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.
Economic Community of Western Africa States
The objective of integrating the African economies is now continental. Hence, the entry into force of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement for a Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) marks a new and more ambitious stage in the process of integrating African economies. Generally, regional integration projects and initiatives have a strong focus on the trade dimension. They aim at lowering and eliminating trade barriers by prohibiting participating members' restraints of trade in the internal market or by creating a common market. The trade dimension is important. However, its objectives would not be achieved without a competition policy dimension as a compliment. Hence, restrictions of competition on the regional level have both a trade and a competition component. To achieve the objective of creating regional markets free of trade barriers, it is crucial, in addition to the prohibiting restriction of trade, to police private and State initiated anti-competitive behaviors.
In my view variable geometry is likely to further slow down the implementation of the AfCFTA because it is a way to accommodate less advantageous countries or countries unwilling to move as fast as others. Even if variable geometry is the only way to move forward in trade agreements of the 21th century as some have argued, it makes trade liberalization more complicated and slows down integration initiatives. More detailed research on variable geometry from an African perspective needs to be undertaken because the continent cannot afford the potential failure of the AfCFTA.