ECOWAS competition authority now in full swing

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By Omar Bah

The Economic Community of West African States regional competition authority, ERCA, has vowed to champion the enforcement of the Regional competition rules adopted by the Authority of Heads of State and Government in 2008 to promote and encourage competition in the ECOWAS market by preventing practices that deter the efficient operation of the Community market.

ERCA is a specialized agency of ECOWAS mandated to enforce the Regional Competition Rules adopted by the Authority of Heads of State and Government in 2008.
“ERCA will thus assist ECOWAS member States in assessing constraints that impede the development of competitive market structures in key strategic sectors and also ensure the mainstreaming of the principles of competition policy in the region,” Ecowas vice president Finda Koroma told local journalists at a press conference Monday.

She said as firms expand their operations across national borders and exploit opportunities for economies of scale, ERCA must be equipped to combat and mitigate the potential impact of anti-competitive behavior on growth, trade, and integration.
“ERCA will ensure that the gains from trade liberalization and economic integration are not offset by anticompetitive conduct in the region,” she added.

ERCA has established its presence in Banjul following the grant of hosting rights to the Government of the Gambia by the Authority of Heads of State and Government in 2014.
“One of the important tasks to be undertaken by ERCA would be the conduct of market studies. The Studies will focus on enhancing ERCA’s knowledge of market operations in specific sectors within the Community market, identify competition and consumer concerns in the region and generally advance competition advocacy,” she explained.

The results of these studies, she added, would constitute valuable resource for policy making and to a large extent, would complement the policy documents on which ERCA would ultimately base its decisions within the process of enforcing Competition Rules in the ECOWAS common market.

The acting executive director of ERCA, Mrs Henrietta Didigu said ERCA is mandated to keep under review commercial activities in the Community Market with a view to ascertaining practices which may distort the efficient operation of the market conduct or which may adversely affect the economic interests of consumer“Carry out on its own initiative or at the request of private persons or government officials from the Member States or of the Community Court of Justice, such investigations in relation to the conduct of business in the Common Market as will enable it to determine whether any enterprise is engaging in business practices in contravention of the Supplementary Act adopting the Common Competition Rules,” she said.

The authority will also preclude and eliminate anti-competitive practices amounting to an abuse of a dominant market position, propose for adoption, through the ECOWAS Commission, to the Council of Ministers, the setting and periodic review of the schedule of fines and various levels of compensation to be applied within the framework of this Supplementary Act.

“At the request of the executive and judicial authorities of Member States and Community institutions, issue advisory opinions regarding the interpretation and application of the Community Competition Rules,” she added.

The authority also enlightened the media on its operations, mandate and objectives, jurisdiction, the future impact of its intervention in the regional market, proposed relationship with the business community as well as collaboration with National Competition Commissions and most importantly the role the media should play in the area of competition.