Big Tech warned as regulators in Africa group to investigate their market conduct

Big Tech warned as regulators in Africa group to investigate their market conduct

Big Tech warned as regulators in Africa group to investigate their market conduct

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Several competition watchdogs in Africa plan to collectively interrogate the market conduct of global digital companies, alerting big tech like Google and Meta, which have been investigated and remedied in d other jurisdictions.


The planned investigations follow a decision by regulators in Kenya, Egypt, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Morocco, Gambia and Zambia last month to set up a task force for the collaboration on competition and consumer welfare concerns in Africa.

The Common Markets for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Competition Commission, which represents 21 countries, is also part of the new working group, which agreed to, among other things, raise mutual concerns affecting African digital markets. The group will also foster collaborative action against barriers that limit the emergence and expansion of African digital platforms.

The new development follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding by member states in 2022 and the decision to set up a task force and management team last month.

Member States will also be able to develop and/or fill gaps in their legislative instruments.

“Members identified the need to collectively question market conduct that has been investigated and remedied in other international jurisdictions, but remains unmonitored in African markets to the detriment of consumers, African businesses and economies,” Dr. Adano Wario, the acting chief executive of the Competition Authority of Kenya, one of the member states, told TechCrunch.

“One of the many ongoing activities is a cross-border market survey on digital markets focusing on competition and consumer welfare issues in Africa,” Wario said.

However, while regulators will conduct market investigations collaboratively, enforcement by member states will be independent and in accordance with their laws. It is estimated that two-thirds of countries in Africa have competition laws, with the rest covered by the laws of regional bodies such as the African Continental Free Trade Area and COMESA.

The group said its focus areas will be e-commerce, aggregation services (online travel agents and online classifieds), matchmaking services (online courier and delivery services like Uber and Glovo), digital advertising (search and social media sites like Google, and Facebook), fintech and app stores.

Wario added that member states have agreed to conduct joint investigations where partners can share information on investigations without prejudice to confidential commitments, to ensure consistent and coherent decision-making, and the best use of limited resources to promote healthy regional competition.

The strategy, he said, will ensure effective enforcement of competition law and policy in digital markets, ensuring a competitive market and fostering the growth of African digital businesses.

“Digital companies with a global presence can bring innovation to African markets, but they can also stifle the development of national platforms. Therefore, there is potential to positively impact our economies by ensuring proper enforcement in this evolving space, including having a clear understanding of the barriers to entry and expansion that affect local platforms,” said said Wario.

Last year, Meta was subjected to various types of scrutiny for possible anti-competitive behavior in Africa, while more recently a verdict on a violation of consumer welfare by the pan-African e-commerce platform Jumia forced him to revise his terms and conditions.

Globally, big tech like Google and Meta have been repeatedly investigated and faced remedial action for violating antitrust laws in the US and Europe. For example, the US Department of Justice in January sued Google over alleged antitrust issues, claiming it had monopoly control of the digital advertising market, while Meta recently abused its dominance to benefit its Facebook market in Europe.


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