7-9 March 2018, Banjul, The Gambia: UNCTAD MENA participation to the Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

UNCTAD MENA participation to the Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

UNCTAD attended the 9th African Consumer Protection Dialogue Conference in Banjul. Gambia. The Conference brought together African Consumer Protection Agencies, Consumer NGO’s, and African Regional Groupings dealing with consumer protection issues and related International Organizations. UNCTAD closely follows the work of the dialogue and has been a standing participant in the Dialogue for number of years.

This year’s Conference theme was “Protecting Every Consumer in the Digital Economy”, which is a timely one affecting consumers all over the world.

The conference was attended by more than 100 delegates from Africa, including Heads of Consumer Agencies and other officials representing Regional Groupings, experts from recognized consumer protection organizations such as Consumers International. The conference picked up the work which the African Dialogue members have been undertaking for the last one year and highlights of the monthly webinars usually organized by the US FTC. The continuous interaction of African Dialogue participants made it possible for African Agencies to undertake joint projects, exchange of experiences and a very closely-knit consumer protection family in Africa. A pre- Conference event was held on the 06 March on “setting priorities and building regional consumer protection frameworks”. COMESA, SADC and ECOWAS position on consumer protection was discussed and a debate on how these groups can be part and parcel of the work being done at the Dialogue level.

The main topics discussed included: African regional liaisons, overview of consumer and competition highlights from African and US Authorities, hot topics on consumer protection, protecting young consumers through cross border collaboration, e-commerce and Fin Tech cases, academic perspective of digital issues, empowering and educating seniors and disadvantaged consumers, digital innovation and scams, coordinating with sectoral authorities and other stakeholders through consumer education, civil society engagement and tribunals and administrative bodies.

During the session on regional bodies, remedies, civil society and priorities, a panel discussion on Multilateral Institutions and the African Regional Bodies: Proposals and Partnerships Building Upon the African Dialogue Principles took place. UNCTAD, during this panel discussion presented the work taking place within the continent under the African Free Trade Area Negotiations. The preparations for Phase II Negotiations which include; competition and consumer protection, intellectual property and e-
commerce will commence. African Dialogue members were advised to closely follow and engage in providing inputs to the negotiation teams from their respective countries.

UNCTAD estimates that the CFTA will create a trade bloc of 1.2 billion people with a combined GDP of more than $2 trillion. The CFTA commits countries to removing tariffs on 90% of goods and services. As African countries move towards regional integration, the MENA region, which combines Africa and Middle East, would have positive spillover effects as trade expands within and outside the continent. As four North African Countries, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia who are part of the MENA region are and members of the African Union (now confirmed as signatories of the CFTA), the Middle East part of MENA will be in a position to trade within the larger MENA region and thus benefit from the CFTA Agreement.

Therefore MENA Countries are advised to follow closely what is happening with the CFTA and strategize on trading opportunities within the region, while at the same time looking out for consumer welfare and possible cross border misconduct.

The African Dialogue also welcomes the Middle East part of MENA countries to join its work as observers. They are invited to African Dialogue Annual Conference and Monthly Webinars.

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