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.
On 29 August 2017, the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) approved with conditions the proposed acquisition of Associated Vehicle Assemblers Limited (AVA) by Simba Corporation Limited (Simba Corp). The approved merger sees the acquisition of an additional 50% of the shares in AVA which were previously controlled by Marshalls East Africa Limited (Marshalls).
One of the world’s largest brewing houses, Heineken, has taken a step towards a larger share of the South African beer market with the acquisition of the local black owned craft brewer, Soweto Gold, in October 2017. This development comes just months after Heineken bought out the Stellenbosch-based brewery, Stellenbrau. The mergers mean that the brands can now be marketed to a global customer base. While this may be good for the respective owners of the acquired firms, the transactions reflect the challenges faced by Soweto Gold and other small brewers in accessing routes to market on their own.
Most countries in Southern Africa are net importers of products from South Africa and are therefore likely to be subject to South African cartels. Imports from South Africa cut across sectors including food, capital equipment, construction materials, energy, plastics and chemical products. Moreover regional markets are closely linked through the presence of South African companies in the rest of the region. This article expands on an earlier article in this Review on the possible impacts of some of the South African cartels on the region, as part of CCRED’s monitoring of competition case developments and the evolution of enforcement in the region.