03 July 2019

West Africa gets competition regulator

After a decade of waiting, a new competition authority is formed for West Africa to improve the fabric of regional regulation.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has a new competition regulator with the launch of the ECOWAS Regional Competition Authority (ERCA), announced in Banjul, Gambia.

Ten tears after

ECOWAS adopted its Regional Competition Rules in 2008 which also established ERCA, as part of a regional competition policy adopted in 2007. However, it has taken over a decade to launch the agency, which will monitor the region for market distorting anti-consumer activity. ERCA fills in a gap, because the members of ECOWAS are largely without effective competition legislation domestically. No such regime exists in Togo, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Ghana or Benin, with Gambia and Nigeria beign the exception. ECOWAS joins other regional competition regulators including the COMESA Competition Commission, serving the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, which became operational in 2013 and has focused on mergers, and more recently on other offences. There are also commissions for the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), which has recently become more active, and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU).

Executive director appointed

ERCA’s executive director Henrietta Uzoamaka Didigu was appointed on 25 May for an initial one-year interim period, with a remit to make the agency operational. Ms Didigu said in a statement about the agency’s launch, “Given the acknowledged and significant role competition law plays in the economic prosperity of developed nations, and with the adoption of a sound regional framework for Competition Law within the region, ECOWAS has once again demonstrated its commitment to facilitating regional integration through the promotion of regional economic growth and prosperity.” ECOWAS consists of 15 countries across West Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. Among its features is the Court of Justice of ECOWAS (ECCJ), which is available to international investors as a dispute resolution forum, though not used extensively.