The Competition Commission (the “Commission”) for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa’s (“COMESA”) is now fully operational (as of 14 January 2013).

The Commission is tasked with enforcing the merger control provisions of COMESA’s Competition Regulations (the “Regulations”). In addition to merger control, the Commission will also investigate anti-competitive business practices and consumer protection issues.

In terms of the Regulations, all mergers and acquisitions (currently irrespective of size or turnover), in terms of which both the acquiring firm and target firm or either the acquiring firm or target firm operate in two or more Member States; will require notification to the Commission for approval. In terms of the Regulations, a party to a notifiable merger is required to notify the Commission in writing within 30 days of the parties’ decision to merge.

Furthermore, the Commission may require parties to a non-notifiable merger to notify the Commission of that merger if it appears to the Commission that the merger is likely to substantially prevent or lessen competition or is likely to be contrary to public interest.

Failure to submit a notifiable merger to the Commission exposes the merging parties to a fine of up to ten percent of their annual turnover. Furthermore, the Regulations provide that failure to notify a merger will result in the merger having no legal effect, and rendering as legally unenforceable all rights and obligations imposed on the merging parties by any merger agreement.

COMESA currently comprises 19 Member States (which make up the “Common Market”), and includes Burundi, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Republic of Egypt, Republic of Malawi, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

It has been confirmed that the merger filing forms, as well as details of the merger filing fee, will be made available on the COMESA Competition Commission website in the next few days.

It has further been reported that one of the COMESA Competition Commission members is Rajeev Hasnah of the Mauritian Competition Commission.

Nortons Inc. has recently finalised its joint venture with Mauritian firm, Geroudis. Further details of the joint venture will be released during the course of next month. This will expand Nortons Inc.’s capacity to handle matters in Franco-Phone Africa.