African enforcers adopt joint approach to competition in digital markets

The heads of the competition authorities in five major African economies announced, in a joint statement issued on 18 February 2022, their agreement for co-operation in the regulation of competition and consumer protection in African digital markets.

The regulators from Egypt, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria and South Africa acknowledged the role that digital markets and services have played transforming the global economy through disrupting traditional markets, opening new economic opportunities and providing substantial benefits to consumers and businesses.

However, these markets also presented considerable challenges for competition law enforcement and policy in terms of the unique competition issues that arise.

“Recognising the greater shared regulatory challenges that digital markets pose for Africa necessitates that African jurisdictions work more closely in order to share knowledge, develop capacity and mutual strategies and provide a stronger and collaborative approach with respect to the regulation of digital markets,” said the joint statement.

“(We) reaffirm the commitment to strengthening the rules for open and fair markets in Africa, as well as intensifying enforcement of competition laws to ensure protection of consumers, and agree to collaborate by:

  1. Scoping the conduct in digital markets, that has been the subject of investigation in other jurisdictions, on African consumers, businesses and economies with the purpose of fair regulation and enforcement in Africa (where applicable).
  2. Researching the barriers to the emergence and expansion of African digital platforms and firms that may contribute to enhanced competition and inclusion in these markets for the benefit of African consumers and economies.
  3. Cooperating in the assessment of global, continental, and regional mergers and acquisitions in digital markets, including harmonizing the notification framework; without prejudice to confidentiality commitments.
  4. To share information in accordance with existing laws and applicable protocols.
  5. Sharing knowledge and build capacity to deal with digital markets.

“The rapid rise of global digital platforms presents new challenges for competition law and policy and has led policymakers and competition authorities to consider the need for adapting existing frameworks to ensure markets remain competitive and contestable. Competition policy can play a major role in the creation and capturing of value,” said Sovereign Trust (South Africa) Managing Director Richard Neal.

“This agreement shows there is a growing need for competition policy to be set and enforced within regional or global frameworks. Individual countries lack the legal and economic power to tackle global digital companies. However, given concerns over the impact of international competition rules on domestic industrial policies, multinational agreements need to avoid restricting the domestic policy space for governments to foster their local digital sectors.”

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