Competition authorities across the region are gradually improving their capacity to enforce effectively despite significant resource constraints. 2015 and 2016 have been landmark years in this regard! Just recently, the Namibian Competition Commission conducted its first raid at the premises of Puma Energy in relation to allegations of excessive pricing in aviation fuel supply. The Zimbabwean Competition and Tariff Commission received an International Competition Network (ICN) award in 2015-16 for its advocacy and cooperation with the telecoms regulator and central bank in Zimbabwe to address competition issues in the provision of inputs to mobile money services.
There is also an indication that authorities are learning from one another and may move towards greater cooperation in future. For example, we noted in an earlier Review the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by several competition authorities in SADC in 2016. The extent of commitment to meaningful cooperation across countries is likely to be of particular interest as member states of the East African Community, which was expected to fully launch the competition authority this year, enter into a formalised agreement to enforce competition law at a regional level. This occurs as the COMESA authority switches its focus to investigating restrictive practices.
In terms of intensifying enforcement activity, the Competition Authority of Kenya implemented its Special Compliance Process which invited trade associations (mainly in the finance and agricultural sectors) to disclose conduct which was potentially in violation of the competition legislation, in exchange for the authority not pursuing full investigations and prosecution. This programme follows a similar approach to the ’fasttrack’ settlement process in South Africa whereby firms were penalised extensively for involvement in the construction sector cartel, a process which has now also led to a commitment by the largest groups to invest in developing capacity amongst smaller rivals and black-owned construction firms.
It is critical that authorities publish information about their successes and failures widely, as this allows for a critical process of sharing and learning to take place. The Review seeks to contribute in this regard and we look forward to presenting a revised platform with contributions from authors in different regulatory and competition agencies in future! This edition reflects on some of the above developments as well as issues in funding black industrialists in South Africa, support for small firms in retail and agro-processing in the region, competition in pay-tv, and mobile money as a tool for greater financial inclusion.