New CCC Chief addresses World Competition Day, lays out future of COMESA antitrust policy

As we previously reported, long-time COMESA Competition Commission executive, Dr. Willard Mwemba, was recently promoted to his new role of permanent CEO of the CCC, after having been appointed Acting Director in February of this year. In this new capacity, he recently gave a thus-far unreported speech on the occasion of “World Competition Day” on December 5th, 2021.

In his short address, Dr. Mwemba lays out the mid-term future he envisions for the antitrust policy under his aegis in the Common Market, as follows.

Highlighting the importance of competition law for efficient and fair markets, with the goal of benefiting businesses (as opposed to being perceived as an impediment to business interests), Mwemba mentions key building blocks of the CCC’s enforcement going forward. These include resale-price maintenance and exclusive-dealing enforcement (around 1-1:30 in the little-known video, which has thus far only garnered two dozen views on the YouTube platform and is not yet published on the CCC’s own web site). He then moves on to merger regulation (2:45 onward), and further discusses the importance of the effectiveness of the actual competition law itself — noting that the CCC plans to amend its Regulations and Guidelines within the next year (3:40). Noting that the CCC cannot undertake this process very well alone, Mwemba highlights the cooperative approach of the Commission, partnering with and relying on other groups and stakeholders (such as the COMESA Women in Business group, OECD, and others).

Mwemba notes that the CCC’s “focus for the year 2022 will be on strict enforcement, especially against blatant anti-competitive conduct and blatant violations of the COMESA Competition Regulations, and in this case I mean cartels.  It is said that cartels are the supreme evil of antitrust … because it robs consumers, government, and businesses of huge sums…  So in line with this theme, our focus for 2022 shall be on cartels, and we shall make sure that we weed out all possible or potential cartels operating in the Common Market.”

The CCC chief concludes his address by saying that competition authorities “are not there to frustrate businesses, we are not the enemy of business”; instead, he sees the CCC’s role to ensure that markets operate fairly for all — a welcome reminder to the southern and eastern African business community to understand and embrace the precepts of antitrust law as an efficiency-enhancing mechanism for trading in the Common Market.

Chief enforcer departs CCC, Mwemba takes on role

February 17th, 2021: TODAY, the COMESA Competition Commission (“Commission”) released the following statement, wishing “to inform the general public that the tenure of office of Dr George Lipimile who was the Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Commission for the past ten years, came to an end on 31st January 2021.

Dr Lipimile was appointed by the COMESA Council of Ministers as the first Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Commission in February 2011. He served in this capacity at the Commission for ten years during which time he played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Commission as the first fully operational regional competition authority in Africa and the second fully functional regional competition authority in the world after the European Commission. Dr Lipimile tirelessly worked towards the enforcement of the COMESA Competition Regulations and Rules. He dedicated his time at the Commission in strengthening the institution with but not limited to:

  • Growth in its staff compliment;
  • Creating sound legal framework;
  • Processes and Procedures for enforcement of the Regulations;
  • Advocacy and technical assistance to COMESA Member States; and
  • Setting up the necessary corporate governance systems.

Further, the Commission wishes to announce to the general public that Dr Willard Mwemba has been appointed as the Acting Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Commission from 1st February 2021 until such time the substantive Director of the Commission is recruited. The Commission wishes to congratulate Dr Mwemba on his appointment as the Acting Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Commission.

Incoming Mwemba & outgoing Lipimile

Andreas Stargard, a Primerio competition lawyer who knows both men from having notified transactions to the CCC as well as socially, says that “an era is now concluded — namely the ‘Genesis Era’ of the CCC, as George was its very first, and thus formative, leader. That said, I am deeply assured by the appointment of Dr. Mwemba to his post as acting Director, as he is of utmost competence and I have no doubt will guide the Commission in the right direction in this new ‘CCC 2.0 Era’ after Dr. Lipimile’s departure.”

SA Commission appoints mergers head; claims roster of “core” positions now filled

New head of mergers fills final “core” position according to Bonakele; replaces Ramburuth-appointed predecessor

Source: LinkedIn
New head of mergers at SA Competition Commission (Source: LinkedIn)

Following the by now fairly predictable fault lines of the Ramburuth-vs.-[others] staffing game at the Competition Commission, the agency’s crucial Mergers & Acquisitions division now also has a new head.  As of March 1, Hardin Ratshisusu is filling the post of Divisional Manager, after his predecessor Ibrahim Bah‘s departure in December last year created a three-month hiatus.

Bah, having worked at the Irish antitrust regulator for a while*, had been with the South African authority on-and-off since 2008, but had been Divisional Manager only for less than a year, holding the post since January 2013.  His successor Ratshisusu is likewise a former M&A veteran of the agency, having begun his career at the Commission as early as 2004 and with the division since December 2007 as a Senior Merger Analyst.  He also has recent private-practice experience outside government, which we view as a welcome feature on his C.V., in addition to his historical M&A expertise.

Mr. Ratshisusu’s self-description on his LinkedIn profile (with 22 endorsements from others as to M&A) is as follows:

“In the formative years, I started off as an enumerator for SA’s 2001 Census and then a research assistant at the University of Venda, whilst doing my post-graduate studies. I have since worked in the regulatory environment having held various positions at the Competition Commission of South Africa including being Senior Merger Analyst, Acting Divisional Manager of the Mergers and Acquisitions Division and Technical Consultant/Adviser to the Deputy Commissioner. I also had a stint in the economic regulatory division of Neotel (Pty) Ltd. This has given me exposure to a number of industries, including, construction, telecommunications, broadcasting, mining, chemicals, retailing and property. I now have expertise, garnered at both operation and strategic levels, in competition and regulatory economics, strategy, and governance.”

Mr. Ratshisusu’s appointment comes at a time of staffing difficulties at the authority, including most recently the departure of a senior Deputy Commissioner.   In its official release, the Commission’s Acting Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele is quoted as emphasizing the agency’s focus on getting past its recent personnel woes:

“I am pleased that we have now completed the task of filling all vacancies for the heads of the Commission’s core divisions. This will allow us to focus on fulfilling our strategic priorities”

We take it that any remaining open seats on the Commission’s org chart are, by logical inference, to be deemed “non-core” to the functioning of the agency.

The Acting Commissioner: Focusing on
The Acting Commissioner: Focusing on “strategic priorities”, such as the healthcare inquiry and other enforcement

* Mr. Bah co-authored an amusingly-titled mergers paper while at the Irish Competition Authority: “The Curious Tale of Pigs, Papers and Peru: Media Mergers in Ireland“.  It should not come as a surprise that’s editors have a faible for anything that contains alliterations…