The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Competition Commission, which represents 21 African countries, is set to investigate the market conduct of global digital firms, including big tech companies like Google and Meta.
The new development follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding by member states in 2022 and a decision to set up a working group and a leadership team for interrogating market misconduct.
The planned investigations follow a decision by the regulators from Kenya, Egypt, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Morocco, Gambia, and Zambia to set up a working group under the umberalla of COMESA for collaboration over concerns related to competition and to raise mutual concerns affecting Africa. The group will also foster collaborative action against obstacles limiting African digital platforms’ emergence and expansion.
The focus areas of the group include e-commerce, aggregator services (online travel agents and online classifieds), matchmaker services (e-hailing and delivery services like Uber and Glovo), digital advertising (search and social media sites like Google and Facebook), fintech, and app stores. Member states have agreed to carry out joint investigations where partners can share information on investigations without prejudice to confidential commitments to ensure coherent and consistent decisions and the optimal use of limited resources in promoting healthy regional competition.
The group is aimed at ensuring efficient enforcement of competition law and policy in digital markets, guaranteeing a competitive market, fostering the growth of African digital firms, and ensuring adequate enforcement in this evolving space, including having a clear understanding of the barriers to entry and expansion that are affecting local platforms.
Globally, big techs like Google and Meta have on multiple occasions been investigated and faced remedial action for antitrust breaches in the U.S. and Europe. For instance, the U.S. Department of Justice sued Google in January over alleged antitrust issues, claiming it has monopoly control of the digital ad market, while Meta was recently found to abuse its dominance to benefit its Facebook Marketplace in Europe.