New CFTC Executive Director Nkhoma praises Itimu for healthy organisation

In the four weeks since he filled the post of executive director for Competition & Fair Trade Commission (CFTC), Lloyds Vincent Nkhoma attests that he has inherited “a vibrant institution whose track record speaks for itself”, adding that his job now “is to build on the strong foundation” laid by those who led before him.

He said this at an interface meeting with the media on Wednesday at Crossroads Hotel where he also said CFTC has always cherished the role of the Fourth Estate in following up its enforcement and advocacy work.

The new Executive Director Lloyds Nkhoma

He thus highlighted some of the track records the Commission has concluded since its mandate in the past decade that include improved advocacy and awareness which saw “the number of complaints received drastically going up — rising from about 10 in 2013 to over 300 in a year”.

“This year alone, the Commission has received over 332 complaints on unfair trading practices and recovered about K42 million, which has been refunded to consumers for different violations.

“The Commission has investigated and made orders on many restrictive business conduct in sectors such as public transport, private schools, sugar distribution, insurance, telecommunications, and other sectors.

“We have also conducted market studies which have made great policy recommendations such as in the poultry sector study; manufacturing; pharmaceutical; agricultural; wholesale; education and transport sectors.”

In terms of mergers, Nkhoma said CFTC has investigated both local and regional mergers in collaboration with other partners such as the COMESA Competition Commission (CCC) — and that in awareness and sensitisation, “the institution has covered the entire country with workshops, targeted sensitization meetings, school clubs interaction, among others”.

“The institution also continues to carry out price monitoring for essential commodities such as cooking oil, bread, AIP fertilizer and in order to enhance accessibility, we have opened a new regional office in Mzuzu to ensure that it serves traders and consumers in the Northern Region better.

“As a way forward, we want to do more in areas of cartel enforcement. This is a country where more of the production and supply sectors are concentrated and prone to cartel conduct such as price fixing, market allocation, bid rigging and other vices.”

He thus said in order to move with the times, the Commission together with its legal authorities and all other stakeholders, are reviewing the Competition and Fair Trade Act — which is at an advanced stage — that gives the institution “an opportunity to put in place solid tools for identifying and breaking cartel conduct, which is the most serious conduct in terms of impeding consumer welfare”.

“The media will obviously be a partner of choice in providing a platform for whistle blowing so that we effectively deal with this vice of cartels,” he said.

During the commemoration of the 2022 World Competition Day in December — whose theme was ‘Competition Policy and Misuse of Market Power’ — CFTC Commissioner Dr. Zacc Kawalala also tackled on challenges faced by business cartels.

He had said that many business enterprises, including small and medium enterprises (SMEs), are facing several challenges that emanate from abusive or anticompetitive conducts by enterprises who hold market power.

He, however, emphasized that it is not prohibited for enterprises to have market power but it becomes the Commission’s concern when an enterprise uses that power to influence the market dynamics to the detriment of competitors.

“For example, in some situations, an enterprise with market power may prevent or restrict a competitors’ access to an essential input. This restriction may prevent competitors from competing with a particular enterprise on their merits.”

He thus appealed to enterprises — especially those with market power — “to cease and desist from using that power to restrict entry of other players in the industry; to prevent other enterprises from conducting their businesses competitively; to influence upward trend of prices or to regulate sales quotas by individual enterprises.”

The review of the CFTA is long overdue also for the set fine which was enacted in 2013 and was stiff enough then, but some big corporate businesses can just be opting to pay the meagre fine and continue carrying out unfair trading practices.

This was also said at another media interface which was organised by the then CFTC acting Executive Director, Apoche Itimu when she appealed to the public not to relent in monitoring and reporting offenders, who have previously been found guilty in unfair trading practices but are continuing their in doing the malpractices.

When an offender is found guilty, the penalties — under the Competition and Fair Trading Act (CFTA) — provides that they shall be liable to a fine of K500,000 and 5 year jail term, but this is a little fine for big business habitual offenders, who need to be given stiffer punishments in order to address the malpractices by most public service providers.

Thus, Nkhoma reiterated that CFTC and the media should nurture their relationship “for the benefit of consumers and mother Malawi”, emphasizing that the Fourth Estate has walked with the institution from inception to date.

“We have achieved much together because you have always been by our side spreading the competition and consumer protection story,” he said. “This is fundamentally why we strongly believe that there is need to strengthen this cordial relationship between us.

“We also believe that it is important that we constantly get feedback from you on the work that we do and the expectations of the other stakeholders out there about us.

“In addition, it is important that we constantly update you on our mandate and functions and of course get you appraised on the progress and activities that we are undertaking.”

Appointed on February 6, Nkhoma is no stranger to CFTC operations — as he is a professional expert in competition policy and was part of the initial staff that operationalised CFTC in 2007 on secondment from the Ministry of Trade & Industry.

He has served at the COMESA Competition Commission (CCC) as head of Enforcement and Exemptions and currently serves on the CCC Board.

He has vast experience in national and regional trade, investment and industrial development programmes having worked at Ministry of Trade & Industry. He has also served as Vice-Consul responsible for Investment and Trade at the Malawi Consulate General in Johannesburg, South Africa.

He holds a Master’s Degree and a Post Graduate Diploma in Economics for Competition Law from Kings College London and also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Sciences obtained from the University of Malawi — majoring in economics.

Talking of the CFTC mandate at the media interface, Nkhoma said the institution holds its existence from the Competition and Fair Trading Act (CFTA) to regulate, monitor, control and prevent acts or behaviours which are likely to adversely affect competition and fair trading in Malawi.

“We are there to address anti-competitive business practices as well as unfair trading practices that have detrimental effects on consumers,” he said. “As we discharge our duties, we are always mindful that we have a role to enhance private sector dynamism as per the dictates of MW2063.”

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