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Malawi: Developments in competition and consumer protection enforcement

12 November 2020
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On 30 October 2020, the Government of the Republic of Malawi (Government), through the Ministry of Trade, initiated a project entitled the Enhancement of Competition and Consumer Protection Regulation (Project). The Project is expected to bring about major institutional and legislative reform of the competition and consumer protection laws in Malawi.

The Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) reported facing a number of challenges in its operations, including limited awareness of the CFTC among the business community and general public; acute regulatory gaps in competition and consumer protection enforcement; limited institutional capacity; and informational gaps in market research.

It is against this backdrop that Government had enlisted support from a Delegation of the European Union to Malawi, to resolve these challenges.

The Project, funded by the European Union, is to be implemented over the next two years, and is expected to result in:

  • the development of an integrated information management system for the CFTC, allowing for digital registration of complaints and notification of mergers as well as digital monitoring and tracking of cases;
  • a review of sectoral laws to bring these in line with competition and consumer protection policies;
  • enhanced market regulation and monitoring through market studies and surveillance as well as market inquiries; and
  • enhanced advocacy and awareness of competition and consumer protection law and policy through stakeholder sensitisation activities. 

The Project is expected, in particular, to result in legislative reform of the competition and consumer protection laws, long overdue in Malawi.

In other developments, and following his appointment as Malawi’s newly elected President, Dr Lazarus Chakwera, effected the following Government reforms:

  • on 26 October 2020, 12 additional judges were appointed to the High Court of Malawi. Among the appointees is the former chief executive officer and executive director of the CFTC, Mrs Charlotte Wezi Malonda. Mrs Malonda had served at the CFTC for more than 7 years and currently serves as a commissioner on the Board of Commissioners at the COMESA Competition Commission. Mrs Malonda’s appointment is likely to lead to competition matters in the High Court being given stronger impetus and becoming more pronounced; and
  • in June 2020, all boards of statutory bodies, including the board of the CFTC, were dissolved. Effective 23 September 2020, President Chakwera appointed a new Board of Commissioners constituted of 12 members including ex officio members. In welcoming the new board, the CFTC’s executive director, Mr James Kaphale commented that the functions of the board, which extend to the provision of oversight on the operations of the CFTC and decision-making on cases, would now resume, as these functions had been halted in the absence of the board.

The steps taken in furtherance of competition and consumer protection reform in Malawi are exciting and welcomed.