Participants from over a dozen countries of sub-Saharan Africa agreed to launch the “Pan-African Network for Promoting Competition and Consumer Welfare” here today.
A resolution to this effect was adopted at a 2-day international conference on the subject held in Mauritius. The conference entitled, “Competition Policy, Private Sector Development and Poverty Reduction in Africa” was organised by CUTS International and the Ministry of Industry, SMEs, Commerce & Cooperatives of Mauritius with the support of the Department for International Development (DFID), UK and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), Norway.
Speaking at the formal opening of the conference, Rajeshwar Jeetah, Minister of Industry, SMEs, Commerce & Cooperatives conveyed that the Mauritian government was committed towards adoption of the country’s new Competition Law in 2007. “Promoting democracy is at the heart of the government’s policy, and the government strongly believes that the competition law would promote economic democracy in the country”, he affirmed. He reiterated the keen interest that the Mauritian Prime Minister has, for the law to be in place at the earliest.
The conference deliberated on the progress of a regional project on competition policy referred to as the 7Up3 project that CUTS has been engaged with implementing over the last two years in seven countries of eastern and southern Africa: Botswana, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Uganda.
Pradeep S Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS International underscored that research findings of the 7Up3 project strongly suggest that project countries, and indeed others from the developing world should tailor their competition laws in accordance with prevailing socio-economic-political realities, rather than blindly following industrialised country models of competition regime evolution and administration.
“For small countries with resource constraints, it will be useful to explore hybrid laws or hybrid regulators, like in Peru. Mauritius with a total population of 1.2mn is a case in point”, said Mehta. “It would not be advisable for small countries to have many laws to be administered by different regulators”.
During the ensuing discussions, a consensus emerged that for small economies like Mauritius, Malawi, etc. there was a need to explore the possibility of a hybrid law integrating competition, consumer protection and utility regulation.
“There is a strong correlation between the efficiency of competition enforcement and growth and therefore reduction in poverty”, observed Roger Nellist of the Investment Climate Team, DFID, UK. He brought to fore evidences that showed how economies have benefited through an efficient process of competition enforcement.
Practitioners like Peter M Njoroge, Chairman of the Monopolies & Prices Commission, Kenya; Douglas Reissner, Member, Competition Commission of Namibia and experts like S Chakravarthy, former Member of India’s Monopolies & Restrictive Trade Practices Commission of India stressed on the imperative of adopting and implementing effective competition regimes in the region to reap the benefits of privatisation and liberalisation and curb their negative effects.
A need was felt to garner wider support and motivation for pushing national governments to adopt and effectively implement competition regimes in the region. In response, there was a consensus to develop a network of individuals and organisations interested to pursue the cause of competition reforms and consumer welfare in Africa. As a result, the “Pan-African Network for Promoting Competition and Consumer Welfare” was launched, with International Network of CSOs on Competition (INCSOC) being its Secretariat.
PANPROC, as this network was referred to would be a platform to share knowledge and understanding on competition matters and to demonstrate the benefits of a healthy competition regime to the wider public and policy-makers in the region. A Steering Committee of this network would be developed, along with a 5-year work-plan for members to take forward by among other means, linking it with other networks and facilities on socio-economic policy aspects.
The momentum gained through the implementation of the 7Up3 project and demonstrating the benefits of competition to multiple stakeholders in the region would be sustained through national-level workshops to be held in each of the 7Up3 project countries on competition policy and law over a period of the next nine months.
‘Competition Toolkits’ individually tailored for competition administrators and other stakeholders in each country will be prepared to move forward in the right direction to implement competition regimes.