This blog post illustrates the role of national competition agencies (NCAs) in enforcing regional-level competition laws in Africa. Generally, the journey to regional integration starts with action at the national level. Then, as countries enter discussions and negotiations, treaties or agreements are signed containing articles that spell out common interests between States.
West African Economic and Monetary Union
The WAEMU competition policy is, from the point of view of material and procedural law, in conformity with international standards, with certain specificities relating to the control of concentrations, the establishment of a special category of anti-competitive practices attributable to States and, above all, a centralized institutional approach with almost exclusive competence of the Community bodies. Then, eighteen (18) years (2003-2021) after the adoption of the implementing texts, WAEMU competition policy has therefore contributed to the consolidation of the Customs Union, the free movement of goods and liberalization in several sectors of activity (telecommunications, communication, energy, etc.). Moreover, it has become an essential tool for promoting regional economic integration in the Union.
Colonial powers reshaped the economies to extract resources for export to the metropole while creating an import dependency for consumables. This legacy transformed these economies and their indigenous institutions and power. Locals were brutalized and deprived of meaningful economic opportunities.
Fox and Bakhoum’s fairly broad analysis focusing on West, East, and Southern African countries brings to fore the real challenges at play in Africa. It is a fragmented, stratified yet at times vertically united legal and policy landscape. While they observe the need for convergence of competition law at the continental or regional level, they note the different states of developmental progress among sub-Saharan African countries hence concede the need for the fragmented approach
Fox and Bakhoum contextualize competition law by describing (in chapters 2 and 3) the structure and other key characteristic of markets in numerous African countries, including the economic and political history of those countries and their markets, as well as the legacies of colonization and decolonization – and by highlighting more broadly the economic challenges and needs of the people of Africa.
Arguably, Fox and Bakhoum’s Making Markets Work for Africa does more than take part in this literature, it helps bring it into focus, crystallizing its insights and articulating a number of its internal debates. Perhaps this assessment should be nuanced a bit. Despite their extensive footnotes and their admirable collaborative scholarship and drive to work from and with African sources (for instance with the Quarterly Competition Review produced by CCRED), the book is focused more on the policy problem than on the existing literature about the problem. This is not a book about books; it is a book about identifying a complex economic situation with challenges and opportunities and charting and driving a particular line in favour of a better life for Africa’s population.
Africa is currently at a risk of reaching the zenith of bilateralism/regionalism in terms of the number of regional trade agreements (RTAs) present in the continent. Yet the advantages of close economic integration have not yet been adequately witnessed in African Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs). Moreover, it is generally the case that each African state is a member to at least two or more RTAs. This has created the quintessential spaghetti bowl on the continent.