, AfricanAntitrust adds its voice to the steady, though infrequent, discussion surrounding the possibility of a Nigerian competition-law regime.  In our opinion, it is not a question of “if” but “when”, and perhaps more importantly, “how“?

“If”: it is a virtual certainty that sooner or later, the drivers of growth in the Nigerian economy (innovators, IPR owners and applicants, upstarts, and foreign investment) will succeed in their demands for an antitrust law to be enacted.

“When”: it’s been debated in Nigeria since at least 1988; there was another push in the right direction in 2002; and, since then, at least a steady trickle of intermittent calls for a central antitrust regulator, often coming loudest from the outside (as does this post). This general time line coincides with that of other developing or now emerging competition-law jurisdictions, and we believe it is now a question of years, not decades, until a Nigerian Sherman Act will see the legislative light of day. Our (admittedly unscientific) prediction is that Nigeria will have a competition-law regime prior to 2020. (Note: the latest of up to six bills introduced to date, the Competition and Consumer Protection Bill, has been languishing in the Nigerian Senate since 2009).

“How”: this is the kicker — the most interesting bit of the Groundhog Day story this would otherwise be and remain. The intriguing part about reigniting the discussion surrounding Nigerian antitrust law is that we now live in the age of COMESA and more importantly here, the COMESA CCC (Competition Commission).

This opens up new opportunities that may not have been envisaged by others in the 1990s or 2000s. For example: will the economies of West Africa band together and create a similar organisation, notably with “legal teeth”, which might include provisions for a centralised enforcement of antitrust? Will it be under the auspices of ECOWAS or UEMOA? A monetary union has been known to be an effective driver of ever-increasing competition-law enforcement elsewhere in the world (hint: Brussels)…

If the answer to these crucial questions is “no”, what are the consequences to the Nigerian economy? Will Nigeria continue on its path to outsider status when it comes to healthy economic regulation — despite its powerhouse status in sub-Saharan Africa? Will this add to the disincentive against increased foreign investment, akin to the prevalent oil and diesel-stealing that occurs ’round-the-clock and in the open? Will businesses — other than former state monopolies, now privatised and firmly in the hands of oligarchs, or cartelists — continue to accept being deprived of the economic fruit of their labour, without protection from certifiably anti-competitive behaviour? Will other state agencies continue to step in and act as quasi-enforcers of antitrust, as they have done in the past (the Air Cargo cartel is an example), filling the void of a central competition commission?

Godfrey-Orkeh

Chief Executive Officer of African Cable Television, Mr. Godfrey Orkeh

Below, we excerpt a few of Mr. Orkeh’s pertinent comments on the issue, in which he discusses the lack of any monopolisation offence under Nigerian law and the high barriers of entry in the television and media sector he and his company have faced while challenging the incumbent domestic TV provider.

The number one challenge in the industry is that there is no regulation, NBC is doing its best but there is no act of law that backs the activities up. Before the last government handed over, there was a bill that was being pushed, [competition-law] bill like what we find in Europe that nobody can own 100 per cent of an industry, if you grow beyond a particular size, for instance when Microsoft, Google among others grew beyond a certain size, they were stopped to allow room for other players. There is no such law right now in Nigeria so it is a big barrier; it is only legislature that can change that. … This is good for the economy and the customers.

We knew there is a monopolistic tendency in the market, the existing structure in the legislature of Nigeria allows a dominant player to take advantage of the environment, before we came to the market. There was no pay TV offering PVR for the middle class and for you to get decoder with PVR you have to cough out about N70, 000 but we are saying with N15, 000 you can have a PVR. And content-wise there was a lot of exclusivity which is going to be difficult for one person to break. Beyond this, we will develop the market for our self, develop a niche for our self because right now the tendency is also thriving in the industry, Nigeria with a population of about 170 million, 26 million households with television, but the market is so huge. There is still a huge market that is not being addressed, we are here to capture that niche market and grow it. … [] Nigerians are the only ones that can take a stand as far as monopoly is concerned, and we have started seeing that in recent social media reactions about what is happening in the industry.  If we don’t have a choice there will always be a monopoly even if it is only a player that is that market, but you’ve created an avenue for two to three players to play in the market, there would be options like what we see in the telecoms sector, where I can port my number, which I believe has  taken efficiency to another level. So we are getting to a point where with digitisation every Nigerian would be exposed to as many channels as possible.  But the fact remains that the market is a huge segment. It is too huge to be monopolised.

