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The UN, the GAAFAs and Competition

Our ex-Trade Minister, Dr Rob Davies always used to say that ecommerce introduced globalization through the backdoor, and was threatening African business with the power of the “GAAFAs” (Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Alibaba). Although most e-platforms in Africa are African-owned and do not fit Dr Davies’s theory, there is increasing global concern about the potential disruptive effects of big technology companies on digital and offline markets. This was the subject of intense discussion at a recent UNCTAD meeting on competition law and policy.

Governments gathered from 10-13 July at the United Nations’ headquarters in Geneva for a 3-day meeting with 3 main issues:

  • competition law and the digital economy,
  • competition in health care services and pharmaceuticals markets, and
  • international cooperation in tackling cross-border anticompetitive practices and mergers.

The meeting concluded that, while competition law’s logic is sound, it needs new levers to address the challenges of the modern world and help regulators and enforcers do their jobs.

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Alastair Tempest

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