By Samson Odhiambo
Economic growth and social development in the EAC integration process depends on the efficiency, dynamism and the extent of competition in the business environment.
For instance, in a competitive environment, firms are pushed to innovate and find better and more efficient ways to produce and distribute goods and services. Businesses tend to benefit, for instance, through cheaper (not overpriced) inputs and indirectly through the impact of competition law and policy in creating a good investment climate.
Consumers, too, would benefit directly through lower prices, better quality and improved choice. Jobs are an important means of eradicating poverty. It is the competitive markets that are more likely to provide the poor with opportunities to be employed or to start their own small business.
While the coming into force of East African Community (EAC) Common Market may have spurred increased cross-border trade and investment ventures by Partner States, it has also revealed a legal gap regarding regulating firms with cross-border trade and investments and that the potential of the Common Market may not be realised in an anti-competitive business environment.
Regulating anti-competitive business conducts both for national, regional and international ventures that wish to trade within the EAC Common Market therefore present the need of the hour. This requires that the EAC Competition Policy and Act must be effectively implemented and domesticated by all Partner States.
Currently, all EAC Partner States are in the process of establishing national Competition Laws and regulatory institutions.
For instance, Burundi has enacted the law and is in the process of establishing a Commission to enforce the law. Rwandan is in the process of setting up the institution for its enforcement. Both Tanzania and Kenya have had the law and regulatory institutions for close to a decade now. Uganda has had a Draft bill, which has been in existence for close to a decade.
Although the benefits of competition policy and cost of non-implementation are clear, EAC governments appear to face implementation challenges of the existing regional Competition Policy and Law.
One of the key reasons attributed to the slow progress in the implementation of competition policy and law in the region is lack of political will among the EAC government’s, where there are no plans or commitments at the state level to promote competition in the market.
There is need for politicians and the parliamentarians to be aware of the potential gains from promoting competition measures among the EAC partner states.
The writer is a competition officer, CUTS International Nairobi
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