Outside of AAT’s own resources on the prospect of a future Nigerian antitrust law, we refer our readers to the following resources for further reading on this topic:

  1. http://www.globalcompetitionforum.org/regions/africa/Nigeria/antitrust%20article.pdf
  2. http://afro-ip.blogspot.be/2011/11/iprs-and-competition-law-nigerian.html
  3. http://www.cuts-ccier.org/7up4/NTW-Nigeria_media.htm
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More antitrust? Calls for competition legislation in Ghana

ghana

Former Ghanaian Supreme Court Justice calls for competition law

According to online reports, Mr Samuel Date-Bah, retired Justice of the Ghanaian Supreme Court and Council Chairman of the University of Ghana, made some strong public comments on the economic necessity of creating a new West-African antitrust regime at a conference on December 5, 2013, also known as “World Competition Day”.  The event was the “Policy Roundtable Discussion on Competition Reforms in Ghana,” organized by CUTS International, held in the capital of Accra.

The article reports that Justice Date-Bah, who has held visiting academic positions at Oxford and Yale Law School, deplored the legislature’s previously failed attempts of enacting a comprehensive competition law, calling for the country to do so to ensure proper market dynamics.

Other panelists, such as Dr Edward Brown, Director of Policy Advisory Services at the African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET), reportedly supported the Justice’s position on the need for a Ghanaian competition-law regime and called for its integration into the regional supranational bodies of ECOWAS and UEMOA.

South African market-inquiry provision comes into effect

south_africa

President Jacob Zuma has signed the market inquiry provisions of the South African Competition Amendment Act of 2009 (“Amendment Act”) into force today, 8 March 2013.

The president set 1 April 2013, as the date on which section 6 of the Amendment Act will become effective.

Section 6 empowers the S.A. Competition Commission (“Commission”) to conduct an inquiry into the general state of competition in any market in South Africa, without referring to specific prohibited conduct or a particular firm.  Under this provision, the Commission may initiate a market inquiry when it has reason to believe that any features of an identified market may be distorting or restricting competition in that market, e.g., where a market is not functioning optimally, but where no prohibited conduct, such as cartel activity, has been identified.

Section 6 also regulates how the Commission may conduct such market inquiries.  More specifically, the Commission may use its powers to request information from firms but may not use its search and seizure (i.e., dawn raid) powers to gather information for a market inquiry.

At the conclusion of the market inquiry, the Commission must publish its findings and may also make recommendations to the Minister of Trade and Industry or other regulatory authorities relating to any competition matters identified.

Nigerian antitrust?

nigeria
Today, AfricanAntitrust adds its voice to the steady, though infrequent, discussion surrounding the possibility of a Nigerian competition-law regime.

In our opinion, it is not a question of “if” but “when”, and perhaps more importantly, “how“?

“If”: it is a virtual certainty that sooner or later, the drivers of growth in the Nigerian economy (innovators, IPR owners and applicants, upstarts, and foreign investment) will succeed in their demands for an antitrust law to be enacted.

“When”: it’s been debated in Nigeria since at least 1988; there was another push in the right direction in 2002; and, since then, at least a steady trickle of intermittent calls for a central antitrust regulator, often coming loudest from the outside (as does this post). This general time line coincides with that of other developing or now emerging competition-law jurisdictions, and we believe it is now a question of years, not decades, until a Nigerian Sherman Act will see the legislative light of day. Our (admittedly unscientific) prediction is that Nigeria will have a competition-law regime prior to 2020. (Note: the latest of up to six bills introduced to date, the Competition and Consumer Protection Bill, has been languishing in the Nigerian Senate since 2009).

