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‘Competition policy crucial for region’


A REGIONAL competition policy is needed in order to discourage business practices that restrict trade among member states, an official from the Common Market Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) has said.


Comesa secretary-general Sindiso Ngwenya said competition policy is done by forcing companies to run themselves efficiently and ensuring a level playing field.

“Competition policy is broader as it describes the way in which government takes measures to promote competition, market structures and behaviour,” Ngwenya said in a speech read on his behalf by Comesa Competition Commission director George Lipimile at a regional sensitisation workshop yesterday.

“Competition policy encompasses within it a system of competition law, which in turn consists of rules seeking to implement the policy by regulating behaviour of firms as they compete on the market.

“An active regional competition policy is needed in order to discourage business practices which have the effect of restraining trade between member states in the common market.

“In our experience this function of competition policy is crucial for the region. One level up, it could provide some solutions at the global level as well.”

Ngwenya said governments were beginning to realise that competition policy is the best instrument available to ensure that regional integration remains a source of advancing welfare for citizens and firms in respective countries.

He said the 19 Comesa member states have moved from old forms of industrial intervention by governments, imports substitution and to a greater extent a belief in national champions and this has not gone unchallenged by the market.

“On the contrary, we believe that competition policy is essential element of an open market economy.

“Markets need to be protected against the creation of dominant positions, cartels and abuses of market power. That is why we believe in the importance of a strong regional competition authority,” Ngwenya said.

Comesa has 19 member states that include Kenya, Rwanda, Mauritius, Seychelles, Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe among others.

The regional grouping has a total of 430 million people and an annual import bill of $152 billion while the export bill annually is $157 billion, according to 2008 statistics.

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