The Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) is the largest regional economic community in Africa. It has a free trade area comprised of 21 member states and a population of about 586 million. In 2009, COMESA launched a customs union. COMESA aims at promoting regional integration through trade and the development of natural and human resources for the mutual benefit of all people in the region. To aid in the achievement of its objectives, COMESA has established various institutions such as the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank, the COMESA Regional Investment Agency and the COMESA Competition Commission (CCC), among others. This article focuses on the role of the CCC in furthering the objectives of COMESA.
The CCC was established under Article 6 of the COMESA Competition Regulations promulgated in 2004. This regional competition law was enacted to ensure fair competition and transparency among economic enterprises in the COMESA region and to harmonise national competition policies thereby creating a uniform regional economic environment. CCC was set up with the mandate of enforcing the provisions of the Regulations in relation to trade between Member States and to promote fair competition within COMESA by monitoring and investigating anti-competitive practices of undertakings in the region. CCC is also mandated to mediate disputes between Member States concerning anti-competitive conduct.
CCC became operational in January 2013. It is based in Lilongwe, Malawi. It regulates trading activities that have or are likely to have a cross-border impact. CCC reduces the need for cross- border transactions to be assessed within each member state, thereby bringing more efficiency and cost-effectiveness to the conduct of business in COMESA. CCC is recognised as a legal person in each of the COMESA states, thereby facilitating the seamless discharge of its functions in all states. It has power to investigate cases in any member state, as long as the economic activities concerned have a cross-border impact, thereby satisfying the jurisdictional requirement. CCC adjudicates on issues to do with restrictive business practices and assesses possible mergers to be effected within the region to determine whether they are not anti- competitive. CCC also plays an advocacy role in handling complaints about anti-competitive and other unfair business practices. CCC also works hand in hand with national competition
authorities in providing training and disseminating information about competition law and regional integration. For example, in April 2022, CCC hosted a Competition Law conference in Livingstone, Zambia. In September 2022, CCC also co-hosted a competition law training and conference in Salima, Malawi, alongside the Centre for Competition, Regulation and Economic Development. Thus, CCC cooperates significantly with national competition authorities and other stakeholders, including academic and research institutions.
In light of the foregoing, it is clear that the work of CCC in promoting fair competition, thereby significantly contributing to trade and investment in the COMESA region, must be applauded. CCC regulates a critical element of economic activities and helps ensure that there is harmony in the economic environment of the member states.