“How”: this is the kicker — the most interesting bit of the Groundhog Day story this would otherwise be and remain. The intriguing part about reigniting the discussion surrounding Nigerian antitrust law is that we now live in the age of COMESA and more importantly here, the COMESA CCC (Competition Commission).

This opens up new opportunities that may not have been envisaged by others in the 1990s or 2000s. For example: will the economies of West Africa band together and create a similar organisation, notably with “legal teeth”, which might include provisions for a centralised enforcement of antitrust? Will it be under the auspices of ECOWAS or UEMOA? A monetary union has been known to be an effective driver of ever-increasing competition-law enforcement elsewhere in the world (hint: Brussels)…

If the answer to these crucial questions is “no”, what are the consequences to the Nigerian economy? Will Nigeria continue on its path to outsider status when it comes to healthy economic regulation — despite its powerhouse status in sub-Saharan Africa? Will this add to the disincentive against increased foreign investment, akin to the prevalent oil and diesel-stealing that occurs ’round-the-clock and in the open? Will businesses — other than former state monopolies, now privatised and firmly in the hands of oligarchs, or cartelists — continue to accept being deprived of the economic fruit of their labour, without protection from certifiably anti-competitive behaviour? Will other state agencies continue to step in and act as quasi-enforcers of antitrust, as they have done in the past (the Air Cargo cartel is an example), filling the void of a central competition commission?

We are curious to hear our readers’ opinions.

Comment below or e-mail us directly (a.stargard [AT] primerio.international & j.oxenham [AT] primerio.international)

3 weeks until UAE competition law goes into effect

UAE
The first true antitrust law of the Emirates will come into force on 23 February 2013.  “Federal Law No. 4 of 2012” (not to be confused with legislation relating to nuclear safety of the same title) was passed by the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”) government last October 2012.

Akin to established competition laws as well as some of its recent pan-African counter-part legislation (e.g., the 2004 COMESA regional antitrust regime that finally went into effect in January 2013), its primary jurisdictional scope encompasses:

  • (1) cartel prosecution and limits on similar restrictive agreements
  • (2) unilateral conduct / abuse of dominance, and
  • (3) mergers and acquisitions.

As to M&A, unlike its COMESA sibling, the law — fortunately — will contain yet-to-be-determined thresholds that limit the notification requirements to deals above certain market shares or deal values.  Yet, the filing requirement is suspensory, and notifiable deals must therefore be put on hold until clearance is obtained from the Competition Regulation Committee (or presumably pre-authorisation has been received from the Ministry of Economy).  The period for review permitted under the law is up to 90 days plus a 45-day extension.

Penalties for breaches of the competition regime (items 1 and 2 above) include suspension of business activities and financial fines that range from AED 500,000 to 5 million [>$1.3m] or about 1m euros], with mandatory doubling of fines for recidivists; failure-to-notify mergers may result in similar fines, based on a 2-5% turnover scale or the same AED 500k-5m range, depending on ascertainability of turnover.

Notably, there are several key business segments excluded from the reach of the competition legislation, including SMEs, the financial and oil & gas sectors; telecoms; pharmaceuticals; and the provision of traditionally state-provided or funded activities (e.g., postal services, electricity, water, sewer, etc.).  Whether these rather far-reaching exclusions are in effect throwing the baby out with the bathwater remains to be seen…

The law also provides for a 6-month grace period.  This transitional period for companies to come into compliance, seek a waiver for non-compliance, or face prosecution under the law, will end on 23 August 2013.

Companies doing, or planning to do, business within the UAE may wish to review their existing business practices, market shares, competitive strategies, merger plans, and update their compliance programmes accordingly.

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.