Workshop on competition policy: Italian Ambassador introductory remarks
Some might wonder why the Italian Embassy has been supporting this workshop on competition policy.
The first reason is the very good impression I had of Mr Chilufya Sampa and the people working with him. About one year ago I read in the newspaper that the Zambian Competition and Consumer Protection fined a very big multinational corporation. It looked to me as a story between David and Goliath. I therefore visited them in the CCPC premises in Cairo road. As an outcome of my visit I thought that this was an organization that could really play a useful role, however Mr. Sampa told me that in many years I was only the second Ambassador who ever visited him.
The second reason is that, since I have been in Zambia, I have been busy trying to connect institutions, Italian and sometimes also European ones with Zambian counterparts, whereby of course there might be added values on both side.
As a matter of fact, Italy introduced a competition policy only late in 1990, in order to comply with the EU legislation. Nonetheless in Italy competition policy, and some years later consumer protection policy, has been a very successful story: enhancing competition has provided a very good support to its economy which is composed to a good extent of small and medium companies, therefore more exposed to the risk of monopolies, cartels and abuse of dominant positions. But maybe the best outcome of the new legislation and of the setting out of an antitrust institution has been the Italian consumer: a sound and fair competition has contributed to boosting better prices, better quality and innovative goods and services to consumers. Now it happens that a happy consumer is also a happy elector: in Italy this has probably contributed to a consistent institutional support delivered to competition policy by all the different governments.
The “autorità garante per la concorrenza ed il mercato”, thanks to its very good performance in Italy, has been one of the most committed institution in Europe in supporting a great number of similar institutions in North Africa, and in Eastern countries, in the frame of the last EU enlargement, gathering a good knowledge and experience. I therefore thought: could we try bringing the Italians and the Zambians together?
In this perspective I am convinced that in Africa competition policy is a very useful and powerful tool in the promotion of a more inclusive and fair private sector development. This is particularly true in countries that, like Zambia, are gradually becoming full members of the Lower Income Countries Group. I believe that the same Italian experience applied to an economy mainly composed of small and medium enterprises, as well as with a huge informal economy, might works well in Zambia. But in Africa I believe that there are further added values: one is to offer the government a further tool in to avoid that the opening of the market to big corporation and its capitals could be done at the expenses of fair market competition of local companies and final consumers. Another one is food security: we know very well that when the perception is that the food available is insufficient, prices are also increasing and this is often a very good connection for companies distorting competition in order to make fast money from the suffering of a number of poor people. Finally, competition in the frame of public procurement is a very important means in order to minimize the expenditure, therefore reducing the debt and maximizing the quality of goods or service bought by the State.
Personally, I see as the main outcome of this workshop, a very simple and probably achievable target which is to contribute to building a better perception of the competition policy and of its virtuosity and I hope to boost in this way knowledge transfer and better connection with Europe and Italy.
Lusaka, 7th December 2018