Twenty journalists representing media houses from 13 COMESA Member States participated in the 6th Regional Workshop for COMESA Business Reporters that took place on 9 -10 September 2019 in Kenya.
Sponsored by the COMESA Competition Commission, the workshop is an annual forum that provides updates on recent developments in regional integration and competition regulations to deepen the knowledge and understanding of business reporters in the Common Market.
The network of COMESA Business Reporters has been most instrumental in publicizing regional integration in Member States owing to its advanced understanding of the related issues and enhanced access to information.
At the workshop, staff of the COMESA Competition Commission (CCC) and COMESA Secretariat provided updates on recent developments in regional integration, competition policy, business mergers and acquisitions and challenges in business reporting in the digital age among others.
Addressing the journalists, the Chairman of the Board of the CCC Mr. Patrick Okilangole, observed that enterprises operating in the Common Market do not fully enjoy the benefits of free trade even though many Member States have introduced the market economic systems in recent years.
“The existence of restrictive business practices in our national markets have reduced investment opportunities, increased business risks, raised the costs of essential business inputs needed to compete in domestic and international markets,” he noted.
Mr. Okilangole said this has lessened the benefits of private sector participation in terms of economic development and poverty reduction adding that the key feature of competition rules was to create a level playing field for all business players in the market.
Speaking about the successes achieved since the inception of the regional competition authority in 2013, Director of the CCC Mr George Lipimile said over 220 merger transactions have so far been assessed in the Common Market, with USD 77 billion in turnover derived by merging parties. In addition, over USD 30 million has been received in notification fees.
“Most African countries have come to recognize the economic benefits (productivity, innovation, competitiveness) of safeguarding or increasing market competition, as evidenced by the growing economic liberalization reforms that is taking place in the region,” he observed.
Likewise, COMESA Merger Regulations have contributed to the growth of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the region. According to the CCC Manager in charge of Mergers and Acquisitions, Mr. Willard Mwemba, COMESA posted an increase in FDI inflows of 3.6% from USD 18.6 billion in 2016 to USD 19.3 billion in 2017.
“This translated to 46% of Africa’s FDI inflows in 2017 with Egypt and Ethiopia accounting for the majority of the inflows in COMESA,” he said.
Senior Research Fellow at the COMESA Secretariat, Benedict Musengele took the participants through the current trends on intra-regional trade in the Common Market, and the status of implementation of the regional and continental Free Trade Area regimes.
Meanwhile, the CCC has developed three guidelines to strengthen competition in the Common Market. The guidelines over: Restrictive Business Practices, Abuse of Dominance and Market definition. The guidelines were launched during the workshop.
With regard to formalizing the COMESA Business Reporters Network, the meeting agreed to develop a joint concept paper on how it will be configurated and facilitated to support the regional integration programmes.
Journalists from the following countries participated: Burundi, DR Congo, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.