The East African Community Competition Authority (Authority) is an institution of the East African Community (EAC) established in accordance with Article 9 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community (Treaty).
The Authority is specifically established by Section 37 of the East African Community Competition Act, 2006 (the Act). The Authority was established in furtherance of the commitment of the Partner States, to cooperate in trade liberalization and development including matters of competition, under Article 75 (1) (i) of the Treaty.
Under the Protocol on the Establishment of the East African Community Customs Union (Customs Union Protocol), Article 21 and the Protocol on the Establishment of the East African Community Common Market Protocol (Common Market Protocol, Article 33 – 36), the Partner States undertook to prohibit any practice that adversely affects free trade including any agreement, undertaking or concerted practice which has as its objective or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition within the Community. The Common Market Protocol strategic thrust is to create one flawless single market across the EAC Partner States. The protocol seeks to accelerate regional economic growth and development by introducing the free movement of goods, persons, labour, capital, services, as well as the rights of establishment and residence.
The mandate of the EAC Competition Act, 2006 is to promote and protect fair competition in the Community and to provide for consumer welfare and other related matters. The Act came into force on 1st December, 2014. The objectives of the competition policy and law in the EAC are to:
1) Enhance the welfare of the people in the Community by:
- protecting all market participants’ freedom to compete by prohibiting anti-competitive practices;
- protecting the opening of Partner States’ markets against the creation of barriers to interstate trade and economic transactions by market participants;
- guaranteeing equal opportunities in the Community to all market participants in the Community, and especially to small and medium-sized enterprises;
- guaranteeing a level playing field for all market participants in the Community by eliminating any discrimination by Partner States on the basis of nationality or residence;
- providing consumers access to products and services within the Community at competitive prices and better quality;
- providing incentives to producers within the Community for the improvement of production and products through technical and organizational innovation; and
- promoting economic integration and development in the Community;
2) Enhance the competitiveness of Community enterprises in world markets by exposing them to competition within the Community;
3) Create an environment which is conducive to investment in the Community;
4) Bring the Community’s competition policy and practice in line with international best practices;
5) Strengthen the Partner States’ role in relevant international organizations; and
6) Protect consumers against unfair and misleading conduct by market participants.
The Act applies to all economic activities and sectors having cross border effect. Therefore, the Authority has extra-territorial jurisdiction within the EAC Common Market. Further, the Act provides that the Authority and the Partner States shall co-operate in its implementation and Partner States shall support the activities of the Authority.
One of the notable benefits of the regional competition law regime is that it introduces a “one stop shop” for cross border transactions thereby easing the cost of doing business in the EAC Common Market. The transactions as such, no longer need to be notified in two or more jurisdictions.
Article 8 (4) of the Treaty provides that Community Organs, Institutions and laws shall take precedence over similar national ones on matters pertaining to implementation of the Treaty. In this regard, the Authority has the jurisdiction over the cross-border competition matters, unlike the national competition authorities whose jurisdiction is limited by national boundaries.