The IBA Annual Conference was held in Paris at the Palais des Congrès de Paris from 29 October to 3 November 2023. Highlights included the opening of the conference by the French President, Emmanuel Macron and a key note address Michel Barnier, the EU Brexit Negotiator. The French Minister of Justice held a wine tasting event for the delegates at the Ministry of Justice and during the Conference, there was an address by the prosecutor general from Ukraine about the justice system in Ukraine. LEX Africa was represented by delegates from Angola, Mauritius, Guinea-Conakry, Mozambique and Zambia.
“The French minister of justice invited delegates to the ministry for wine tasting and cocktails, said Sydney Chisenga, Managing Partner of LEX Africa’s Zambian member, Corpus Legal Practitioners, who moderated an Antitrust/Competition panel at the conference title “Tackling Anti- Competitve Agreements”.
The conference is an annual event that moves from region to region. Next year it’s going to be in Mexico, in 2025 it will be in Toronto, Canada, in 2026 it will move back to Europe – the city has yet to be decided. And in 2027 it is coming to Africa in Cape Town.
Chisenga said this year the conference was well attended by over 6000 lawyers from across the world. “The attendance from Africa was not that good compared with attendees from the US and Europe – with just six of us from Zambia, and we met a few Nigerian and South Africa lawyers.”
Three years ago Chisenga was appointed as the African liaison officer of the IBA Antitrust committee. He said he was recommended for this position by Pieter Steyn, Chairman of LEX Africa, who was the then the Africian Liaison Officer of the committee.
“Being a moderator of a panel at the conference, and speaking to lawyers from different regions that have different laws but similar principles gives me diverse insights into what is happening in other regions.
“Antitrust/competition is a global practice area so you learn from each other. An antitrust issue may arise in India that has not yet arisen in Africa. But knowing about it and how it was tackled it makes it a easier to deal with that issue should it arise in your country.”
Chisenga was a co-moderator on a panel on ‘tackling anticompetitive agreements’. His role was to coordinate and interview the five panellists, which included Doctor Willard Mwemba, the CEO of the COMESA Competition Commission, a regional competition authority which covers 21 African countries.
“Our questions to him were centred on what methods and techniques the COMESA Competition Commission uses to detect anticompetitive agreements. He told us they have a special research unit and also use their own intelligence of what’s happening in the market. He gave an example of a case involving the Confederation of African football. The Competition Commission investigated the Confederation of African Football (CAF) which had exclusive rights to broadcast the African Cup of Nations. Its investigation resulted in the termination of that agreement, which took away CAF’s monopoly.
Other speakers on the panel included Lee Berger a lawyer from US law firm, Steptoe & Johnson and ABB in-house general counsel Nicole Calo-Niiranen from Switzerland, who provided insight on how she deals with anticompetitive agreements and how the European Commission deals with such cases. “We also had an Indian speaker, Naval Chopra from Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co. He gave the Indian perspective and said he felt that the authorities in India were not as effective as in other regions at tackling anticompetitive agreements. Then we had an Italian lawyer, Claudio Tesauro from BonelliErede, who has been involved in several European cases where he has defended companies accused of having anticompetitive agreements.”
“The panel ended with the speakers giving their views on how competition authorities will be able to tackle anticompetitive agreements in the future. The perspective on Africa is that it is quite a diverse region, and it may become complicated to regulate anticompetitive agreements as there is a lot of regional integration on the cards in Africa, including due to the competition protocol under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and the various regional authorities.
Speakers were asked to explain how they see the future and how best to implement an umbrella body that interfaces with the existing regional competition authorities in East Africa, West Africa, and the COMESA region (which all have different rules). Dr Mwemba said as long as there is no harmonisation of these rules, it will become very complicated to detect and regulate anticompetitive agreements under the continental competition body proposed under the AfCFTA. He also said the rules must be clear on how to regulate these agreements and how to harmonise the rules to ensure there is no conflict over who has jurisdiction.
Key messages from the panel discussions were that competition authorities will have to be more innovative in the way they investigate and regulate anticompetitive agreements in the future especially as markets have changed and we now have digital markets and the use of crypto currency which are cross border and difficult to regulate. Greater cooperation between regulators will be necessary to deal with these issues.