13 July 2004, The Post (Lusaka)

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has said it has already drafted the precursor rules and regulations for the establishment of the COMESA competition policy.

COMESA senior trade advisor Mwansa Musonda yesterday confirmed that the drafted rules and regulations were awaiting the approval of the COMESA Council of Ministers.

He said the rules and regulations would deal with anti-competitive behaviour and restrictive business practices.

According to the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), COMESA, in collaboration with United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the Zambia Competition Commission (ZCC), set up the groundwork for a COMESA regional competition framework in 2001.

It is envisaged that the regional competition policy and law shall be consistent with the provisions and intent of the COMESA treaty as well as the internationally accepted practices and principles of competition.

“The region has in the past witnessed anti-competitive practices that have resulted in the creation of monopolies, cartels and collusions that have had an adverse impact on consumer welfare,” the CUTS Policy Briefs says.

The publication says some disputes are pure trade related while others are competition related.

It says trade related disputes include rules of origin, origin criteria, charges of equivalent effect to customs duty, unilateral bans and restrictions while competition related ones include acquisitions, cartels and collusions.

COMESA has been urging member states to enact competition laws and establish competent enforcement authorities.

However, only three countries namely Zambia, Kenya and Zimbabwe have a law and enforcement agency at the moment.

Malawi and Namibia have a law, but no enforcement agency while Egypt, Mauritius, Uganda and Swaziland are at different stages of development of national laws.

Musonda said sensitisation had been carried out in member countries and that various stakeholders have been consulted.

He said stakeholders consulted include consumers, government institutions and the business communities.

Musonda said the council of ministers last met in Kampala at the COMESA Business Summit and will next meet in November.