Ten Competition Authorities representing their respective countries in the SADC region signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Friday last week in Gaborone. The event is regarded as a precedent since the adoption of the SADC Declaration on Regional Cooperation in Competition and Consumer Policies by Heads of States in 2008.
The SADC region consists of 15 member states. Chairperson of the Heads of SADC Competition Authorities Tebelelo Pule, said the remaining country-representative Authorities are either still developing their laws or are yet to establish their respective institutions.
“From our perspective as competition authorities, we need to be able to effectively address cases which involve companies and behaviors that cut across our jurisdictions. For us to be able to do this, we require practical cooperation between our agencies, but also a degree of convergence between processes and policies. I believe that as we commit to the signing of this MoU, we will continue to engage each other with the view to ensuring convergence of our processes,” said Pule as she explained the significance of this landmark event.
She emphasised that prior to the formalisation of the working relationship, the various competition authorities had been working together through sharing information, discussing analytical and undertaking joint researches to mention but a few. Pule mentioned that the signing of MoU is the culmination of efforts to establish formal cooperation that started in July 2015.
Each of the 10 member states have their respective competition laws which are enforced in the context of own market conditions, procedures and policies which raises the question of how the authorities will soundly and effectively forge parameters of cooperation within such diversity.
“I think I should hasten to mention that, we are still faced with a challenge to attain full and effective cooperation. We still experience statutory restraints under our national laws to the extent to which information containing confidential information about enterprises can be shared between competition authorities. Indeed these restraints may inhibit effective cooperation. Let us therefore continue to lobby for the relaxation of such restraints. Let us also continue to engage businesses to keep on granting waivers allowing us to exchange information,” she said.
It was further explained that the cooperation model that the authorities will implement will rely mainly on sharing non-confidential information that will reinforce the co-dependence among the respective jurisdictions in order to make cross-border competition assessments. The Senior Programme Officer under Trade at the SADC Secretariat Jabulani Mthethwa cited that in terms of substantive provisions of the MoU, the competition authorities have committed to among other things cooperate in areas such as sharing information, coordinating investigation of cases and undertaking joint capacity building and research activities.