Ten SADC Competition Authorities have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which has been described as a landmark and commendable step since the adoption of the SADC Declaration on Regional Cooperation in Competition and Consumer Policies in 2008. The remaining states are said to be still developing their laws and/or are yet to establish their respective institutions. Speaking at the MoU signing occasion on Thursday evening, Competition Authority Acting CEO, Tebelelo Pule said the move marks an important milestone, where Heads of SADC Competition Authorities have come together to commit to undertake joint efforts towards strengthening enforcement activities. “We reaffirm through this noble undertaking that our agencies, despite being in different jurisdictions, are more dependent on each other in ensuring effective implementation of the competition laws in the SADC region,” Pule said. Pule said she believes the joint efforts by all parties in implementing their respective competition laws will yield positive results in enhancing competition and economic growth in the Community. “These are challenging times for us all: Globalisation and integration of markets have put pressure on us to put in place robust competition enforcement,” she said.
Pule, who took over as the interim CEO of the Competition Authority following the departure of the founding Chief Executive Thula Kaira, said in this era countries cannot remain isolated from what is taking place in other jurisdictions. She said competition authorities should be able to effectively address cases which involve companies and behaviour that cut across their respective prerogatives. According to Pule, the signing of the MoU does not mean to disregard the fact that all parties operate in the context of their own market conditions, own competition laws and own procedures. “I am quite privy to the fact the parameters of our own cooperation are defined by this fact, but this should not stop us from working towards common principles, built upon sound economic analysis.” Whereas by signing the MoU all parties agreed to work together, Pule said such cooperation maybe constrained by statutory restraints under their respective national laws to the extent to which information containing confidential information about enterprises can be shared between competition authorities.
Pule called on the SADC Competition Authorities CEOs to lobby for the relaxation of such restraints. Jabulani Mthethwa, Senior Programme Officer for Trade at the SADC Secretariat urged Competition Authorities to honour the commitments as spelt out in the MoU. He said the initiative will go a long way in strengthening competition law enforcement and add value to the national implementation efforts of member states. “This MoU comes at an opportune time when SADC has adopted an Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap, which amongst other objectives promotes the creation of sustainable regional value chains,” Mthethwa said, adding that parties will be expected to play a pivotal role in the development and implementation of these value chains by ensuring that a conducive business environment for cross border investments exists. By signing of the understanding, Mthethwa said all the signatories have committed themselves to cooperate by, among others things; sharing information on cases; coordinating investigations of cases and undertaking joint capacity building and research activities.
“Recognizing that some information on cases may be commercially sensitive, Competition Authorities also committed themselves to observing confidentiality in the implementation of the MoU,” Mthethwa said. Mthethwa said the main objective of the MoU is to foster closer cooperation in the enforcement of member states’ competition laws in order to address effectively national and cross border competition problems or anti – competitive business practices such as cartels, abusive practices of dominant firms and monopolies.