Entebbe, Uganda, March 22, 2005

A two-day international meeting on competition policy was held at the Imperial Resort Beach Hotel in Entebbe, Uganda. The meeting was organised by CUTS International [1], an India-based international NGO in collaboration with Consumer Education Trust (CONSENT)[2] of Uganda.

The meeting held over two days, also witnessed the launch of an international project entitled, `Capacity Building on Competition Policy and Law in Select Countries of Eastern And Southern Africa’. The goal of the project is to promote fair markets in countries (Botswana, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Uganda) in the African region. The Project, implemented by CUTS and supported by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), Norway and the Department for International Development (DFID), UK would take up research and advocacy activities for promoting fair market and competition over a period of two years in seven countries.

The meeting was attended by delegates from several countries of Africa and other parts of the world. Apart from the project partners representing leading civil society organisations, Universities, research institutions and consumer associations from the seven project countries, the meeting also drew experts on competition and representatives of competition authorities. Mr. George Lipimile, the Executive Director of Zambia Competition Commission observed that the root of anti-competitive market situation in most African countries lies in the privatisation programmes adopted by them in the wake of structural adjustment programmes. He noted that in the pre-reforms era, the markets were highly dominated by government owned enterprises. However, the companies that showed interest or bought these government enterprises were those already operating in the particular market through domestic production or through imports, thus weakening competition in the markets. Mr. Lucian Cernat of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) also
complemented this viewpoint and added that the benefits of trade liberalisation may not accrue to developing countries if they fail to have an effective competition law. Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Pradeep S Mehta, the Secretary General of CUTS noted that competition law is not a luxury of the developed world but one of the necessary tools in their fight against poverty, a sentiment, echoed by many in the meeting. He also noted that developing countries should not be dogmatic about withdrawing from the markets as distortions and failures in markets are quite ubiquitous and the state needs to play a role in promoting a fair and orderly market. Mr. Tore Gjos, the Norwegian

Ambassador in Uganda noted that competition policy and law are necessary to curb the rent seeking behaviour of private companies, which hit the poor relatively harder and hence occupy an important place in their development assistance. Ms. Karen Ellis of DFID also underlined the importance of competition policy in DFID’s programme and gave a brief account of different projects in the area supported by DFID including those implemented by CUTS.