In the past year, various countries in SADC have considered amendments to their competition laws. Botswana, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have amended or are proposing amendments to their competition laws in order to make the legislations more applicable to their economic and social contexts. These developments are consistent with a shift in developing countries from transplanting aspects of their competition laws from international frameworks, to a focus on using competition policy as a tool for addressing particular challenges within their local economies.
The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in May 2018 made a decision to have the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s (NERSA) methodology for regulating piped-gas prices reviewed. The natural gas market has seen rapid expansion over recent years, growing as an alternative source of energy in South Africa and the southern African region. Gas is a key source of energy for both industrial and residential use. In the market for piped-gas, Sasol is the dominant supplier and importer of piped gas transmitted from Mozambique.
There have been widespread calls for data costs in South Africa to be reduced in recent years. In 2018, the entry of a new competitor, Rain, shows how increased competition in South Africa’s telecommunications industry can reduce data costs and increase innovation. Since 2013, the price of a 1GB data bundle has not fallen below R149 (with the exception of Telkom Mobile).
In 2017, the South African Reserve Bank issued three new banking licences to Discovery, Bank Zero and TymeDigital. These are the first licences issued to new banks in more than a decade since the issuing of a bank licence to Finbond Mutual bank in 2001. In the State of the Nation address in 2018, the South African president hailed this as an opportunity to ensure competitive rivalry in a highly concentrated sector. However, the potential for entrants to bring disruptive competition with substantial benefits to consumers needs to be assessed in the context of challenges in the banking industry in South Africa.
Part of the focus of the proposed amendments to the Competition Act is on preventing creeping concentration. Creeping concentration results from a series of mergers and acquisitions that individually do not raise market power substantially, but do so collectively. Firms can increase market share through mergers and acquisitions, and consequently increase market power and concentration in markets.
The recent collapse of Steinhoff International Holdings (“Steinhoff”), a global retail giant, raises concerns around the interest and strategies of large corporates. Steinhoff has sparked controversy over “accounting irregularities”, which cost the retail giant R282 billion in stock market value.
The provision of mobile money services has been a dynamic and fast-growing sector in Africa. Beyond money transfer, the industry in different countries has evolved to provide additional services such as bill and merchant payments as well as financial services such as credit, insurance and savings. In East Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya have at least one mobile money provider offering a savings and credit facility.
In the developing world, disease and poverty are interdependent making access to essential medicines at affordable prices even more critical. 80% of the two billion people worldwide without access to essential medicines live in low income countries. As such, competitive rivalry in the pharmaceutical industry can improve access to medicines by reducing prices and through motivating brand companies to challenge existing patent drugs and create new and improved medicines. Furthermore, upon expiration of patent drugs, competition encourages generic companies to provide less expensive alternatives of medicines.